Monday, February 21, 2011
El Nopal, the Miracle Plant
500 years after the Spanish conquest, what was once an amazingly healthy nation now sadly has one of the highest cases of diabetes and obesity in the world. To understand the full impact of this statement, consider this scenario: When Hernán Cortéz arrived in Tenochtitlan, what is now Mexico City in 1519 his crew of Spaniards were quite a sorry lot to look at. The long sea voyages without fresh food left them in a poor state of health. Plagued by chronic nutritional deficiency diseases had left them balding and nearly toothless. Personal hygiene, such as bathing or clean clothing was not something they practiced. And here they came face to face with a people that had shinny black hair, beautiful taut completions and a splendid set of teeth and high standards of personal hygiene that involve bathing at least daily. Their clothing was dyed in brilliant colors, many never seen before. When news of these very healthy people reached Spain’s, King Phillip, he dispatched his trusted personal physician, Dr. Francisco Hernández de Toledo (1514-1587) to the New World to find out what was the special medicine that made these people so healthy. After 7 years of travels and documenting indigenous plants and foods with the help of his artist-traveling companion, Dr. Hernández concluded there was no medicine; it was the diet that made the people so healthy.