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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Guaco \Gua"co\, n. [Sp.] (Bot.)

  1. A plant ( Aristolochia anguicida) of Carthagena, used as an antidote to serpent bites.

  2. The Mikania Guaco, of Brazil, used for the same purpose.


n. Any of various vine-like climbing plants of Central and South America and the West Indies, including ''Mikania'' and ''Aristolochia'' species, reputed to have curative powers.


Guaco, huaco, or guao, also vejuco and bejuco are terms applied to various vine-like Central American, South American, and West Indian climbing plants, reputed to have curative powers. Several species in the genus Mikania are among those referred to as guaco. Even though it is not a vine guaco is also used to refer to Cleome serrulata, the Rocky Mountain beeplant.

Native Americans and Colombians believe that the guaco was named after a species of kite, in imitation of its cry, which they say it uses to attract the snakes which it feeds on. Tradition says that the plant's powers as an antidote were discovered through watching the bird eat the leaves, and even spread the juice on its wings, before attacking the snakes.

Any twining plant with a heart-shaped leaf, white and green above and purple beneath, is called a guaco by Native Americans, which does not necessarily coincide with which plants are “true” guacos, as far as naturalists are concerned.

What is most commonly recognized in Colombia as guaco, or vejuco del guaco, would appear to be Mikania guaco, a climbing composite plant of the tribe Eupatorieae, preferring moist and shady situations, and having a much-branched and deep-growing root, variegated, serrated, opposite leaves and dull white flowers, in axillary clusters. The whole plant emits a disagreeable odour.

It is stated that the Central American natives, after taking guaco, catch with impunity the most dangerous snakes, which writhe in their hands as though touched by a hot iron. The odour alone of guaco, has been said to cause, in snakes, a state of stupor; and Humboldt, who observed that proximity of a rod steeped in guaco-juice was obnoxious to the venomous Coluber corallinus, was of opinion that inoculation with it gives perspiration an odour which makes reptiles unwilling to bite. The drug is not used in modern medicine.

In Brazil, guaco ( Mikania glomerata) is commonly used as a medicinal tea as an expectorant and anti-inflammatory due to its compound cumarine. The plant is also sold in pharmacies.

Guaco (band)

Guaco is a tropical music band from Venezuela that was formed in Maracaibo by Mario Viloria, Gustavo Aguado, and Fernando Dominguez in Zulia in 1968. Mario retired after being the main founder because of college studies but during his participation in the group he was the main composer for several years and his home was the main place where Guaco practiced in the beginnings. The name Guaco is attributed to Mario since in the mornings at his home where the band used to play and practice, a bird called Guaco would fly over. Mario later retired to continue his college studies on engineering but he continues to create "Guaco Music" for his family and friends in Venezuela and in Florida (U.S.) where he lives. The band, having begun as a regular Gaita Zuliana band (a folkloric Zulian rhythm with a heavy use of drums and percussion), during the 70s Guaco diverged from the traditional way of playing the genre by integrating it with elements of Salsa music (like complex horn arrangements), violins and electric guitars (very unusual instruments in a Gaita band). Nowadays, the Guaco rhythm continues to evolve through a complex mixture of Gaita, Salsa, Pop music, Jazz, Funk and even Rock and roll and Vallenato music beats, concocting a recognizable and unique style that is considered to be a landmark of the genre.