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Stabroek News

Herb hero - Guinea hen weed packed with power
published: Monday | August 13, 2007

Anamu is a herb that 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, but in Jamaica, it is known as guinea hen weed, guinea hen leaf, garlic weed or gully root.

Anamu has a long history in herbal medicine in all the countries where it grows. Herbalists and natural-health practitioners have traditionally used anamu for a wide variety of conditions, including arthritis, digestive disorders, infections, diabetes, cancer, for pain relief, and to induce abortion.

Over the past quarter of a century, however, modern scientific research has studied anamu intensively. Many biologically active compounds have been discovered in anamu: flavanoids, triterpenes, steroids, and sulphur compounds. The research published on anamu now validates many of the historical uses of this herb.

Interestingly, the researchers found that of the 20 compounds isolated from the plant - several of which had never been identified in nature before - some were similar to compounds found in garlic, a plant known to have medicinal properties.


Laboratory investigations show that anamu retards the growth of several strains of cancer and leukaemia cells. In a plant-screening programme performed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, over 1,400 plant extracts were evaluated for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Anamu was one of only 34 plants identified with active properties against cancer.

How does anamu work against cancer? Several phytochemicals in anamu like astilbin and dibenzyl trisulphide have been documented to directly kill cancer cells. Research showed further that the compounds in anamu were able to differentiate between normal cells and cancer cells, killing only the cancerous cells. In addition, other substances in the herb stimulate the body's natural defences as described below.


Anamu has also been verified to have immunostimulant properties. 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 - chemicals used by the immune systemin fighting cancers and infections.


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


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 its COX-1 inhibitory properties (cyclo-oxogenase-1 inhibitors are a new class of popular and profitable arthritis drugs). Anamu extracts have been found to relieve pain and inflammation even when applied topically to the skin.


While anamu had not been widely researched for diabetes, it has been documented to lower blood-sugar levels by more than 60 per cent in laboratory animals. This reflects herbal medical practice in Cuba where anamu has been used as an aid for diabetes for many years.


Anamu has been found to cause contractions of the uterus that can lead to abortion and miscarriage. As such, it should not be used by pregnant women.

Anamu contains a low concentration of a blood thinner called coumadin. People with any bleeding disorder like haemophilia or who are on blood-thinning medication should consult their health-care provider before using anamu.


I recommend using organically grown anamu herb, free of insecticides, herbicides and other pollution.

One heaping tablespoonful of the whole powdered anamu plant is diffused in one litre of hot water. The resulting tea is drunk preferably on an empty stomach. An average dosage is four ounces (about half a cup) twice daily.


I was introduced to anamu by a Jamaicanoncologist (a cancer specialist) who had seen good results in some of her patients with the use of this herb. I thank her for her generous spirit. I had also heard impressive stories from Jamaican men with prostate cancer who had benefited from its use.

After doing my own research, I now use it regularly in my practice and find it to be a useful, safe, inexpensive addition to a cancer treatment programme as well as in the treatment of the other conditions listed above.


Many persons are desperately looking for a quick fix: a magic bullet that will miraculously cure their illness. The reality is that there is no quick fix. Like so many useful herbs, anamu will give optimal results when combined with optimal nutrition, nutritional supplements, exercise, detoxification, stress management and adequate restful sleep. It must be a part of a programme of healthy lifestyles. It may also be used along with conventional medicines. If you have a serious medical condition, do not self-medicate without the assistance and guidance of a qualified health practitioner.

Email Dr. Tony Vendryes at, log on to, or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on Power 106FM on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.

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