Agave (Agave americana)


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.

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.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.