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Ounce of Prevention | Guinea hen weed – a valuable herb

Published:Tuesday | July 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMDr Tony Vendryes
Guinea hen weed
Guinea hen weed

In Jamaica, guinea hen weed (GHW) has several names: guinea hen leaf, garlic weed or gully root, but in other countries it is called anamu. This herb is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and the tropical areas of the Caribbean, Central and South America and Africa. Its botanical name is Petiveria alliacea.

Traditional medicinal uses of GHW date back to the Mayan era in South America. Many conditions were treated, including rheumatism, cancer, nervous spasms, paralysis, hysteria, asthma, whooping cough, colds, influenza, pneumonia, bronchitis, fevers, headaches, cystitis, venereal diseases, menstrual complaints and colic, by using the plant internally.

External applications were used to treat earaches, fever and headaches. The roots were used to treat toothaches, and crushed leaves applied to the belly to induce labor. Nose drops were instilled to treat sinusitis, and crushed leaves were applied to abscesses and used for muscular pain and skin diseases.

Modern herbalists and natural health practitioners now use it for several disorders, including arthritis, digestive disease, infections, diabetes, cancer, pain relief, nervous disorders, prostate problems, and even to induce abortions.

In recent times, modern science has studied GHW intensively and many biologically active compounds have been discovered in the plant: flavonoids, triterpenes, steroids, and sulfur compounds. The published research on GHW now validates many of the historical uses of this herb.

This is indeed a unique plant as researchers have discovered that of the dozens of compounds isolated from the plant, several had never been identified in nature before. Several other sulphur-containing substances in GHW have also been found in garlic, another plant well known to have medicinal properties.


GHW destroys cancer


Published studies on Petiveria alliacea indicate that the plant has a wide range of anti-cancer, anti-leukemic, anti-tumor properties against several types of cancer cells, including liver, brain, breast and prostate. Of over 1,400, plant extracts studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago, for the prevention and treatment of cancer, GHW was one of only 34 plants identified with specific anti-cancer properties.

So how does GHW work against cancer? Several naturally occurring chemicals in the herb, like astilbin and dibenzyl trisulphide, have been shown to directly kill cancer cells. Researchers further demon-strated that these compounds in GHW were able to differentiate between normal cells and cancer cells and killed only the cancerous cells. In addition, other substances in the herb stimulate the body's natural defenses as described below.


GHW strengthens the immune system


It stimulates the immune system to increase its production of lymphocytes and natural killer cells - powerful disease-destroying cells. At the same time, it increases the production of interferon and interleukins - substances naturally produced by the immune system for fighting cancers and infections.


GHW kills germs


It demonstrates broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties against numerous bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast. Compounds in GHW directly kill and/or inhibits the growth of these germs. It is of interest that many alternative medicine practitioners believe that infection plays a major role in several cancers. GHW is widely used in folk medicine for treating various infections.


GHW relieves pain


Its traditional use as a remedy for arthritis and rheumatism has been validated by clinical research that confirms its pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effect. Researchers in Sweden demonstrated that its analgesic effects are similar to that of a popular group of newer and expensive arthritis drugs called COX-1 inhibitors. GHW extracts relieve pain and inflammation, both when taken internally as well as when applied topically to the skin or mucus membranes.


GHW lowers blood sugar


While GHW has not been widely researched for diabetes, it definitely lowers blood sugar levels by more than 60% in laboratory animals. This is reflected in herbal medical practice in Cuba, where GHW has been used as an aid for diabetes for many years.


Contraction to GHW


It has been found to cause contractions of the uterus that can lead to abortions and miscarriages. As such, it should not be used during pregnancy. The herb contains small quantities of a blood thinner called coumadin. People with any bleeding disorder, like haemophilia, or who are on blood-thinning medication should consult their healthcare provider before using GHW.

Directions for use: I recommend using organically grown GHW, free of insecticides, herbicides and other pollutants. The whole plant - leaves, stem and roots - should be cleaned and sun dried. This is then chopped fine or reduced to a powder in a blender and stored in an air tight container in a cool location. Pour a quart of boiling water over one heaping tablespoonful of the whole powdered plant to draw, and store the tea in a covered container of glass or stainless steel. This tea is consumed, preferably on an empty stomach. An average dosage is four ounces, about half a cup, two to three times daily.

I have seen benefits in patients with prostate and breast cancer using GHW and regularly recommend it in my practice. I find it a useful, safe, inexpensive addition to a holistic cancer-treatment programme, as well as in the treatment of other conditions listed above.

Reminders and warners: Many sick persons are desperately looking for a magic bullet that will miraculously cure their illness. The reality is that there is no quick fix. Like so many useful treatments, GHW gives best results when combined with an optimal diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, detoxification, stress manage-ment and adequate, restful sleep.

It must be part of a healthy lifestyle plan and may be used along with conventional medicines without conflict. If you have a serious medical condition like cancer, do not self-medicate without the guidance of a qualified health practitioner.

- You may email Dr Vendryes at or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106 FM on Fridays at 9:10 pm. Visit for details on his books and articles.