What Is Guayusa?
Guayusa (Guanacaste) is a plant native to Mexico and Central America. It grows naturally in moist areas like soil, under rocks or on the ground. Its leaves are long and thin with five leaflets arranged in a V shape. They have no stigmas but instead contain several seeds inside each leaflet. The seeds are small and white, but when they germinate, they turn into tiny greenish-white plants. These plants produce a liquid called guayusa which is used as medicine in some parts of Mexico.
The juice from the leaves contains alkaloids such as morphine, codeine and other drugs. Some studies suggest that it may help treat pain without causing addiction or withdrawal symptoms. It is also believed to improve digestion and relieve nausea caused by chemotherapy treatments.
In addition, the leaves are often chewed for their laxative properties. The leaves can cause diarrhea if consumed in large amounts. However, many people use them as a mild diuretic to reduce thirst or urinate more easily.
How Does It Work?
There are two main types of guayusa: dried and fresh. Both contain the same active ingredients, but one type is processed differently than the other depending on its intended purpose.
The dried leaves (and tea) are made by drying the fresh leaves to prevent spoilage. They contain caffeine and other chemicals which have a stimulating effect on the body. The dried leaves are often used as a stimulant, such as coffee or tea, or to increase focus.
The fresh leaves (and tea) are made by drying the fresh leaves for culinary purposes rather than to extend their shelf life. They contain diuretics, which is why people often chew them before a lengthy hike.
The most common way to consume guayusa is to steep the green leaves in hot water (as you would a tea). It tastes slightly bitter and has a strong flavor. Dried leaves can be used similarly to tobacco.
They can be smoked in a pipe, rolled into a cigarette or mixed with other herbs and smoked like marijuana.
Because guayusa contains natural caffeine, it has a similar effect to coffee. It is popular in the morning to help people wake up or stay alert during the day.
What Are Some Common Side Effects?
The plant itself is not known to have any negative side effects in normal doses (the same as coffee). However, some people may be allergic to it and experience breathing difficulties or hives.
Caffeine is not recommended for infants and children, as they have a lower body mass than adults. Other side effects of caffeine include:
Who Should Not Take It?
Do not take the drug if you are allergic to coffee, as you will most likely experience an allergic reaction. Those with heart problems or high blood pressure should avoid it. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should also avoid the substance.
How Much Should You Take?
The FDA has not approved this drug, so no standard dosage exists. The typical serving size is 1 to 2 grams of dried leaves steeped in about a cup of hot water. The serving size will vary based on the potency of the leaves. The steeped liquid can be drunk or the leaves can be removed and the remaining liquid can be drunk.
The fresh leaves can be chewed (known as quid) or steeped like a tea. 1 to 2 grams is a typical serving size for the fresh leaves. One should not exceed more than 6 grams per day.
It is important to note that tolerance builds quickly. This means that you will build up a tolerance to the drug if you use it frequently. This might cause you to consume more leaves or increase the frequency of when you take it in order to achieve the same desired effects.
What Are The Possible Interactions?
Any substance that affects the central nervous system can have a dangerous interaction with guayusa. This includes other supplements and medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. If you are taking any other medicine, it is especially important that you speak with your doctor before using this drug.
The substances that should not be mixed with guayusa include:
Who Makes It?
Guayusa is mostly found online and in specialty health and nutrition shops. Some natural food markets also carry this tea.
Guayusa has not been approved by the FDA.
This drug might be a better alternative to coffee if you are looking for a way to increase your energy levels. It is free of negative health effects, but you should be aware that you can build up a tolerance to it and most likely experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to stop using it.
Sources & references used in this article:
Guayusa (Ilex guayusa L.) new tea: phenolic and carotenoid composition and antioxidant capacity by A García‐Ruiz, N Baenas… – Journal of the …, 2017 – Wiley Online Library
Ritualistic use of the holly Ilex guayusa by Amazonian Jivaro Indians by WH Lewis, EJ Kennelly, GN Bass, HJ Wedner… – Journal of …, 1991 – Elsevier
Amazonian Guayusa (Ilex guayusa Loes.): A Historical and Ethnobotanical Overview by JF Dueñas, C Jarrett, I Cummins, E Logan–Hines – Economic Botany, 2016 – Springer