The Health Benefits of Anamu

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

Anamu extract, powder, and capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

Anamu (Petiveria alliacea) is a flowering herbaceous plant used in certain cultures as herbal medicine. In alternative 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, but 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 be toxic.

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 tannins. Antioxidants are considered important because they neutralize free radicals that damage cells' DNA.

Proponents of anamu have used it for 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 works for this purpose.

Despite all of this, 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's a look at what is known about anamu's use for health purposes.


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 increased 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.


Anamu has long been touted by alternative practitioners for its ability to lower blood sugar (glucose). However, 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 fasting blood sugar levels, 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.


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 a test tube. What is unclear is if anamu can do the same in animals or humans. To date, there is no 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, especially if anamu is overused, include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Restlessness

Cattle that have eaten large quantities of anamu have been known to develop toxicosis (poisoning), manifesting with tremors, a loss of coordination, and seizures.

Though not a health concern, it's worth noting that anamu has a strong, garlic-like aroma that others can sometimes smell on your breath after you drink anamu tea or take anamu supplements.


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

Anamu also contains high concentrations of coumarin, a constituent with blood-thinning properties that gives the plant its pungent aroma. While the effect has never been studied or observed, taking anamu with anticoagulants like Coumadin (warfarin) could theoretically amplify their effects, causing easy bruising and bleeding.

Due to its potential for blood-thinning properties, it is advised to stop using anamu two weeks before scheduled surgery to prevent excessive bleeding.

Coumarin may be hepatotoxic in large quantities; a tolerable daily intake of 0.1 milligrams (mg) per kilogram of body weight has been established for humans. Anamu should not be taken in large doses, especially since coumarin content may vary among supplement preparations.

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 in people with bleeding disorders, reactive hypoglycemia, or liver disease.

Anamu capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak

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 mg to 1,250 mg, depending on the manufacturer.

There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of anamu capsules, although manufacturers generally recommend taking one capsule per day with food. As a general rule, never exceed the dosage on the product label.

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 so you can grow the plant at home.

Anamu supplements and extracts can be stored safely at room temperature in a cool, dry location. Dried roots, stems, and leaves should be kept in an airtight container. Fresh anamu leaves kept in the refrigerator in a sealed bag have 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 quality can vary considerably from one brand to the next. This is especially true of dried "wild-crafted" 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 seal on the label.

Another tip is to buy supplements that have been independently tested by a certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab. Volunteering for independent testing by organizations such as these is an uncommon practice among herbal supplement manufacturers, but one that is being embraced by some of the larger producers. Certification doesn't guarantee safety or efficacy, but it does give you reassurance that what is listed on the label is what you are getting inside the bottle.

Alternatives to Consider

If anxiety is a concern, lavender (lavendula officinalis), hops (Humulus lupulus), california poppy (Eschsholzia californica), and passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) all have evidence to suggest effectiveness for this use.

If lowering blood sugar is your goal, goat's rue (Galega officinalis), berberine (Berberis aquifolium), and chromium are possible options to try.

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 leaf, break it in two, and sniff. The aroma is quite pronounced.

Can I use anamu I find in the wild?
You can, but be sure to wash it thoroughly. Avoid harvesting anamu near roads, driveways, or pesticide-treated areas, as the risk of contamination is higher. If you're uncertain that the plant you found is anamu, however, it's best to pass. Some plants you encounter could be toxic.

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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 process 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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