Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Mikania
Species: cordifolia, glomerata, guaco, laevigata
Synonyms: Mikania amara, M. aspera, M. attenuata, M. glomerata, Willoughbya parviflora
Common Names: Guaco, guace, bejuco de finca, cepu, liane Francois, matafinca, vedolin, cipó caatinga, huaco, erva das serpentes, coração de Jesus, erva-de-cobra, guaco-de-cheiro
Part Used: Leaves

The following text has been reprinted from: The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs © 2005 by Leslie Taylor.

Herbal Properties and Actions



  • suppresses coughs
  • reduces fever
  • Leaves
  • expels phlegm
  • cleanses blood
  • Infusion: 1/2 cup 3-4
  • dilates bronchials
  • heals wounds
  • times daily
  • arrests asthma
  • promotes perspiration
  • Tincture: 3-4 ml three times daily
  • relieves pain
  • increases urination
  • kills bacteria
  • kills protozoas
  • kills yeast
  • reduces inflammation
  • thins blood

    Mikania is the largest genus of tropical lianas, representing over 300 species of vines. The common name guaco is quite common; it is used for several species of Mikania vines that look very similar and are used for similar purposes. These include the South American M. guaco species found in Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador; M. cordifolia, found throughout South America as well as Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama; M. glomerata, found mostly in Paraguay and Venezuela; and Mikania laevigata, which has only been cataloged in Brazil. All of these guaco plants are thornless, shrubby vines reaching about 2 m in height and sprawling out 2 x 2.5 m wide. They produce wide, bright green, heart-shaped leaves and white-to-yellowish flowers. The leaves when bruised or crushed have a pleasant, spicy scent, reminiscent of pumpkin pie spice; the flowers have a distinctive vanilla smell, especially after a rain.




    Mikania cordifolia and M. glomerata are the two plants in Brazil that are used interchangeably and oftentimes with no distinction between the two species; they are just referred to as guaco. Both have a long history of use by rainforest inhabitants. Brazilian Indians have an ancient tradition of using guaco for snake bites; preparing a tea with the leaves and taking it orally as well as applying the leaves or the stem juice (in a hurry) directly onto the snake bite. Other Amazonian rainforest Indian tribes have employed the crushed leaf stem topically on snake bites (as well as drinking the decoction of leaves and/or stem) and have used a leaf infusion as for fevers, stomach discomfort, and for rheumatism. Indigenous people in the Amazon region in Guyana warm the leaves to put on skin eruptions and itchy skin. Several Indian tribes also believe if you crush the fresh aromatic leaves and leave them around your sleeping areas, the spicy scent will drive snakes away. For this reason and because of its long history as a snakebite remedy, it earned the name in herbal medicine systems as "snake-vine" and "snake-herb."

    In 1870, a Brazilian herbal drug called Opodeldo de Guaco was made from the leaf and stem of guaco that was considered a "saint's remedy" to treat bronchitis, coughs and rheumatism. This "drug" is still a popular home remedy today throughout Brazil for the same purposes but locals prepare it themselves by boiling guaco leaves into a tasty spicy cough syrup. The recipe calls for putting a handful of fresh leaves (or about 2 ounces dried leaves) in 6 cups of water and boiling until it is reduced to 2 cups. Then 3/4 of a cup of sugar is added and it is boiled again for about 20 minutes into a syrup. The mixture is strained to remove the leaves, 3 soup-spoonfuls of honey are added, and the syrup is cooled, bottled and stored in the refrigerator. As a cough syrup, 1 soup-spoon is taken 3 times daily to help quiet coughs (and it is amazingly effective!).

    In current herbal medicine systems in Brazil, guaco is well known and well regarded as an effective natural bronchodilator, expectorant and cough suppressant employed for all types of upper respiratory problems including bronchitis, pleurisy, colds and flu, coughs, and asthma; as well as for sore throats, laryngitis, and fever. Guaco is also popular in Brazil as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and pain-reliever for rheumatism, arthritis, intestinal inflammation and ulcers. A decoction of the leaves is also employed externally for neuralgia, rheumatic pain, eczema, pruritus, and wounds.




    Guaco is a significant source of the natural plant chemical, coumarin (as high as 11% in some guaco plants!). Coumarin is used to produce the most commonly used anticoagulant and blood thinning drug called coumadin. It is such a large source of coumarin, Brazilian research groups are studying the possibility of the commercial cultivation and extraction of coumarin from guaco leaves for pharmaceutical industry use. Guaco also contain 14 novel sesquiterpene chemicals that are called germacranolides. This classification of plant chemicals has yielded some very biologically active antibacterial, insecticidal, anticancerous and antitumorous agents obtained from plants; the actual activities of these novel guaco germacranolides are still being researched.

