This Amazonian holly bush has been used for millennia by indigenous tribes to boost energy, alertness and concentration. Naturally containing theobromine and caffeine, these two stimulants, the former being much slower release, work to increase your focus first thing in the morning. In addition, the presence of L-Theanine helps to take the edge off the caffeine to ensure a smooth, calming boost to your wake up routine.
Guayusa beverages are made from the guayusa holly tree, native to the Amazon rainforest. The leaves are typically dried, brewed and used to make teas, energy drinks or other high-caffeine products. You can enjoy guayusa at home by steeping loose leaves and drinking it hot or with ice for a refreshing cold brew. It's also sold as an herbal extract and powder.
Although the main benefits of consuming guayusa are for boosting energy, numerous studies also show that its leaves have other medicinal benefits too. Read on to learn what science says about guayusa..
Benefits of Guayusa
The medical and health benefits of guayusa include boosting mood, increasing alertness and offering a high dose of antioxidants.
Benefits of guayusa leaf come from its natural compounds, including caffeine and theobromine—a chemical that may be helpful for negative emotions. Many studies have looked at theobromine and its link to improved mood by studying chocolate, which contains a similar combination of theobromine and caffeine as guayusa. Some studies attribute chocolate’s positive effect to theobromine.
Previous research has suggested that the combination of theobromine and caffeine, such as that found in guayusa or chocolate, has synergistic effects on mood and alertness. In 2011, Dutch researchers tested this hypothesis on 24 women and found that the mix of the two ingredients improved their mood by increasing self-reported contentedness.
In other research, one survey of over 13,000 Americans found that dark chocolate may lower the risk of depression. One possible explanation is that it contains theobromine and caffeine. Another study found that the same combination provided energy and improved cognitive function.
Just like many people have a cup of coffee in the morning to improve their mood, you can substitute it for guayusa and get similar benefits.
The benefits of guayusa powder are most noticeable when you need a pick-me-up. Guayusa is an ingredient in some energy drinks because it’s a natural source of caffeine. Similar to coffee, it can provide a boost that enhances your cognition, making it easier to ward off fatigue and power through the afternoon slump. In the previously mentioned Dutch study, one of the main findings was that the combination of caffeine and theobromine made people feel more alert up to three hours after ingestion.
Compared to coffee, there are more health benefits of guayusa. Many people experience anxiety jitters or an energy crash after drinking coffee. But that’s not the case with guayusa beverages thanks to its content of L-Theanine, an amino acid that researchers say produces a non-drowsy mental relaxation effect.
One study from 2016 compared caffeine from guayusa leaf extract to that from green coffee and synthetic caffeine. The results showed that while the physiological effects were the same on blood pressure and heart rate, guayusa caffeine didn’t spike adrenaline the way green coffee did. The researchers suggested that this might be because caffeine from guayusa acts differently on the nervous system than caffeine from coffee.
If you love the perk that coffee provides but dread the caffeine crash, guayusa may be the perfect solution.
Rich In Antioxidants
Some of the proposed medical benefits of guayusa could be thanks to its rich antioxidant content. As compounds that neutralize free radicals (atoms that can cause cell damage), antioxidants are believed to minimize your risk of various chronic health issues. Guayusa is rich in a particular group of antioxidants called catechins. A 2018 comprehensive research review on guayusa compounds found that the catechin content in guayusa is linked to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects, as well as improved cardiovascular health and reduced obesity.
Guayusa’s antioxidants are found mainly in two of the plant’s compounds—alkaloids and polyphenols. However, research shows that the level of polyphenols depends on the way the plant is processed. For example, green leaves have a higher content than processed products. Blanching the leaves (such as when making hot tea) was the method that retained the most antioxidants. Guayusa is most commonly consumed as a drink, but experts say its antioxidant health benefits could make it useful for medical treatments.
Like many other herbal ingredients, guayusa may be a powerful natural way to keep oxidative stress at bay and protect against chronic disease.
Studies on Guayusa
As the researchers continue to dig into the medical benefits of guayusa, there have been plenty of interesting findings on this ingredient’s potential benefits for disease treatment and prevention.
Below are some of the more notable studies on guayusa for diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Many proponents of naturopathic medicine have long supported the benefits of guayusa tea for diabetes patients. In 1989, UK researchers conducted a comparative study on mice looking at the effects of 12 different plants on blood glucose stability. Of the 12 plants investigated, only guayusa and mushrooms were helpful in regulating blood sugar levels and were also found to be effective in managing appetite and weight. However, since the study was done on non-diabetic mice, it's unclear if those results would translate to diabetic humans.
Given the potential of guayusa for diabetes, researchers have further examined what it is about this plant that might help with blood glucose control. A 2018 study from Italian, Spanish and Brazilian university researchers investigated the phytochemistry of guayusa to isolate particular bioactive compounds that may be beneficial for diabetes. They discovered that guayusa contains ursolic acid (also a constituent in the herb, mate), which may activate a brain receptor that helps regulate blood sugar. Ursolic acid has also been found in other studies to reduce and regulate blood sugar and potentially manage diabetes.
Weight Management and Cholesterol
Given the findings that guayusa can regulate blood sugar, it’s possible that it may also be beneficial for weight management and other metabolic concerns. A 2016 study conducted in lab rats found that a 90-day treatment with guayusa leaf extract resulted in reduced body weight, as well as lowered triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
Since guayusa is high in antioxidants, it’s possible you may be lowering your risk for a variety of chronic health issues. For example, eating foods high in antioxidants has been linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
A 2017 research review published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, examined the effects of catechins (a key antioxidant in guayusa) on cardiovascular health. The researchers cited evidence that catechins may be particularly beneficial for controlling blood pressure. In animal studies, guayusa consumption may also lead to a reduced risk of atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of plaque in artery walls.
Guayusa in Summary
Guayusa is an ancient herbal tea and ingredient traditionally used as a way to increase alertness. Modern science has confirmed that two of guayusa’s active compounds, caffeine and theobromine, are what make guayusa a natural energy and mood booster.
Its rich antioxidant content also suggests that guayusa may be beneficial for oxidative stress management and the reduced risk of chronic disease. Guayusa appears to be particularly promising for diabetes control due to its natural compounds that help the body naturally regulate blood sugar. While guayusa also shows promise for cardiovascular health and reduced blood pressure, more research needs to be conducted to find out how it might lower the risk of heart disease, specifically in humans.
The bottom line is, guayusa is a safe and natural way to get the mood and energy lift you need without the crash, while potentially offering some other long-term health benefits too.