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Ilex guayusa

Ilex guayusa, commonly known as "guayusa" or "wayusa" (prounced "why-you-suh"), is an Amazonian tree of the holly genus, native to the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest.

The Jivaro say guayusa is so habituating that before it is offered to a visitor, she is warned that once she drinks it, she will ever after return to the Ecuadorian Jungle - Michael Harner

Biological descriptions

Three species of hollies yield xanthines. The best known is yerba mate, Ilex paraguariensis, the national drink of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. A second is known in the Carolinas as yaupon holly, or the Black Drink, Ilex vomitoria, the only caffeine plant native to North America. The third and by far the most mysterious is Ilex guayusa. A tall tree native to the eastern montana of Ecuador and Peru, yet sporadic in distribution, it has been collected only rarely by botanists is known almost exclusively as a cultivated plant. According to Harvard ethnobotanist Tim Plowman, it has never been found in flower.

As a testament to guayusa's revered status throughout South America, a 1,500-year-old bundle of guayusa leaves was found by Harvard Ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes in a medicine man's tomb high in the Bolivian Andes, far beyond the natural range of the plant.


In addition to drinking cups of guayusa like many Americans drink coffee, indigenous hunters will drink guayusa to sharpen their instincts and call it the Night Watchman" because it helps them stay alert and awake all night. For many Ecuadorian indigenous people, the morning drinking of guayusa is a social ritual. The leaves are boiled to produce a tea; due to the high caffeine content, the same leaves are often used multiple times, sometimes for several days. Fresh leaves are used as well as dried leaves, which are dried in rolls and strung together as a wreath resembling a Hawaiian lei.

Chemical constituents

In addition to caffeine, guayusa also contains guanidine. Functioning as a balanced stimulant, the Kichwa also say that guayusa promotes restful sleep and good dreams. Unlike coffee, it is said to be good for excessive acidity and other problems in the stomach and bile. It is both energizing and relaxing at the same time and develops mental strength.

The plant can "contain more than 2.0% caffeine" Ilex guayasa, but most reports claim it has approximately 1.57% caffeine by dry weight.


"Wayusa" as spelled in the indigenous Kichwa language of Amazonian Ecuadorian. Also pronounced "Why-sa" by the Kichwa people and "Why-ees" by the Shuar people of Amazonian Ecuador.

Commercial Value

RUNA (Comprised of Fundacion Runa in Ecuador & Runa LLC in the United States) is building the first commercial supply chain using fair trade and organic principles for guayusa from the Ecuadorian Amazon. Runa works directly with indigenous farming families to bring a new economic value to this culturally and environmentally important plant.

See also

Ilex paraguariensis

External links


Guayusa, a neglected stimulant from the eastern andean foothills



General references

Pendell, Dale. PharmakoDynamis, Mercury House:San Francisco, 2002. ISBN 1-56279-125-7

Ott, Jonathan. Pharmacotheon, 2nd ed. Natural Products Co.: Kennewick, WA, 1996. ISBN 0-9614234-9-8

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Ilex guayusa

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