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Pulque in Mexico: Synthesis of Medicinal and Mythical Properties
Since the pre-Hispanic period in Mexico, and continuing to date, there have been many species of agave that have been used to extract aguamiel (honey water). Once this sweet, coconut-milk-water is removed from the heart and thus exposed to bacteria and yeast in the environment, it will become viscous. Fermented aguamiel is known as pulque. In hundreds of years, and more likely thousands of years, medicinal properties have been attributed to pulque, through legends which have been passed down through generations of native inhabitants, and more recently as a result of scientific research. (not without objections regarding the latter) . As can be expected the literature is not always consistent in the principles of fact and prediction. However the production that lay in the summary style served to illuminate.
Pulque, for two hundred years has been associated with the elixir for the masses, a cold alcoholic drink with healing powers. Fueled by nature and to some extent slow food consumption, it has risen to fashion. Thousands of middle and upper class people living in Mexico’s big cities such as Monterrey, Puebla, Guadalajara and indeed Mexico City, flock to pulquerías. However most of what is served is an adulterated version of pulque known as curados. The base of pulque, sometimes even canned, is combined with a selection of processed fruits, grains and / or vegetables, sugar or other sweetener, and sometimes milk / cream and / or thickener such as corn starch. These curados can’t get any further from the real business, and it’s likely that by the time they reach the table any beneficial properties, medicinal or otherwise, have long been lost due to the handling of your business. However the pulque available in bars and restaurants in cities close to the rural areas where aguamiel is extracted (ie Oaxaca, from the outskirts of the city of Santiago Matatlán) is anything but 100% unprocessed. The closer the cantina or comic is the place from which the aguamiel is taken, the more likely the pulque has not been corrupted and has retained its good properties.
The wide variety of micro-climates in which the agave species are grown suggests that the characteristics of the resulting pulque must be unique, especially in some cases. And, each type of plant in and of itself has a unique combination of compounds, minerals, vitamins, etc., which change in a different way. This depends on the sub-region of Mexico, as well as the bacteria prevailing then and to a lesser extent the yeast in the region. The species of agave used to extract aguamiel which have been noted in the literature include salmiana, americana, deserti, matisaga, atrovirens, ferrox and hookeri. Different roots, including and especially acacia (referred to in parts of the state of Oaxaca as timbre), have been traditionally used to make the pulque stronger, warmer, more drinkable or spicier. It also speeds up the fermentation process especially during the cold weather months. Such additives also change the properties of pulque.
The name pulque probably comes from the Nahuatl word poliuhqui, which means spoil. In the pre-Hispanic period in many regions of the country it was a drink reserved for high priests, warriors and intellectuals. They used it as part of the harvest festival, to make it rain, as a way or respect for some gods, and during rituals such as marriage, birth and death. Different rules abound in the proper way to imbibe, and there are many myths about its origins. But the nationwide thread that ties it is its medicinal value. It should come as little surprise that people who smoked pulque were generally susceptible to the cholera epidemic of the 19th century.
Pulque has been viewed throughout the country as a healthy drink, a nutritional supplement. In areas of Mexico where there is a lack of safe drinking water due to human or animal waste, it is used as a thirst quencher. But its ingredients including but not limited to iron, carotene, thiamine, folate, riboflavin, niacin, ascorbic acid, protein, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, fiber, bioactive compounds, phosphorus and ash, are possible and lead to the effect of your previous experience. in traditional medicine and as a preventive food.
Ask any tlachiquero (someone who presses the agave to extract the aguamiel) in Santiago Matatlán, and he (or the woman, because at least in the state of Oaxaca the production of pulque is a profession and not just for men) will say for you that pulque is 100% natural in part since the only fertilizers, if any, used to stimulate the growth of agave, are manure from cows, sheep or goats and the mulch used is bagazo (sea waste from distilling mezcal); and that pulque’s characteristics include stimulating production of white blood cells, good for triglycerides, and controlling diabetes especially if eaten first thing in the morning well before breakfast.
Cross-cultural journals based on studies from throughout Mexico, provide a much broader history. Pulque is used:
• in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders including ulcers, and kidney infections
• as an aid in reducing the general weakness of and in the body
• to combat loss of appetite and anorexia
• as a diuretic
• for promoting relaxation before bedtime
• as an aid in the development of the fetus
• to stimulate milk production for lactating mothers
• as a way to kick-start breastfeeding when babies’ lips are touched
• for children based on its ability to promote muscle and bone formation.
