Medicinal plants

Agave - ingredients, effects and application

Agave - ingredients, effects and application

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The American agave is a desert plant and popular in the room and garden because its fleshy, lanceolate leaves are an eye-catcher. In its home in Central and South America, it is traditionally used as food and medicine. Their biochemistry works in osteoporosis like diabetes, intestinal infections and parasites. However, it also contains toxic substances and should therefore not be used fresh as a home remedy.


  • Scientific name: Agave americana
  • family: Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae)
  • Common names: Centennial agave, century plant, centenarian aloe
  • Occurrence: American continent, deserts of the southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Colombia, Canary Islands
  • Parts of plants used: The leaves or the thick juice contained in them
  • application areas:
    • Indigestion such as constipation
    • Healing external wounds
    • Mouth rot
    • Fever diseases
    • Inflammation from microbes
    • arthritic diseases

Healing effects

Agave americana grows up to three meters high and forms fleshy leaves. These are serrated at the edges and have the shape of lancets and a thorn at the top. The leaves are mostly blue-green and appear as if they were coated with a white-gray powder. They serve as water reservoirs and the plant survives the dry seasons in the desert. Pores on the surface of the leaves help against evaporation.

The rhizome has the shape of a spindle and grows horizontally. The inflorescences can reach a height of up to twelve meters. They form panicles with large single flowers in July / August. The fruit has three chambers with black seeds. The inflorescence develops in agaves at the earliest after 15 years and at around 20 years the plant dies.


Agave contains steroidal saponins (including the agavosides A, B, C and agavesaponin D, E and H), fructans (especially agavin), hecogenin, tigogenin, isoflavones and coumarins, tetratriacontanol, homoisoflavonoids, small amounts of essential oil, xylose and polysaccharide Inulin and oxalic acid. It offers B, C, D and K vitamins, as well as beta-carotene (provitamin A).

Medical effects

Agave works

  • antiseptic,
  • diaphoretic,
  • diuretic
  • and relaxing.

The juice of the leaves can be used medicinally against diarrhea caused by parasites such as amoebic dysentery or lamblia, as well as bacterial or viral infections of the large intestine. Tetratriacontanol and homoisoflavonoids are bioactive against pathogenic bacteria.

Saponins, hecogenin and tigogenin play an important role in controlling inflammation. They are the main components of agave, which makes the juice of the leaves an important medicine in wound healing - this is also one of the most important applications in American traditional medicine.

Agave juice is also very diuretic. Agave substances could help reduce obesity and alleviate diabetes. The fructans have a satiating effect and balance the production of insulin.

Agave for the bones

Agavin in the agave increases the calcium level in the blood and thus protects against osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become brittle. A higher calcium level also strengthens the cardiovascular system.

Poisonous effect

Agave americana is slightly toxic. The dosages in the leaves fluctuate strongly and cannot be determined with self-experiments. The leaf juice on the skin and mucous membranes can cause severe skin irritation and conjunctivitis.

Inflammation - why does agave help?

When wounds become infected during the healing process, free radicals are produced that attract various inflammatory mediators and are responsible for tissue damage and the weakness of the body's antioxidants. Flavonoids from Agave americana could strengthen the body's antioxidants and limit the biosynthesis of eicosanoids.

Flavonoids and their derivatives are known to prevent cell death. Indirectly, they reduce the formation of the inflammatory processes and thereby prevent further damage. So the flavonoids are valuable to accelerate wound healing. Tetratriacontanol and homoisoflavonoids also show activity against pathogenic bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori, which cause ulcers in the intestine.

Folk medicine

The Aztecs in Mexico today used Agave americana as both food and medicine. Today's folk medicine in Mexico, Mesoamerica and Venezuela, but also Indian Ayurveda, still use it to treat various diseases, especially fever and external wounds. In Central America, agave juice has traditionally been used to treat warts, burns, skin fungus and ulcers, as well as for inflamed joints.

Planting agave

Agave should be planted in a mixture of normal plant soil and sand. This most closely corresponds to the desert floor. It needs a location in the sun that is warm and dry. She doesn't like waterlogging, and she also weakens in the shade.

The propagation is very easy. If the individual rhizomes are 15 centimeters or longer, we can cut them off and plant them directly, creating a new plant.

Succulents - hardy

Agave americana is a succulent plant. Like cacti, it can store water on a large scale, adapting to its origin in the deserts of America. In the desert of the American Southwest, temperatures drop below freezing at night in winter. Nevertheless, it is better to keep them in a bright and cool place in winter at four to six degrees.

Agave as a food

Agave has a long tradition as a food, especially in Mexico. The high sugar content means that it is found today in honey wine, as a sweetener in the form of agave syrup or agave syrup, in brandy, desserts, bread, vinegar, in spice mixtures and in marinades for grilling or in stews.

In Mexico, the stem and leaves are eaten roasted, the flower stems are fried and boiled. The juice is processed in various processes, as molasses or concentrated syrup or distilled to mescal and tequila. In South America, sweets and cakes are made from agaves.

Agave syrup - side effects

Also processed agave syrup, which hardly contains any toxic substances, can lead to increased uric acid release, metabolic syndrome and hypertriglyceridaemia in people with fructose intolerance. Overdosed, it interferes with digestion. Pregnant and nursing women should not take it.


Agave americana has valuable components to treat inflammation, bacterial diarrhea and skin injuries. However, since the juice is also poisonous and can hardly be dosed at home, self-treatment with fresh plants should be avoided. However, using ready-made preparations, agave syrup and tea and sticking to the prescribed dosages is not a problem. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Parker, Ron: Chasing Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest, Sunbelt Publications, 2019
  • Starr, Greg: Agaves: Living Sculptures for Landscapes and Containers, Timber Press Inc, 2012
  • Fehrmann, Ines: On the other hand, an herb has grown - medicinal plants in a tropical greenhouse 2001, self-published by the Kassel University of Applied Sciences (GhK), 2001, Kassel University
  • Hackman, D.A .; Giese, N .; Markowitz, J.S .: Agave (Agave americana): an evidence-based systematic review by the natural standard research collaboration, in: Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, 6 (2): 101-22, 2006, PubMed
  • Misra, Arup Kumar; Varma, Sushil Kumar; Kumar, Ranjeet: Anti-inflammatory Effect of an Extract of Agave americana on Experimental Animals, in: Pharmacognosy Research, 10 (1): 104-108, 2018, PMC
  • Khan, M.T.J .; Ahmad, K .; Alvi, M.N .: Antibacterial and Irritant Activities of Organic Solvent Extracts of Agave americana Linn., Albizzia lebbek Benth. Achyranthes aspera Linn. and Abutilon indicum Linn - A Preliminary Investigation, in: Pakistan journal of zoology, 42 (1): 93-97, February 2010, Zoological Society of Pakistan

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