Pulque in Mexico: Synthesis of Medicinal and Mythical Properties

Since the pre-Hispanic era in Mexico, and continuing to date, there have been several species of agave used to extract aguamiel (honeywater). Once this sweet, coconut-milk-like liquid is removed from the heart of the succulent and thereby exposed to bacteria and yeasts in the environment, it ferments and becomes viscous. Fermented aguamiel is known as pulque. Over hundreds of years, and more likely millennia, medicinal properties have been attributed to pulque, by means of myths which have been passed down through generations of indigenous populations, and more recently as a result of scientific inquiry (not without contraindications regarding the latter). As might be expected the literature is not always consistent in both its factual underpinnings and conjecture. Nevertheless a lay synthesis in a summary fashion does serve to illuminate.

Pulque, for a couple of hundred years had been associated with an elixir for the masses, a mild intoxicant with curative powers. Buoyed by the…

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