Guinea Hen Weed
Scientific Name(s): Petiveria alliaceae
Common Name(s): Anamu, Apacin, Guine, Guinea hen weed, Mucura, Tipi
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Dec 1, 2021.
P. alliaceae has a long history of use in traditional and herbal medicine. However, clinical data are lacking to support use for any therapeutic use.
Clinical data are lacking to provide dosing recommendations.
Data are limited. Use during pregnancy can stimulate contractions of the uterus, potentially resulting in miscarriage. Caution is advised in individuals with blood disorders and in those with hypoglycemia and diabetes.
Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy of P. alliaceae in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Methanol extracts of anamu can cause uterine contractions, which can lead to miscarriage.
None well documented.
Potential adverse reactions of P. alliaceae are unknown; no adverse reactions have been reported.
- Phytolaccaceae (pokeweed)
P. alliaceae is a perennial herb or shrub native to tropical regions of Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean islands. The plant grows 5 cm to 1.5 m in height.(Duarte 2005, Luz 2016, Raintree 2013) The roots are fusiform, the stem is straight and rigid, and the branches are slender with longitudinal stripes. The simple leaves have an alternating phyllotaxy of elliptic and acuminate shape and an acute apex and base with a slightly wavy margin 7 to 12 cm in length and 3 to 6 cm in width.(Duarte 2005) P. alliaceae flowers are white, sessile, and bisexual with spikes or inflorescences. The cylindrical, achene-type fruits have longitudinal stripes and similar seed dimensions. The roots and leaves have a strong, garlic-like odor that taints the milk and meat of animals that graze on it.(Luz 2016)
Anamu has a long history of use in herbal medicine. In Brazil, the plant has been used in religious ceremonies for centuries. In Brazilian herbal medicine, P. alliaceae is considered an antispasmodic, diuretic, menstrual promoter, stimulant, and sweat promoter. Herbalists and natural health practitioners in Brazil use anamu to treat edema, arthritis, malaria, rheumatism, and poor memory, and as a topical analgesic and anti-inflammatory for skin conditions. Throughout Central America, anamu has been used to relieve birthing pains and facilitate easy childbirth, as well as to induce abortion. In Guatemalan herbal medicine, the plant is called apacin; a leaf decoction is taken internally for digestive conditions, flatulence, and fever and also used externally as an analgesic for muscular pain and skin diseases. Anamu is commonly used in South and Central America as a natural remedy to treat colds, cough, influenza, respiratory and pulmonary infections, and cancer, and to support the immune system. In Cuba, herbalists decoct the whole plant and use it to treat cancer and diabetes, and as an anti-inflammatory and abortifacient.(Luz 2016, Raintree 2013)
The main compounds from P. alliaceae include lipids, flavonoids, and triterpenes. Sulphur compounds known as azufre derivatives are unique to this species.(Luz 2016) Dibenzyl trisulphide, originally thought to be a synthetic compound, was revealed to be a natural product when isolated as a viscous and pungent-smelling oil from Petiveria.(Kim 2006) Several flavonoids (eg, engeletin, astilbin, myricitrin) have been isolated. P. alliaceae root extract contains a large amount of coumarins.(Luz 2016, Suarez 1992) Alkaloids (eg, trans-N-methyl-4-methoxyproline, allantoin) have been found in the stem and leaves of the plant.(De Sousa 1990) The triterpenes isoarborinol and isoarborinol acetate have been isolated from the leaves, and babinervic acid and 3-epiilexgenin A have been isolated from the aerial parts of the plant.(Luz 2016) The root essential oil contains benzaldehyde, dibenzyl disulphide, trans-stilbene, and cinnamaldehyde.(Kim 2006)
Uses and Pharmacology
Ethnobotanical studies show that various parts of the plant have been used therapeutically for CNS, diuretic, antispasmodic, emmenagogic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antileukemic, antirheumatic, anthelmintic, antimicrobial, and depurative purposes.(Kim 2006, Luz 2016) Due to its activity on the CNS, P. alliaceae has been used as an anticonvulsant, anxiolytic, anaesthetic, and sedative.(Luz 2016)
In a study evaluating the antinociceptive effects of P. alliaceae plant extracts in mice, intraperitoneal administration of all tested fractions of P. alliaceae at doses of 100 mg/kg and 200 mg/kg attenuated neurogenic pain induced by chemical stimuli with acetic acid 0.6% (10 mL/kg).(Gomes 2005) Myricitrin, a flavonoid glycoside found in P. alliaceae, is reported to have antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antinociceptive properties.(Luz 2016)
In analgesia experiments, 3 groups of rats (n=7 per group) were orally administered P. alliaceae extract (31.4 mg/kg body weight), acetylsalicylic acid (100 mg/kg body weight), or agar 1% (control group). Rats were evaluated for ability to support pressure applied to the posterior paw using a Ugo Basile analgesiometer. The analgesia coefficient was calculated for 60, 120, and 180 minutes after treatment. Compared with the prototype drug acetylsalicylic acid, the analgesic effect of the P. alliaceae extract was less potent but more sustained.(Lopes-Martins 2002)
The analgesic effects of P. alliaceae have been evaluated; in a study of patients with hip and knee osteoarthritis, the analgesic effects of tipi tea were not significant compared with a placebo tea.(Ferraz 1991)
In vitro data
A subfraction of P. alliaceae (isoarborinol) was shown to have dose-dependent antiamoebic activity against Entamoeba histolytica, with a 0.3 mg/mL dose producing 85.2% growth inhibition without toxic effects.(Zavala-Ocampo 2017)
Animal and in vitro data
