Nopales or nopalitos are the pads of the nopal or prickly pear cactus, well known for its high antioxidant, vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. Nopales contain quercitin, a highly anti-inflammatory flavonoid specific for the treatment of allergies. And they are traditionally used throughout Mexico to lower blood sugar in type II diabetics. This paleo-friendly recipe is also a good way to cut the carbohydrates out of your sandwich.
Angeles learned to de-spine the nopal pads when she was seven. Her abuelita showed her that it’s all in the secret of holding the knife. She holds the nopal pad at its base with a fork over a sink lined with newspaper, and moves the knife down across the face of the cactus at a 30-degree angle. When all the spines are removed, she peels the sides of the pad.
olive oil, enough to lightly coat the pads
dash of salt pepper
sandwich fillings of choice: we like grilled queso fresco, organic salsa, and grass-fed steak
After removing spines, lightly coat nopales with olive oil and grill or sauté over medium heat until just brown (about 2 min on each side).
Add a dash of salt and pepper and use as the sides in your sandwich of choice. If you leave the grill/pan hot you can grill some queso fresco and/or grass-fed steak. Drizzle with Norma’s tomatillo salsa!
Over warm bowls of Chupe de Pescado (Peruvian fish stew), I sat down with our newest team member and The Botanical Bus’s Clinic Coordinator, Yatziry Galvan, to learn more about what inspired her to serve her community and embark on a new journey of herbalism.
At the sound of rain, Yatziry is transported back to family dinners on the beach in Oaxaca. After a long day of work, her grandparents would take little Yatziry to watch the sun set into the Pacific, rain or shine. Yatziry’s large brown eyes smile as she recalls this memory, one that is filled with such warmth, love and security.
Yatziry lived in a small village near Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico. Her parents entrusted her to the care of her grandparents so that they could seek out economic opportunities for their family in Napa, California. Each day,Yatziry would help her grandmother at their barbacoa stand, marinating the chivo (goat) meat her grandfather had butchered, and then steaming it all day long. The vapor from the pot would radiate out through holes of the clay top, warming tortillas for the next customer. Yatziry remembers the mouthwatering combination of juicy chivo, soft tortillas, salsa verde and a squeeze of lime. Though they did not have a lot of money, this was a very happy time in Yatziry’s life.
Starting a New Life
When Yatziry was seven years old, her parents brought her to the US to live with them in Napa, California. They were able to place her in a bilingual school, easing her transition, but certainly not eradicating the tremendous culture shock she experienced. The following year, she changed schools. Being one of the only Latinx kids at the school, she felt isolated not only culturally, but also linguistically because she did not speak English. Napa then and now, is a town of tremendous economic disparity between the vineyard owners and the farmworkers who tend their vines, and Yatziry’s elementary school was no exception to this socioeconomic chasm. Though both of her parents worked all of the time, they were paid very low wages, and so money was tight. Yatziry remembers having very few clothes, and the ones she did have were ill-fitting.
This feeling of being an outsider in a foreign land continued on until her freshman year of high school when Yatziry slowly began to feel at home in Napa. Yatziry attests that a key person in this transition was her best friend, Marisol. Though Marisol had moved away from Napa when they were in elementary school, Yatziry was thrilled to see Marisol reappear in her freshman art class. Marisol helped Yatziry navigate the challenges of being bicultural, bilingual and low-income in a town that was monocultural, monolingual and expensive. As Yatziry’s confidence and sense of belonging began to build, one thing became very clear to her—if she wanted to break free from the harsh economic realities that her hardworking family faced, she needed to go to college.
A dedicated student, Yatziry was excited to begin the process of applying for college her senior year of high school. She was devastated to find out from her college counselor and teachers that her dream of going to a four-year institution was not possible because she was undocumented. Despite door after door closing on her goal of going to college, she remained resolute to pursue higher education. She then found a new scholarship called TheDream.US inspired by the DREAM Act that would cover the costs of attending college. Yatziry shared that she was the first student to receive this scholarship at Sonoma State University, which inspired her to work at the school’s Dream Center, and as a student ambassador where she helped other undocumented students navigate higher education and helped inform high school students how to apply for and finance higher education.
