What is Mamajuana? Dominican Viagra? Medicinal Cure? or Tourist scam?

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While in the Dominican Republic recently, there was much talk and hype of a beverage called Mamajuana (mama juana). Our tour operator warned us about it as there are rules for bringing it back home, and there are various variations of the drink. I had to try it while I was there and was shocked by how potent it was. A small shot of this beverage and I was looped. So I had to do some research and find out everything I could about the Dominican legend known as Dominican Viagra.

What is Mamajuana? (Mama Juana)

This drink unique to the Dominican Republic and Haiti is a rum, red wine and honey mixture soaked in a bottle with various tree bark and herbs. The beverage evolved from its early form as a herbal tea prepared by the Taino Indians, which included water with different tree bark and herbs. In the post-Columbus era, alcohol is added to the recipe.

The mixture of bark, tree leaves and herbs varies depending on the region in Dominican or Haiti. There are various versions of the drink, including the following types of vegetation:

  • Anam· (Petiveria alliacea)
  • Anis Estrellado (Illicium verum)
  • Bohuco Pega Palo (Cissus verticillata)
  • Albahaca (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Canelilla (Cinnamodendron ekmanii)
  • Bojuco Caro (Princess Vine)
  • Marabeli (Securidaca virgata)
  • Clavo Dulce (Whole Clove)
  • Maguey (Agave spp.) leaves
  • Timacle (Chiococca alba)
(source: Wikipedia.org)

How is Mamajuana made?

The bark and herb mixture soaked with dark rum (40% Proof or 20% alcohol) or red wine and in some cases, a ma combination both. The herbs and bark soak in this for several weeks, and the liquid removed, and honey, fresh rum and red wine added again. There is a debate as to how many times the mixture is reused, some say indefinitely, others ten years, others more specific from 2 – 6 times. The more times the herbs and bark are soaked in the alcohol and honey mixture, the less bitter the combination tastes. Some versions include ginger, cinnamon and vanilla; there is no right or wrong recipe.

Mamajuana Benefits

Mama Juana is named after the English word Demijohn and from the French Dame Jeanne (lady Jane) (Source: Wikipedia.org), which refers to the large bottle with a narrow neck. Vendors in the Dominican told us its name is because of it being an aphrodisiac and the short form for “Mama do you wanna?”

There are many stories about the Dominican Mama Juana legend. It is referred to as Dominican Viagara, medicinal cure-all and a tourist drink. | Dominican Republic | Local Drink | souvenir |

Mamajuana Drink – Dangers, What Tourists need to know?

Mamajuana Variations

When buying the concoction, be sure you are buying it from a reputable souvenir store or distillery, in a sealed bottle. Some of the vendors on your resort’s beach have home-made variations with dangerous barks and in some cases, shellfish. Be sure you are buying your mamajuana from a hotel store or souvenir shop to ensure you are getting the adequately packaged version. The bottle to the left was a home-grown mixture I had on an excursion to Saona Island, and I have no clue what was in it. A scary thought now, especially since it affected me so fast, and I was instantly hammered with just one shot!

MamaJuana Strength

The combination of the dark rum known in the Dominican as Gasoline mixed with wine and soaked in the bark and herb mixture makes this drink very potent. Ingest it in small shots, and you should limit the number of shots you have. Overconsumption of this beverage can lead to alcohol poisoning if too many shots are taken at one time.

There are many stories about the Dominican Mama Juana legend. It is referred to as Dominican Viagara, medicinal cure-all and a tourist drink. | Dominican Republic | Local Drink | souvenir |

The Mamajuana legend – Dominican Viagra and Medicinal Cure-All

Aphrodisiac – Liquid Viagra

  • Mama Juana sold to tourists with stories of it being a powerful aphrodisiac and a medicinal cure-all.
  • Referred to as Viagra Dominica, Dominican Viagra and liquid Viagra.
  • Most of this talk is probably a “tourist experience” as there is no scientific evidence to support the claim.
  • One thing for sure, this potent drink will break down your inhibitions pretty quickly due to its potency!

Medicinal Uses of mamajuana

Again there are no official claims as to the medicinal properties of the Mama Juana drink. Many Dominicans believe that the beverage can cure:

  • flu, blood sugar and diabetic issues, organ health and joint pain relief.
  • Mixtures using cinnamon are said to help stabilize blood sugar and aid with those who have diabetes. (How a sugar-based alcoholic beverage can help anyone with Diabetes is a flag for me.)
  • Cloves are said to help with painkilling.
  • Honey has been a natural remedy for centuries, and Dominicans believe it can improve symptoms of flu and to boost energy.

Taking Mamajuana home to the US or Canada – What you need to Know.

Mama Juana is bottled in two ways. The first with just herbs and tree bark for you to take home and mix the rum and wine yourself and the second a ready to drink version which has been soaked and prepared for you.

Both US and Canadian customs do not permit the transport of Mama Juana if it is not in its liquid. If you take dry mamajuana ingredients home with you, be warned, Customs may confiscate it. U.S. customs officials appear to be wise to the beverage and will ask you straight out if you are bringing back Mamajuana. Those with liquid versions are subject to the alcohol importing restrictions of their customs office, but those with dry ingredients may be confiscated on the spot.

Canada Customs regulations are: “Prohibited items: [Firearms, etc.] … and PLANTS, animal products, meat, food and PLANT MATERIAL SUBJECT TO CERTAIN RESTRICTIONS AND FORMALITIES. The importation of fresh fruit is prohibited.” Mamajuana, in its dry form, is considered a plant or animal product (as customs told us that bugs could be in the bark and leaves of the dry version). However, the alcohol content and soaking of the leaves and bark kill any bugs that may be in the liquid version of the drink.

