What is Wereke?
Wereke, also known as Guareque, Wareki, Wareque, Coyote Melon, and Choyalhuani, refers to the root of the Ibervillea sonorae plant. The plant grows delicate, leafy vines, but a rather large tuber-like root that has been used for medicinal purposes. It seasonally blooms yellow flowers that later develop into large red melon berries. Wereke is a close botanical relative of the pumpkin, and therefore has many of the same medicinal qualities as other large gourds. It naturally grows in Central America, although it may also be found in southern areas of the United States and Mexico. It has a very strong, bitter taste, and because of this it is often only tolerated in small amounts or many be masked by other flavors.
When used for medicinal purposes, the root is often ground and then made into a tea. However, it does have topical applications as well. Its use as a medicine dates back to the ancient Mayan cultures who would slice or pulverize the root and boil it to make a tea. Today, it is most commonly used by diabetics to help manage blood sugar, although Wereke does have other reported benefits. Less commonly, some people today also use the leaves of the plant to treat conditions like stomach ulcers and skin diseases, although this was once a popular use in Mayan times. Unfortunately, many of the benefits of Wereke has yet to be evaluated in a scientific manner, but there have been a few studies that evaluated the effectiveness of the plant for medicinal purposes.
Wereke Benefits and Uses
Historically, Wereke’s most popular use is to treat diabetes. Although this has only been evaluated in animal studies, those studies did have promising results. In 2005 the effects of the herb were studied on diabetic rats. Aqueous extracts derived from the roots of the plant were administered in doses of 300 and 600 mg/kg bodyweight over a period of 41 days. At the end of the study period, the rats had improved levels of glycemia, body weight (see section below), and triglycerides. However, cholesterol and uric acid levels were unaffected. Interestingly, typically the traditional preparation in animal studies is to only use aqueous extracts throughout the study process. However, in this study, the scientists also tested the raw extract (juice) of the plant and found that it is also effective in treating diabetes. Those results were also confirmed in later studies conducted in 2007 and 2011, both on animal models. Although research has not yet determined a safe and effective dosage for human use, many people claim that the herbal supplements currently available help to reduce glucose levels by up to 15%.
Obesity is strongly linked with diabetes in many cases, so it is reasonable to think that Wereke may also help diabetics manage their weight. In 2011 a group of scientists in Mexico studied the effects of Wereke on a group of rats. Those rats were fed a high-fat diet over a period of 8 weeks in order to increase weight gain in those animals. The rats were then split into three study groups that received a 100, 200, or 400 mg/kg treatment that was developed from the aqueous extracts of Wereke. At the end of the study period, the rats not only lost weight, but dyslipidaemic and hyperglycaemic conditions also improved. Those results show that Wereke may be a great candidate as a weight management treatment.
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Many formulas available are designed to improve pancreatic health. Though this benefit has not been scientifically studied in particular, the pancreas is a key organ for diabetics. Considering the amount of research that has been conducted on Wereke and diabetes, it is understandable to infer that Wereke may help to promote the general health of the pancreas. Even if you do not have diabetes, many people suggest that regular consumption of Wereke may promote a healthy pancreas.
A study conducted in 2012 showed that Wereke has some antioxidant properties. Callus cultures taken from the plant were examined in detail for their nutritional properties. The results showed that antioxidant levels in Wereke were significantly higher than in other members of the gourd family. This research also determined that Wereke also had high levels of fatty acids and phenolic compounds with potentially beneficial properties aside from antioxidants. Although the scientists admit that their research is preliminary, they hope that it acts as a stepping stone to promote future research on the plant.
In 2009, a study was conducted to determine the antibacterial and antifungal properties of several traditional plants, including Wereke. Dried plant samples were obtained, and methanol extracts were developed from those plants. Those extracts were pitted against several strains of bacteria and fungi. While Wereke was shown not to be significantly effective as an antibacterial agent, it was a moderately effect antifungal. As such, Wereke may have future use as an antifungal treatment and supports the topical use as an antiseptic (see section below).
Ancient cultures used Wereke as an antiseptic to treat a myriad of skin conditions, injuries, and open wounds. This specific benefit has not undergone scientific testing. However, the 2009 study that determined Wereke to be an effective antifungal may support this use. By ridding the skin of dangerous fungi that can lead to infection, Wereke may prove to have important topical uses. Topical uses were once very popular in traditional cultures, but this use has not been as popular in recent years. However, it may prove to be a great area for future study and use for those who cannot use standard antiseptic treatments.
Although it has not been evaluated scientifically, some people claim that they experience improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis after taking Wereke supplements. Traditionally, Wereke is thought to help with inflammation (see section below), which may explain why people experience less pain due to arthritis. While this benefit still requires the attention of the scientific community, these initial claims are a great place to start with research.
Wereke is considered to be an anti-inflammatory herb. But, since this benefit has not been scientifically, the mechanisms by which it improves inflammation are still unknown. There are several suggestions as to how Wereke works as an anti-inflammatory, however. First, it could relieve joint pain and inflammation, which makes sense in light of its use as an anti-arthritis treatment (see section above). Second, it may reduce inflammation-inducing microbes, like fungi (see section above). It may even work as a combination of these factors, or it may have other mechanisms that make it effective as an anti-inflammatory as well. Aside from treating diabetes, inflammation is also one of the most popular and ancient uses of Wereke, so this area certainly deserves to be the focus of future research.
Wereke is commonly sold in capsule or pill form and is generally recommended in doses of 250 to 500 mg. Depending on the manufacturer, pills may be created at different dosages and could be combined with other herbs (e.g. Ampalaya, cinnamon, dandelion, fenugreek, nopal, and thresher). Because of this, dosages are commonly determined by the manufacturer and may vary due to the presence of other herbs and compounds. Scientific studies have not yet determined a standard dosage of humans and dosages are a result of historical use.
Many people avoid taking Wereke as a beverage due to its bitter taste. However, traditional preparations dictate taking a small amount of dried and pulverized Wereke and mixing it with water or alcohol. The root can also be cooked and eaten like many other root vegetables, however many people avoid this as well due to the taste. Wereke can be combined with other foods to improve the taste.
Adults can take one dose three times a day, and children under the age of 10 should receive half the dosage of adults, also administered three times a day. It is recommended to take Wereke before or with meals, particularly if you have a sensitive stomach.
The dosage and administration of Wereke for topical use is less well known. Some people claim placing damp leaves directly on the affected area will have good results. Others suggest making a tonic or tincture first, and then applying that mixture to the skin.
Wereke Side Effects, Safety, Dangers and Warnings
Many side effects and toxicity precautions have not yet been evaluated in a scientific setting for Wereke. If taking prescription medication, consult with a doctor before using Wereke. Additionally, consult with a doctor if you are considering using Wereke to treat a more serious medical condition.
Wereke should be avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It may cause miscarriage.
Exercise caution when administering to children. It is best for children to be under medical supervision if they are to be given Wereke.
Because of its reported affects on blood sugar, Wereke can possibly interact with diabetes medications.
Rat models show that Wereke may have toxic effects at high doses. However, the threshold of a high dosage has not yet been determined for humans.
If can cause upset stomach, nausea, or vomiting for those with a sensitive stomach.