Although the use of pulque that is said to increase fertility and improve sexual performance does not appear to have any basis in fact (except perhaps to the extent that drinking alcohol can positively affect libido in some), much of what it has already been proven by scientific research. .
While environmental yeasts play a part in the production of pulque, in particular obviously contributing to its frothiness, the literature often points to a bacterium from the Zymomonas mobilis species as the main stimulus that turns aguamiel into pulque (and to a small amount of bacteria from the genus Lueconostoc). Widely found in sugar-rich plant saps, Z. mobilis is very effective in ethanol production.
Many studies have shown growth promoting effects in vitro due to various lactobacilli and bifidobacteria along with probiotic strains. This helps in obtaining essential minerals. There is phytase, and it is very important. It is a digestive enzyme. Some believe that it can bind corn and increase the bioactivity of iron and zinc through energy production. Phytase is a bacterium found in the gut of cattle and sheep, but not normally in humans although there is evidence of its presence in vegans and vegetarians. Phytase breaks it down into phytic acid. This has been implicated in DNA repair, clathrin-mediated vestibular recycling, control of neurotransmission and cell proliferation. While research on animal nutrition has suggested the value of feeding feed with phytase as an aid in the production of calcium, phosphorus, other minerals, carbohydrates and proteins, the effects on humans are still largely unknown and require further research.
By examining within the context of scientific research how and why the indigenous population has been using pulque for hundreds of years, we have a better understanding of the real need and truth about myths and beliefs about things- the medicinal property of ferment.
Scientific research confirms that eating 850 ml of aguamiel satisfies the daily human requirements for iron and zinc. Because it is an alternative source of prebiotics FOS (fructooligosaccaride) syrup, it improves calcium absorption in postmenopausal women and more generally iron absorption. The use of energy has been proposed for the prevention of colon cancer. It is known that pulque contains steroid saponins that have been studied for their medicinal uses including antispasmodic activity and toxicity to cancer cells. They have been described as the most important bioactive compounds in yams and many biological activities such as anti-cancer have been documented.
The melatonin content in pulque helps in relaxation in preparation for sleep. The probiotic potential of lactobacilli isolated from both aguamiel and pulque provides a low cholesterol non-dairy alternative for those who are lactose intolerant. It is perhaps the food product with the highest dosage and the most probiotic microorganisms. A study conducted in Valle de Solís, in the state of Mexico, found that eating pulque is a risk of low hemoglobin levels for pregnant women.
But as the potential health benefits of using pulque have been difficult to evaluate and confirm for some of the reasons that have been noted in this article, so there are some contraindications. We know that drinking alcohol can have harmful effects on pregnant women and their babies, especially with pulque at 6%. But this should be weighed against use in areas where there are generally poor dietary habits or a lack of diversity of vitamins and minerals through foods. The literature shows that drinking pulque in small doses helps the development of the fetus and increases milk production during lactation (helps the mother absorb calcium).
Pulque actually has a short shelf life due to ambient temperature and continuous contact with yeasts in the environment. The longer it is kept, the way it goes sour. However once it was essentially undrinkable, in parts of Mexico such as Oaxaca it was used as a base to produce a refreshing drink known as tepache. Typically tepache is made with vinegar, pineapple, and a sugarcane derivative known as piloncillo or panela. Whether this drink retains some of the positive characteristics of pulque is uncertain.
For another word is the lack of hygiene associated with aguamiel and pulque. This can be evident if one has the opportunity to participate in extracting aguamiel from agave and/or has eaten pulque in a village market. In my opinion, having been drinking both drinks for the past fifteen years, this is not the case. Preparing commercial pulque for sale in cans is a possible solution. Chemicals are added to stop fermentation. However, he suggested that the benefits of using pulque would have been lost for a long time canned pulque anywhere in the country, or in the states of the United States where it is available for purchase such as California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Further research is warranted and required to better understand the true benefits of pulque. But for now, subject to the documented risks associated with its use, it is suggested that the reported positive characteristics should be enough to induce the reader to imbibe a little pulque from time to time, and for that word aguamiel if it is in the region of Mexico where it is freshly harvested out of the agave.
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