While Canadian Customs may not ask you directly if you are carrying the dry ingredients, failing to report their transport, whether you are aware of the rules or not, is subject to confiscation and a possible penalty for not disclosing.

There are many stories about the Dominican Mama Juana legend. It is referred to as Dominican Viagara, medicinal cure-all and a tourist drink. | Dominican Republic | Local Drink | souvenir |

Mamajuana (mama juana) – Conclusion

I think this drink is a tourist draw. I enjoyed my two shots, which knocked me on my ass so fast that it scared me. It is a very potent drink and indeed part of the Dominican experience, but know what you are getting yourself into before you partake in the beverage. I have no clue what was in the version I took. Thankfully I lived to laugh about it. Believe what you want about its legendary claims and enjoy some fun in the Dominican Republic — with a side of caution!

  • Gg
    August 21, 2015

    I assure you Mama Juana is not a tourist scam. As an American citizen that was born in the Dominican Republic and with Dominican parents I can tell you that when anyone in my family of dominicans hears someone is going to visit the DR, the first thing we request is a bottle of Mama Juana. It’s a very traditional Dominican drink. Every Dominican family I know, living here or in the DR loves their mama juana.

    • Joe
      September 24, 2015

      so. Is it an aphrodisiac or not? I have E. D. and it has been recommended to me.

      • Sharon M
        September 24, 2015

        The jury is still out on this. The kind you buy in local tourist spots I fear will not help you, but there may be medicinal versions out there that can.

  • troy
    July 22, 2015

    I put a 12oz bottle in my checked bag and had no problems going back to the states. And nobody told me about specail medicinal uses. I just enjoy the taste of it. Herbs and bark have had medicinal uses for ages so I cant see how something can be too far fetched. Im sure it doesnt cure all diseases and shit like that but it must help with something. Taking shots of it at the resort killed me. And since ive been home I have filled it once let it soak for a few days. I used a sweeter wine and spiced rum and it wasnt as bitter or dry but I could still taste the herbs. I’d say it’s a good tasty beverage.

  • Roosevelt Jones
    July 9, 2015

    I was in Punta canta recently and I tried this beverage and I had very strong class of it it knocked me on my ass and scared the hell out of me I drank some more but I water it down

  • steven
    June 13, 2015

    As the main producer of Mamajuana, Don Ramon Mamajuana Corp., caution should be taken in buying mamajuana in either bottled or dry bag. 99% of the producers on the Dominican island do not wash or properly treat these in-the-wild grown plants used in making mamajuana. These plants are loaded with mass amount of; insects, mold, animal and bird fecal matter, etc. They just chop it up either stuff it into bottles with their bare hands or into plastic bags and sell it on the beaches, streets, over the mail and even on ebay. Keep in mind, this is a 3rd World product and no regulations are set by the government and those that are, the majority of the producers working in dirty conditions, don’t even bother with them. Mamajuana traditionally is made up of a variation of different plants, typically 7 – 10. What we see mostly are producers that use 1 – 3 different plants and label the product Mamajuana. This is deceptive practice and taking advantage of tourist. When you look at a bottle or bag of mamajuana and notice that all of the contents is the same color and looks the same, you know you are buying crap. Don Ramon uses 17 different plants and herbs. In addition, Don Ramon Mamajuana are the only producers that goes through a wash and radiation treatment in order to make the product safe for human consumption and exportability. These companies that do not practice safe processing and handling of the product avoid and bypass Phytosanitary, FDA and USDA inspections which in turn threatens mamajuana’s future marketability. Alcohol is an aphrodisiac in itself but there are some plants that add to the effect and have health benefits like cinnamon and clove. Unfortunately, most of what you buy on the streets, beaches and over the mail, especially those with just a handful of plant spices have little value. Look for Mamajuana that has a wide variety of plants and herbs for your enjoyment and benefit. Read the label for ingredient. The more the better and the less beware.

    • Sharon M
      June 13, 2015

      Wow thanks for sharing this information!

  • Ss
    June 2, 2015

    When you’re a tourist you will never get the story straight unless you’re dealing with individuals who are making it specifically for you. I’m Haitian and had my bottle made for me individually and had to come back for it after several weeks at the cost of $125. A bottle which was made from an individual who has been making it for years not some vendor selling bottles to IDIOT tourist. For my ailments my customized bottle has worked wonderfully. I swear all you have to do is tell a tourist that some concoction or thing will work like Viagra and people will buy it. What you need not do is post things like this online without knowing WTH you’re talking about because you got GOT by a local vendor looking to make a buck. Stuff like this isn’t widely known….there’s a reason for it. TRY AGAIN…such BS!

    • Dougie
      September 25, 2015

      Care to post a good recipe? Just brought some dry bark back and am looking how to prepare it properly.

      • Sharon M
        September 27, 2015

        Sorry I’m not in the drink mixing business! Just a travel writer who will try a local drink once in a while!

  • Paul H
    June 9, 2013

    I just left DR yesterday and brought back wet and dry mamajuana. First off, DR security at the airport will only allow you to bring 3 oz on the plane with you. So, if you buy a bottle form your resort store (one of the safe ways to buy) pack it in your suitcase. US duty-free shop is at the walk path for gates 5-10. All other alcohol should be bought there and it’s discounted. At this point, you have already gone through DR Customs. I carried on all my alcohol from the duty-free shop. When you get into the states and you get your luggage, put all the alcohol in your suitcases. TSA- They announce anyone carrying alcohol will be confiscated. They tell you to put it in your luggage. They don’t search any of it.