Guayusa: benefits and contraindications

The guayusa, whose scientific name is Ilex guayusa, It is a tree that grows between 6 and 30 meters high throughout the Amazon rainforest and, above all, in Ecuador. Its leaves, which are elongated and bright green, are used in natural medicine as adjuvants to improve health.

According to a post on Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, these leaves contain around 14 phenolic compounds with pharmacological potential. In addition, it has other bioactive compounds that give it energizing and antioxidant effects. Keep reading!

Guayusa properties

Guayusa leaves are collected and dried to make herbal teas. This drink is quite popular in South America, since it is attributed energizing properties. In fact, it is available in powder and extracts that are added to other drinks for an "energy boost."

The reason for this effect is its caffeine concentration, which is compared to that contained in coffee. It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that give it other benefits. According to information collected in the magazine Nutrients, the plant is made up of the following:

  • 3% caffeine.
  • Vitamins C and D.
  • Minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium.
  • Chlorogenic acids.
  • Amino acids.
  • Alkaloids

Due to this composition, the plant is attributed other properties, beyond its energetic effect. In particular, it has antidiabetic, antitumor, antibacterial and lipid-lowering activity. What's more, its extracts act as a prebiotic and promote intestinal health.

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Guayusa benefits

For now, the evidence on the benefits of guayusa remains limited. Because of this, it is not considered a first-line treatment for health problems. Still, there are some studies with promising findings on its properties. Let's see.

Helps improve mood and concentration

The consumption of guayusa could improve concentration, in the same way that happens with coffee and its caffeine content.

Without a doubt, one of the main benefits of guayusa is its stimulating power. Data published in International Journal of Toxicology detail that its amount of caffeine is similar to that of coffee. Added to this, it also contains an alkaloid called theobromine, whose structure is similar to caffeine.

An investigation disclosed in Physiology & Behavior exposes that caffeine and theobromine increase alertness and mental focus. In the same way, it seems that they affect a better state of mind. They even help improve brain function in the short term.

The best of all? It does not appear to cause the negative effects that other beverages do with caffeine, such as nervousness. In a small studio shared in Clinical and Translational Science, guayusa leaf extract was shown to be less stimulating of epinephrine (adrenaline) release compared to green coffee extract and synthetic caffeine.

Helps stabilize blood sugar levels

Anecdotal data suggest that consumption of guayusa tea It is helpful in reducing high blood sugar levels. However, the evidence regarding this effect is insufficient.

In a study done in non-diabetic mice, guayusa supplements lowered glucose after 28 days. They also decreased appetite and body weight.

Studies supporting the same effects in humans are lacking. For this reason, it should not be considered a remedy for diabetic patients. Nor should it be used if you are taking drugs to control diabetes.

Combat oxidative stress

The concentration of antioxidants in this plant helps mitigate the negative effects of oxidative stress by counteracting free radicals. Consequently, It is also useful to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular, inflammatory and metabolic.

Guayusa is abundant in polyphenols known as catechins, which are positively associated with the control of high cholesterol levels. However, more research is needed to corroborate these effects on human health.

Contraindications and possible side effects

A recent review article published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition states that guayusa is safe for most people. As long as its consumption is moderate, it does not seem to cause adverse effects.

However, in excessive doses it is related to the following:

  • Restlessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Headaches.
  • Heart rhythm disturbances.

On the other hand, its consumption is contraindicated for pregnant and lactating women, due to its caffeine content. As well its use should be limited or avoided in cases of iron deficiency, since the tannins interfere in the assimilation of the mineral.

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How to prepare guayusa tea?

Guayusa leaves can be purchased in herbal stores or some pharmacies. It is also possible to find supplements and drinks derived from the plant.

In any case, the most common form of consumption is through tea. Its preparation is simple and can be eaten cold or warm.

It is possible to consume guayusa tea cold, after a simple preparation that is not complicated.


  • 1 teaspoon of loose guayusa leaves (2 grams).
  • 1 cup of water (250 milliliters).


  1. Add the guayusa leaves to a cup of boiling water.
  2. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes and strain the drink.
  3. Consume a cup a day, preferably in the morning.
  4. Avoid consuming it before going to bed.

What should you remember about guayusa?

Guayusa is a medicinal plant that is very popular in the towns of South America. It is valued for its energetic power, since stimulates brain functions and alertness, due to its caffeine content. Despite this, the evidence on its benefits is limited.

Like other herbal remedies, it should be used in moderation. The evidence for its safety and efficacy is limited. Under no circumstances should it be a replacement for medical treatments. If you have doubts, consult with the professional.