In a critical review, dibenzyl trisulphide, a mitogen-activated protein extracellular regulated kinase 1 and 2 signal transduction molecule, exhibited antiproliferative activity on a wide variety of cell lines. Cytotoxic activity of dibenzyl trisulphide was increased when bound to albumin.(Williams 2007) Cytotoxicity has been shown to be variable for P. alliaceae, depending on the type of extract and the cell line. For example, erythroleukemia, melanoma, and breast adenocarcinoma 4T1 cell lines exhibited IC50 values ranging from 29 to 36 mcg/mL to a hydroalcoholic P. alliaceae extract, while hepatic adenocarcinoma displayed no cytotoxic response to a methanolic extract.(Navarro 2017)
Ex vivo patient data
Primary de novo cells from 26 patients with leukemia (acute myeloid leukemia [AML] and acute lymphoid leukemia [ALL]) were sensitive to treatment with anamu (P. alliaceae) extract; patients were classified as good responders, bad responders, or nonresponders to the cytotoxic activity of the extract. Leukemic cells from some patients with ALL or AML responded better to anamu extract than to methotrexate or idarubicin, respectively. When the extract was combined with chemotherapy, cell response was variable. For the 6 patients in relapse, all were sensitive to ex vivo treatment with anamu extract, and all but 1 response was lost when the extract was combined with chemotherapy.(Ballesteros-Ramirez 2020)
The anticonvulsant activity of P. alliaceae was evaluated in male Swiss mice administered an aqueous crude extract of P. alliaceae roots (500 mg/kg, 1,000 mg/kg, and 2,000 mg/kg orally), followed 30 minutes later by pentylenetetrazol (75 mg/kg intraperitoneally) or maximal transcorneal electroshock (rectangular pulses of 50 mA) to induce convulsive behavior. Animals pretreated with the high extract doses (1,000 mg/kg and 2,000 mg/kg) showed an increase in convulsive thresholds and decreased induration of convulsions compared with the control group.(de Lima 1991)
In a study evaluating the anti-inflammatory effects of P. alliaceae plant extracts in rats with pleurisy, oral administration of a root extract did not reduce the total number of leukocytes at the doses tested. However, the highest dose of extract tested (43.9 mg/kg body weight) reduced numbers of migrating neutrophils, mononuclear cells, and eosinophils; the dose of 31.4 mg/kg body weight also reduced mononuclear cell migration.(Lopes-Martins 2002) A semipurified ethanol extract of P. alliaceae reduced lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in mice, with inducible nitric oxide synthase and nuclear factor-kappa beta both being lowered in a dose-dependent manner. The effect of the extract on nitric oxide inhibition was higher than that of the positive control (indomethacin). Reductions were also observed for prostaglandin E2, leukotriene C4, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), interferon-gamma, and interleukin 2 (IL-2), IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, and IL-1 beta.(Gutierrez 2017)
In a study evaluating various activities of common plants used in Costa Rica for traditional medicinal purposes, P. alliaceae had weak antioxidant effects compared with other plants studied.(Navarro 2017)
A study evaluated the anxiolytic activity of a lyophilized hydroalcoholic extract of P. alliaceae (aerial parts) in male Wistar rats with acute, stress-induced gastric lesions. After administration of P. alliaceae extracts (200 mg/kg, 400 mg/kg, and 600 mg/kg orally), rats were evaluated using the elevated plus maze test. P. alliaceae extract at a dose of 600 mg/kg increased the percentage of open arm entries on the apparatus. However, it did not alter the percentage of time spent in the open arms or the number of entries to the enclosed arms of the elevated plus maze. Overall, these data indicate that P. alliaceae extract exerts a selective anxiolytic effect, with no effects observed on the spontaneous locomotor activity of the animals.(Audi 2001) In another study, short-term administration of an aqueous crude extract of P. alliaceae roots (500 mg/kg, 1,000 mg/kg, and 2,000 mg/kg orally) reduced the spontaneous locomotor activity of male Swiss mice on an open field test.(de Lima 1991)
A methanol leaf extract of P. alliaceae significantly reduced total inflammatory cells and eosinophils in a mouse asthma model. Increases in IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, TNF-alpha, and transforming growth factor-beta observed in controls were reversed with the extract, and the magnitude of anti-inflammatory effects and mucus secretion were similar between P. alliaceae extract and the positive control dexamethasone. Additionally, the antioxidant effects of the extract were similar to the positive control alpha-tocopherol. These results were supported by lung histology.(Rosa 2018)
In a study evaluating the antidepressant effect of P. alliaceae extract in female Swiss mice, single doses of P. alliaceae extracts (100 mg/kg or 200 mg/kg orally and intraperitoneally) produced depressant-like effects, as indicated by the increased time of immobility when the mice were subjected to a forced swimming test.(Gomes 2008)
Clinical data are lacking to provide P. alliaceae dosing recommendations.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy of P. alliaceae in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Methanol extracts of anamu can cause uterine contractions, which can lead to miscarriage.(Raintree 2013)
No studies have evaluated herb-herb interactions or herb-drug interactions with P. alliaceae.
Potential adverse reactions of P. alliaceae are unknown; no adverse reactions have been reported.
In animal models of acute toxicity, mice exposed to high levels of a crude aqueous extract of P. alliaceae root (single doses of 800 to 8,000 mg/kg) showed reduced locomotor activity. Mice treated with 8,000 mg/kg doses developed ataxia that was not fatal. In albino rats, a single 4,000 mg/kg dose of the dry crude extract of P. alliaceae leaves was not fatal or toxic after 14 days but produced alterations in leucocyte count, eosinophil differentials, mean corpuscular volume, mean corpuscular hemoglobin values, and hematocrit, as well as signs of hepatic overload.(Fontoura 2005)
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