Medicinal Uses of the Maguey

The maguey has been used in the treatment of syphilis, to accelerate the healing of wounds, as a cure for gonorrhoea, is a formidable antiseptic of the stomach and intestines and has laxative properties.

According to the Antiguo Recetario Medicinal Azteca,

  • to treat syphilis; the fluid extract of the maguey root is used, from which 10 drops are taken in the morning dissolved in a little water and 10 drops in the afternoon; on the second day, 20 drops are taken in the morning and another 20 in the afternoon and so on consecutively until reaching 200 drops a day divided into two doses
  • to accelerate the healing of wounds; the maguey balsam is used, which is made using the leaves and squeezing its juice, which is boiled with a little sugar until it thickens. With this syrup some bandages are soaked, which are placed on the wounds.
  • against gonorrhoea; take a quarter of cooked aguamiel for fifteen days, that is, the juice of the maguey plant.
  • as an antiseptic of the stomach and intestines; take a glass of aguamiel daily on an empty stomach.

Other more modern monographs indicate the following

External use

Skin lesions: Used externally, has vulnerary properties so it can be used for skin conditions such as wounds, sores and dermatitis. A poultice of the juice of the fresh pencas is applied to the affected areas.

Eye drops: an infusion made from the dried pencas can be used as eye drops to reduce eye irritation: infuse 5 tablespoons of dried penca in 1 litre of water for 15 minutes, filter and soak some gauze in the liquid, apply to tired, reddened or bruised eyes.

Internal use

As a diuretic

The maguey is rich in steroidal glycosides, both hecogenin and saponins. These can be used to increase the volume of urine expelled. Increased urination can assist in the removal of toxins and aid in avoiding oedema. Diuresis can also be useful in conditions such as gout, rheumatism, arthritis and the prevention of kidney stones. Take an infusion (5 tablespoons of dried pencas per litre of water) take 4 cups/day (sweeten with a little honey if desired). This may also help with obesity

Take the same dose as listed above to aid with indigestion.

In cases of liver failure or hepatic inflammation take 2 teaspoons of dried penca powder dissolved in water or juice once per day. It will help to reduce inflammation and improve organ function.

As a depurative make a decoction of 1 ½ teaspoons of dried root in 250ml water, decoct for 15 minutes and drink in 4-5 divided doses throughout the day. This treatment has also been used to treat jaundice and syphilis.

The depurative properties may also be useful to prevent the development of cancerous tumours in breast cancer and prostate cancer.

An old home remedy to eliminate cough is to take a teaspoon of dried penca powder in 200ml of hot water, add some honey and sip while still warm.

Various studies have been conducted in the Philippines on A.americana indicate,

  • Antibacterial actions: tetratriacontanol, tetratriacontyl hexadecanoate and a new 2-tritriacontylchromone have been found, significant antibacterial activity was exhibited.
  • Anti-inflammatory actions: aqueous extracts of Agave Americana were studied. Steroidal sapogenins in the extracts showed good anti-inflammatory activity. Saponins isolated from Agave sisalana  (hecogenin) exhibited a potent gastro protective effect on ethanol- and indometacin-induced gastric ulcers in mice.
  • Cytotoxic activity: Steroidal saponins from the leaves of Agave americana (bisdesmosidic spirostanol saponin along with Hecogenin tetraglycoside showed cytotoxic activity against HL-60 human promyelocytic leukemia cells.


Not to be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women (although aguamiel and pulque is another story altogether)

Contact Dermatitis

There is some concern that the fresh expressed leaf juice (which is not aguamiel) is irritating to the skin and GIT and should not be used medicinally.

The sap of Agave americana contains calcium oxalate crystals, acrid oils and saponins, (among other compounds) which are irritants. Despite the known irritants, dermatitis has only rarely reported.

  1. Editorial Epocha , S.A. de C.V. México, D.F. : Antiguo Recetario Medicinal Azteca : 2003 : ISBN  970-627-2508
  3. Ricks MR, Vogel PS, Elston DM, Hivnor C. Purpuric agave dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1999;40:356–8
  4. Parmar, Virinder & N. Jha, Hirday & K. Gupta, Atul & Prasad, Ashok & Gupta, Suman & M. Boll, Per & D. Tyagi, Om. (1992). New Antibacterial Tetratriacontanol Derivatives from Agave americana L. Tetrahedron. 48. 1281-1284. 10.1016/S0040-4020(01)90790-2.
  5. Peana AT, Moretti MD, Manconi V, Desole G, Pippia P. : Anti-inflammatory activity of aqueous extracts and steroidal sapogenins of Agave americana. : Planta Med. 1997 Jun;63(3):199-202.
  6. Cerqueira, Gilberto & dos Santos e Silva, Gabriela & Rios, Emiliano & Paula Fragoso de Freitas, Ana & Moura, Brinell & Macedo, Danielle & Lopes Souto, Augusto & Barbosa Filho, Jose & Leal, Luzia & Brito, Gerly & Souccar, Caden & Viana, Glauce. (2012). Effects of hecogenin and its possible mechanism of action on experimental models of gastric ulcer in mice. European journal of pharmacology. 683. 260-9. 10.1016/j.ejphar.2012.02.043.

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