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Agave (Agave americana)
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Agavaceae, American aloe, Arizona agave, Arizona century plant, bald agave, blue agave, cantala, century plant, Chisos agave, Chisos mountain century plant, coastal agave, corita, cow's horn agave, desert agave, desert century plant, dragon tree agave, drunkard agave, dwarf century plant, dwarf octopus agave, eggers' century plant, false sisal, foxtail agave, golden flowered agave, golden flower century plant, hardy century plant, Havard's century plant, henequen, hohokam agave, ixtle de jaumave, leather agave, lecheguilla, little princess agave, maguey, Maguey bandeado, Maguey chato, Maguey del Bravo, Maguey de Desierto, Maguey de Havard, Maguey de la India, Maguey de montana, Maguey de pastizal, Maguey de Sisal, Maguey de tlalcoyote, Maguey diente de tiburn, Maguey Henequen, Maguey lechuguilla, Maguey liso, Maguey mezortillo, Maguey pajarito, Maguey primavera, Maguey spero, Maguey sbari, Mckelvey agave, McKelvey's century plant, mescal ceniza, mescalito, Mexican sisal, Mezcal azul tequilero, Mezcal yapavai, Murphey agave, Murphey's century plant, Octopus Agave, palmer agave, palmer century plant, palmer's century plant, Parry agave, Parry's agave, Puerto Rico century plant, pulque, Queen Victoria's Agave, Rough century plant, smallflower agave, smallflower century plant, Schott agave, Schott's century plant, sisal, sisal hemp, shindagger, smooth agave, squid agave, St. Croix agave, slimfoot century plant, swan's neck agave, tequila, tequila agave, thorncrest century plant, thread-leaf agave, Toumey agave, Toumey's century plant, Utah agave, Weber agave, Weber blue agave, Weber's century plant, wild century plant.

Background

  • Agaves are succulent plants from the family Agavaceae, which includes Beschorneria, Furcraea, Hesperaloe, Manfreda, Polianthes, Prochnyanthes and Yucca. Agave plants are common in the American southwest, Mexico, central and tropical South America, the Mediterranean and some parts of India. There are over 200 known species of agave; many produce musky odors that attract bats serve to pollinate them, while others produce sweet odors to attract insects.
  • Agave americana is also known as the American aloe, although it is not related to the true aloes. The leaves of the agave plant yield fibers suitable for textile production. The native people in Mexico used the agave spikes to make pens, nails and needles. Agave sisalana, the source of sisal fiber, is cultivated in plantations in Africa and Asia. The flowering stem can be dried or roasted and eaten; the seeds can be ground into flour to make bread or used as a thickener for soups. A sweet liquid (sap) called agua miel (honey water) gathers in the plant if the stem is cut before flowering. This sap is collected over a period of about two months, and can then be fermented to produce the alcoholic beverage pulque (octili), which Native Americans use in religious ceremonies. Further distillation creates Mescal (mezcal). A form of tequila is made when Mescal is produced from the blue agave (Agave tequilana) plant within the Tequila region of Mexico. This is the most important economic use of agave, worth millions of dollars to the Mexican economy. Mescal is often sold with the caterpillar of the agave moth in the bottle.
  • Agave is also useful as a sugar alternative because with a 90% fructose, it has a low glycemic index. Steroid hormone precursors are obtained from the leaves. Pulque prepared from Agave species was a food item studied intensively for nutrition potential among traditional and indigenous peoples, and is an example of how local food-based strategies can be used to ensure micronutrient nutrition. Traditional food strategies could be used not only for alleviating malnutrition, but also for developing locally relevant programs for stemming the nutrition transition and preventing chronic disease, particularly among indigenous and traditional peoples who retain knowledge of using food species in their local ecosystems.

Evidence

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Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

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Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.