    At least three caffeoylquinic acids demonstrating in vitro anti-inflammatory activities and two kaurenoic acid chemicals with significant in vitro antibacterial activity have been also been isolated in guaco leaves. One of these is called kaurenoic acid and guaco contains a significant amount of this highly active plant chemical that has been documented with anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, vasorelaxant, antibacterial and antitumor activities.

    The main plant chemicals in guaco include caffeolylquinic acids, cinnamic acid, coumarin, glycosides, kaurenoic acid, ent-kaurenoic acid, germacranolides, stigmasterol, tannins, and resins.




    Many of guaco's long-time traditional uses have been validated by scientists. Raul Coimbra wrote the first journal article validating the use of guaco as a bronchodialator and expectorant herbal drug in 1942. In a 1984 Brazilian study, human volunteers were given a guaco leaf tea (M. glomerata) and researchers again reported the strong cough suppessant and bronchodilator effects. Other researchers in Brazil published papers about the brochodilator and anti-inflammatory effects of guaco leaf extracts in 1992; one scientist suggested that these actions could be attributed at least by half to the natural coumarin in the plant. Most recently (in 2002) a Brazilian research group reported that extracts of guaco leaves (M. glomerata), significantly inhibited histamine contractions and evidenced a relaxing effect of the trachea (throat) in guinea pigs (as well as isolated human bronchi in vitro). They summarized their findings by saying: "The results supported the indication of M. glomerata products for the treatment of respiratory diseases where bronchoconstriction is present."

    They also validated yet another indigenous use for snakebites; reporting that guaco significantly reduced swelling, edema, and related vasoconstriction in mice injected with snake venom. Guaco's in vitro and in vivo anti-inflammatory activity had already been reported by three other studies; the most recent study in 2002 reporting an 81% inhibition of inflammation in rats. In other recent research, a crude guaco leaf extract (M. cordifolia) demonstrated antiprotozoal activity in one study and the same species evidenced one of the strongest antiprotozoal activity tested out of 79 plant extracts tested in 2002 (against two protozoa: Trichomonas vaginalis and Trypanosoma cruzi). In other research published in 2002, guaco was reported with in vitro antibacterial and antiyeast actions against candida.




    Guaco has long been regarded as a safe herbal remedy in Brazil. Recent toxicity studies with rats (in 2003) confirm that, even in high dosages (3.3 g per kg of body weight for 52 days), it does not have any toxic or anti-fertility effects. While guaco is a widely popular and well known Brazilian herbal remedy with Brazilian research validating much of it's traditional uses, it is virtually unknown to North American consumers and health practitioners. It is deserving of much more attention here, especially for stubborn upper respiratory conditions, bronchitis, chronic coughs in general, and even the common cold or flu.

    Guaco Plant Summary
    Main Preparation Method: fluid extract, syrup, or decoction

    Main Actions (in order):
    cough suppressant, bronchodilator, expectorant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory

    Main Uses:

    1. 1. for upper respiratory problems (coughs, bronchitis, colds/flu, asthma, allergies, etc)
    2. 2. for various internal and external bacterial and protozoal infections
    3. 3. for Candida and yeast infections
    4. 4. for snakebite and insect bites and stings
    5. 5. as an analgesic (pain-reliever) and anti-inflammatory for arthritis, rheumatism, intestinal inflammation, and ulcers
    Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
    anti-anaphylactic (reduces allergic reactions), anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticandidal, anticoagulant (blood thinner), antihistamine, antiprotozoal, antivenin, bronchodilator, cough suppressant, expectorant

    Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
    analgesic (pain-reliever), anesthetic, anti-asthmatic, anticancerous, antispasmodic, blood cleanser, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), febrifuge (reduces fever), vermifuge (expels worms), wound healer

    Cautions: It contains up to 10% coumarin (coumadin), which has a blood thinning effect.

    Traditional Preparation: In addition to the cough syrup detailed above, the traditional remedy is to take 2 cups of fresh leaves (or ½ cup dried leaves) and infuse them in a liter of water. A half-cup of this infusion is taken 4 times daily for rheumatism, respiratory problems and coughs. A standard tincture is also sometimes employed for the same purposes at dosages of 3-4 ml three times daily. The leaf infusion may also be prepared as above and used as a topical wound healer and pain-reliever (although the fresh leaves are more effective for this purpose than using dried leaves).