The Health Benefits of Anamu

This perennial herb is used as a folk remedy for anxiety and diabetes

anamu

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Anamu (Petiveria alliacea) is a flowering herbaceous plant used in certain cultures as herbal medicine. Anamu is said to offer health benefits due to its antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is commonly sold in the United States as a dietary supplement, where it is often marketed as an "immune booster." Others claim that anamu can treat mood disorders and even prevent cancer, although such claims are weakly supported by research.

Anamu thrives in warmer climates and can be found growing wild in parts of Florida and Texas as well as Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. If consumed in excess, anamu may cause toxicity.

Also Known As

  • Apacin
  • Guinea henweed
  • Gully root
  • Herbe aux poules ("chicken herb")
  • Mapurite
  • Tipi

Health Benefits

Anamu contains compounds thought to be beneficial to human health, including polyphenols and antioxidants like tannin. Antioxidants are considered important given that they neutralize free radicals that damage cells at the DNA level.

In alternative medicine, anamu is typically used to treat or prevent the following health problems:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis 
  • Cancer
  • Colds
  • Depression 
  • Diabetes 
  • Fever
  • Flu 
  • Food poisoning
  • Malaria
  • Skin infections

Anamu is also used in traditional cultures as an abortifacient (a substance that induces abortion), although there is little proof that it actually works.

The evidence supporting anamu's medicinal benefits is generally lacking. What clinical research there is tends to be small or limited to animal or test-tube studies.

Here is some of what the current research says:

Anxiety

Several animal studies have suggested that anamu may have anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) properties. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology reported that adult rats provided an anamu extract experienced increase locomotor skills (speed and agility of movement) and reduced anxiety based on maze and swimming tests.

On the downside, anamu appeared to increase cellular oxidation, contradicting the longstanding claim that anamu offers antioxidant benefits.

Interestingly, a 2010 study from Colombia found that extracts of the stems and leaves of the anamu plant offered anti-anxiety effects but not the root. The researchers hypothesized that plant-based compounds called flavonoids may be responsible for the effect given that flavonoid concentrations in the stems and leaves were three times that found in the root.

Diabetes

Anamu has long been touted by alternative practitioners for its ability to lower blood sugar (glucose). A 2013 study in the West Indian Medical Journal investigating the effects of anamu in normal and diabetic rats returned mixed results.

In normal rats, a solvent-based extract of anamu had no impact on either fasting blood sugar or glucose tolerance. When provided a water-based extract, the fasting blood sugar actually increased by more than 20%.

In diabetic rats, the solvent-based anamu extract reduced the fasting blood sugar level but only for a short period of time. The water-based extract had no effect.

Given the contradictory research findings, anamu should not be considered a viable means to control blood sugar if you have diabetes.

Cancer

Claims that anamu can prevent cancer stem from the misinterpretation of studies in which extracts of the plant appeared to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in certain cancer cells. Apoptosis is a naturally occurring event in which older cells die in order to be replaced by newer cells. With cancer, mutations effectively "turn off" apoptosis, allowing cancer cells to persist and multiply unchecked.

A 2018 review of studies in Pharmacognosy Review reported that anamu was able to induce apoptosis in a variety of test-tube studies involving breast cancer, colon cancer, leukemia, melanoma, and other cancer cell lines.

As promising as these findings seem, there are numerous other substances that can induce apoptosis in the test tube. What is unclear is if anamu can do the same in animals or humans. To date, there is no such evidence of this. Further research is needed.

Possible Side Effects

Because so little research has been conducted, little is known about the long-term safety of anamu. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, and restlessness, especially if overused. Cattle that have eaten large quantities of anamu have been known to develop toxicosis (poisoning), manifesting with tremors, a loss of coordination, and seizures.

Anamu has a strong, garlic-like aroma that others can sometimes smell on your breath after drinking anamu tea or taking anamu supplements.

Interactions

Certain anamu products may decrease blood sugar in people on diabetes medications, increasing the risk of hypoglycemia.

Anamu also contains high concentrations of coumarin, a natural blood thinner that gives the plant its pungent aroma. Taking anamu with anticoagulants like warfarin can amplify their effects, causing easy bruising and bleeding.

Due to its blood-thinning properties, you should stop using anamu two weeks before scheduled surgery to prevent excessive bleeding.

Coumarin is also known to be toxic to the liver, and it is unknown what the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of coumarin in anamu tea or supplements may be.

The safety of anamu in pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children has not been established. It is best to play it safe and avoid anamu in these groups as well as people with bleeding disorders, reactive hypoglycemia, or liver disease.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Anamu is mainly sold as a dietary supplement in the United States, either as a capsule or liquid extract. Capsule doses range from 400 milligrams (mg) to 1,250 mg, depending on the manufacturer. There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of anamu capsules, although manufacturers will generally recommend taking one capsule per day with food.

Dosages of anamu liquid extracts can vary based on their concentration. These are taken either by mouth or added to a small glass of water or juice using a dropper.

Dried anamu leaves, stems, and roots can also be sourced online for use in making teas and home decoctions. You can even purchase Petiveria alliacea seeds at home to grow your own.

Anamu supplements and extracts can be stored safely at room temperature in a cool, dry room. Dried roots, stems, and leaves should be kept in an airtight container. Fresh anamu leaves can keep in the refrigerator in a ziplock bag and has roughly the same shelf life as basil (five to seven days).

Safety Considerations

Dietary supplements and herbal remedies are not strictly regulated in the United States, and the quality can vary considerably from one brand to the next. This is especially true of dried "wildcrafted" herbs which are vulnerable to contamination from pesticides, heavy metals, mold, chemical fertilizers, and other harmful substances.

One way to be safe is to buy products certified organic by the U.S. Department of Health (USDA). The product should bear the USDA label on the label.

Another tip is to buy supplements that have been independently tested by a certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab. Independent testing is an uncommon practice among herbal supplements manufacturers, but one that is being embraced by some of the larger producers.

As a general rule, never exceed the dosage on the product label. Even so, the recommendations do not mean that the product is either safe or effective.

Unless they have been certified organic, avoid dried wildcrafted anamu products. As much as you may want the "real deal," there is really no way to ascertain if the product is contaminated or genuine.

In the end, "natural" does not always mean safe.

Common Questions

What does fresh anamu look like?

Anamu is a perennial shrub that can grow up to 3.3 feet (1 meter) in height. The leaves look similar to bay leaves but tend to be softer, especially when they are young. During spring, long clusters of small, greenish flowers will blossom at the end of the slender stem.

You can identify anamu by its pungent, garlicky scent. Simply take a leave, break it in two, and sniff. The aroma is quite pronounced.

If you find anamu in the wild, be sure to wash it thoroughly. Avoid harvesting anamu near roads driveways or gardens where the risk of contamination is higher.

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Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Diaz GJ. Toxic Plants of Veterinary and Agricultural Interest in Colombia. Int J Pharm Pharmaceut Res. 2011;1:1-18.


  2. Abraham K, Wöhrlin F, Lindtner O, et al. Toxicology and risk assessment of coumarin: focus on human data. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2010 Feb;54(2):228-39. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200900281


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