Guayusa: What & Why


I was on a mission for Guayusa the day I read about it in The Way of The Shaman. Just one of those must-have's ...

The indigenous Kichwa say guayusa is so captivating that visitors are warned once they drink it, they will always return to the Ecuadorian Jungle.

Turns out it's not especially easy to find. I toured all of my local herb haunts without luck and I even met a company that has the Guayusa market locked down. "Coincidentally" they sponsor the meditation in my office every Monday, were sponsoring the event where I met them, which was the day after I decided this herb was a need, and are the top Guayusa source on Amazon which I also stalked. (Runa. The source for all info below, supplemented by Wiki.)

Within a week, a referral lead me to a new spot - apothecary, herb library and juice/coffee bar that also serves elixirs and mushroom "coffee" (yes) - Botica & Co., Greenpoint.

I bought them out of Guayu and had them make me a tea on the spot because it was like urgent.

This is what Guayusa is and why you want it in your life:


Ilex guayusa (/ˈlɛks ˈɡwjuːsə/ or /ˈlɛks ˈwjuːsə/) is an Amazonian tree of the holly genus, native to the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest. One of three known caffeinated holly trees, the leaves of the guayusa tree are dried and brewed like a tea for their stimulative effects.

The plant is grown primarily in Ecuador in the eastern provinces of Napo and Pastaza, but is found in parts of Peru and Colombia. After harvest, the guayusa leaves are dried which allows flavor to develop.

Traditionally, some Ecuadorian Kichwa people boil guayusa leaves in water and consume the resulting beverage for its stimulative effects.

In addition to drinking cups of guayusa like many Americans drink coffee, indigenous hunters drink guayusa to sharpen their instincts and call it the “Night Watchman" because it helps them stay alert and awake all night. 

Fresh leaves are used as well as dried leaves, which are dried in rolls and strung together as a wreath resembling a Hawaiian lei.

In addition to caffeine, guayusa also contains theobromine, commonly found in chocolate, and L-theanine, a glutamic acid analog found in green tea that has been shown to reduce physical and mental stress.

Guayusa contains twice the antioxidants of green tea. These compounds neutralize free radicals and may help prevent premature aging. It also contains chlorogenic acids, which have been reported to contribute to cardiovascular health, help reduce high blood pressure, and regulate body weight. In addition, guayusa contains 15 essential amino acids and has ferulic acid, which can help improve blood circulation.

Traditionally, indigenous Kichwa families wake up before dawn and gather around a communal fire to drink gourds of guayusa. During this early-morning ritual, community members share dreams, myths, and legends. Several myths recount how the guayusa plant taught human beings how to dream, and throughout the morning shamans interpret dreams from the previous night.

Get some! <3