Yatziry completed her first two years at Napa Valley College and then was able to transfer to Sonoma State, where she graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration with Cum Laude Honors. During her time at Sonoma State, Yatziry was awarded both a national and state fellowship. She continued her work empowering other undocumented students to seek educational opportunities, as well as her younger siblings and cousins. Yatziry smiled as she admitted that she made all of her younger family members take the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) course in high school, which helps prepare students for college and their careers. Reflecting on her youth, Yatziry shared,
“The struggles that my family and I faced, both economically and because of the language barrier really motivated me to help others in my community that might be facing some of the same challenges. My hope is to be that helping hand that I needed growing up.”
Yatziry’s Herbalism Journey
When asked about what lead her towards herbalism, Yatziry shared that she recently embarked on this journey this year when she decided to prioritize her mental health. She realized that after a lifetime of trauma, struggle and challenging familial dynamics, it was time to prioritize her own wellbeing, and so she booked her first trip to Maui. There she participated in a profoundly healing retreat based around meditation in nature that shifted her attention towards herbalism. Slowly, memories of herbal remedies that her grandmother utilized when she was a child began to come back. Yatziry shared,
“I think that herbal medicine has come into my life to reconnect with myself, with my roots, my ancestors, madretierra (mother earth) and to my community as well. Being a part of The Botanical Bus has brought me deep healing and it is so incredibly rewarding to be able to help create a bilingual, bicultural space where our community can come together to nurture each other.”
Recalling her birth story, Yatziry said that she owes her life to herbalism. Her mother had gone into labor when she was only seven months pregnant, and they lived over three hours away from the nearest hospital. While experiencing contractions, her mother hobbled onto the bus for the long ride to Jamiltepec, Oaxaca. When she arrived, all of the beds were full, and so she had to wait on the floor until a bed opened up for her delivery. Yatziry was moved to an incubator, but there was nowhere for her mother to stay so she continued to sleep on the floor after having just given birth. Eventually, her mother needed to return home to heal herself as well, so they took Yatziry home, tiny and weak. Yatziry’s grandmother told her that they used herbal remedios y recetas (remedies and recipes) to nurse Yatziry to health. Yatziry never learned the exact contents of those herbal remedies, and so her new goal is to spend more time with her grandmother, and write down her remedios y recetas. Thankfully, Yatziry’s grandmother was able to move to the US a few years ago, and so Yatziry tries to see her every week.
As The Botanical Bus’s Clinic Coordinator, Yatziry works directly with our Promotoras (Community Health Advocates) to facilitate Farmworkers Clinics and Wellness Workshops, as well as participate in our Promotora Training Program. She has been able to develop friendships with the Promotoras, who have been seminal in her herbalism education. At a recent Wellness Workshop Yatziry co-facilitated with Promotora, Lulu Pérez, she found herself drawn to Salvia (Sage). As Lulu and her discussed the healing properties of this plant, a hummingbird buzzed by, dipping its perfectly designed beak into the Sage flower and relishing in its sweet nectar. Yatziry paused mid-sentence to marvel at not only the beauty of this Joyavoladora (hummingbird or translated literally “flying jewel”), but the significance of seeing this tiny creature with an enormous heart at this particular moment: her grandmother adores hummingbirds.
At The Botanical Bus Farmworker Clinic: 88% of Latinx and Indigenous clients report acute stress in the form of anxiety, depression and fatigue. 36% of this group identify their stress as debilitating. We believe that this mental health crisis needs to be met with culturally relevant care– care that empowers wellbeing though self-healing.
Culturally relevant care honors our abuelita’s knowledge of plant medicine for calming the nerves and easing a cough. It honors the way the earth smells where we were born. It allows us to feel seen, respected and capable of caring for ourselves.
