GUINEA HEN weed, known to South Americans as anamu, is a herb that is indigenous to induce abortion in the Amazon rainforest and the tropical areas of the Caribbean, Central and South America and Africa. Its botanical name is Petiveria alliacea. In Jamaica, it has several names - guinea hen weed, guinea hen leaf, garlic weed or gully root.
Anamu has a long history of use 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, pain relief and even to induce abortions.
Over the past quarter of a century, however, modern scientific research has studied anamu intensively and many biologically active compounds have been discovered in the plant: flavanoids, triterpenes, steroids, and sulfur 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.
Anamu kills cancer cells - Laboratory investigations show that anamu retards the growth of several strains of cancer and leukemia cells. In a plant screening programme performed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, more than 1,400 plant extracts were evaluated for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Anamu was one of only 34 plants identified with active properties specifically 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 stimulates the immune system - 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 - substances naturally produced by the immune system in fighting cancers and infections.
Anamu fights infections - It demonstrates broad spectrum antimicrobial properties against numerous bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeast. Compounds in anamu directly kill and or inhibits the growth of these germs. Interestingly, many alternative medicine practitioners believe that infection plays a major role in many cancers. Anamu is widely used in folk medicine for treating infections.
Anamu 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 its COX-1 inhibitory properties (cyclooxogenase-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.
Anamu lowers blood sugar - While anamu has not been widely researched for diabetes, it had 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.
Contradictions to anamu
Anamu has been found to cause contractions of the uterus that can lead to abortions and miscarriages. 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 hemophilia or who are on blood thinning medication should consult their health-care provider before using anamu.
Directions for use
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 myself was introduced to anamu by a Jamaican oncologist, (a doctor specialising in treating cancer), who had seen good results in some of her patients who used this herb. I thank her for her generosity in sharing the information. 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.
Reminder and warning
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 best 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 without disturbing their effects. If you have a serious medical condition, do not self medicate without the assistance and guidance of a qualified health practitioner.
You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at firstname.lastname@example.org or listen to 'An Ounce of Prevention' on POWER 106 FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book 'An Ounce of Prevention, Especially for Women' is available locally and on the Internet.