Herbalism and massage therapy are at the heart of Latinx and Indigenous healing traditions. At our clinics, we witness the power of these trusted and effective therapies to connect people to a vital sense of self and place.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Agromedicine: of the 20% of Farmworkers who access massage therapy, 85% seek treatment for an acute condition and 100% feel the treatment is very helpful. And of the 65% of Farmworkers who use herbal medicine, 79% seek treatment for an acute condition and over 90% have found them very helpful. (Arcury, Furgurson, O’Hara, Miles, Chen and Laurienti)
“Me siento mucho mejor. Vine estresada y angustiada y me voy mucho mas liviana. I feel much better. I arrived stressed and anxious and I am leaving feeling much lighter”, shares a recent client of The Botanical Bus Farmworker Clinic.
At our clinics, clients are welcomed with music, tamales and herbal agua frescas. Care stations are staffed by bilingual, bicultural practitioners who provide massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, somatic therapy and clinical herbalism. Promotora Community Health Advocates lead wellness workshops on diabetes support, stress relief and immunity- all topics determined by community needs assessment.
Culturally relevant care empowers people to embody their intergenerational knowledge of health and to seek out complimentary and conventional mental health therapies. Our Latinx and Indigenous community face disproportionate exposure to toxic stress from social determinants of health including economic security, immigration status, access to health insurance, safe home and work environments. By investing in Promotoras and culturally relevant health care, we take a stand for health equity and send a strong message “Our knowledge and power to care for ourselves and our community is part of who we are and where we come from.”
Thomas A. Arcury, Katherine F. Furgurson, Heather M. O’Hara, Kenya Miles, Haiying Chen & Paul J. Laurienti (2019) Conventional and Complementary Therapy Use among Mexican Farmworkers in North Carolina: Applying the I-CAM-Q, Journal of Agromedicine, 24:3,257-267, DOI: 10.1080/1059924X.2019.1592049
Optional Medicinal Herbs to support the immune system
Epazote (supports immunity by supporting healthy intestinal flora)
Turmeric (Anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial)
Ginger (Antiviral, analgesic, expectorant)
Oregano (Antiviral, antimicrobial, expectorant)
Thyme (Antispasmodic, antimicrobial)
Peppermint (Antiviral, antimicrobial, analgesic)
In a large pot, place 2-3 liters of water to boil, place the chicken and add garlic and onion. When the meat is soft add the washed vegetables, peeled and cut to taste. At the end add salt and pepper to taste and the herbs of your choice to taste.
(If you use turmeric and ginger add them with the vegetables).
Customize your soup with medicinal herbs according to your taste!
Did you know that fevers function to fight off infection? The part of the brain called the hypothalamus turns up your body temperature so that virus and bacteria cannot survive. The herbs in this tea support a fever in doing its hard work. They are also antiviral, antispasmodic and calm nervous tension.
Mix equal parts of each herb in a bowl and store in air tight jar for future use. When ready to enjoy, bring water to a boil. Spoon 1 tbs per 8 oz water herbs into a tea pot, french press or tea bag. Pour water over herbs and let steep at least 20 minutes before serving. Get well soon!
¿Sabías que las fiebres funcionan para combatir las infecciones? La parte del cerebro llamada hipotálamo aumenta la temperatura de su cuerpo para que los virus y las bacterias no puedan sobrevivir. Únase a nosotros para preparar un té de hierbas hecho de milenrama, flor de saúco, toronjil y menta y para aprender formas en que podemos ayudar a la fiebre a hacer su trabajo duro.
Did you know that fevers function to fight off infection? The part of the brain called the hypothalamus turns up your body temperature so that virus and bacteria cannot survive. Join us to prepare an herbal tea made from yarrow, elderflower, lemon balm and peppermint and to learn ways we can support a fever in doing its hard work. Workshop will be in Spanish.
We serve this herbal agua fresca at our Farmworker Clinic to relieve nervous tension. Nine out of ten of the Latinx and Indigenous community members who join us at the clinic report extremely high levels of stress. These essential workers face economic insecurity, systematic racism, and traumas of displacement and deportation in a hostil political climate. Passionflower, rose and lemon balm calm the nervous system, lift the spirits and help people relax into their acupuncture and massage treatments.
Cover herbs with just boiled water. Let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add honey to taste. Cool and serve over ice.