Ilex Guayusa: A Well-kept Secret
Guayusa, or Ilex guayusa, is one of two species of caffeinated holly plants native to South America. Found only in the semi-mountainous regions of northwestern South America, the canoe-shaped, vibrant green leaves of the Guayusa plant have been used by indigenous peoples to brew a smooth-tasting, energy-boosting, and health-promoting herbal tea for centuries.
A Cultural Treasure
Guayusa forms an integral part of the traditional Ecuadorian culture. From morning tea ceremonies with tribe members to the exhausting escapade of extended hunting, guayusa tea consumption permeated the daily activities of indigenous Kichwa communities. In addition to its practical use as a natural energy drink, guayusa is said to promote lucid dreaming and even prescience, making it an object of spiritual significance and fascination for shamans.
Harvest to Tea
The conditions of the Amazon rainforest allow guayusa to grow year-round. The leaves are picked off the branch and collected in large baskets when harvested, then dried. Traditionally, the Kichwa people boiled the leaves in a large, communal pot, consuming the resulting beverage together. For the optimal drinking experience, it is recommended that the tea leaves be left to steep in boiled water for 7 minutes to allow the natural compounds to sufficiently dissolve.
Traditional Medicine, Modern Science
Medicine men in South America long used guayusa in soothing digestive aides and medicinal brews. Ethnobotanists have even found dried guayusa leaves in the graves of medicine men dating as far back as 1500 years ago. Modern science has found evidence to support some of guayusa’s traditionally tauted health properties, including anti-inflammatory effects on the digestive system and an abundance of antioxidants.
Health Benefits of Guayusa
Although guayusa has been one of the Amazon’s best kept secrets, it has still managed to attracted research attention. This growing body of evidence suggests that guayusa has a variety of health benefits. Here is a bit of what has been found so far:
Antioxidants: Cancer, Heart, and Brain
Guayusa is a potent source of antioxidants. These help protect the body against the negative consequences of oxidative stress. This protective effect is essential to healthy aging and helps reduce the risks of various forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disease. Antioxidant laden tea consumption in particular has been associated with reduced incidences of digestive tract cancers  and better cardiovascular health .
Healthy Weight Loss
The caffeine in guayusa helps suppress appetite and thereby promote weight loss. With slightly more caffeine than black tea, but a lower amount than regular coffee, guayusa provides the benefits of caffeine without the negative effects of excess . Guayusa occupies a happy medium!
Digestive Health and Immunity Booster
Guayusa has a long history of being used as a digestive aide and in medicinal brews . This is primarily due to the high levels of naturally occurring compounds known as methylxanthines. Chief among these are theobromine and caffeine. When consumed in large enough quantities, guayusa helps to keep your digestive tract running smoothly and prevents infections from occurring [5,6].
A Supplement for Coffee?
The North American work ethic has made coffee a very popular drink in Canada. For those who rely on coffee to get them through the work day, green tea can often be an unsatisfying substitute. Guayusa offers a better alternative.
Guayusa offers all the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of green tea (and then some!), while also providing a better source of energy. With a healthy dose of caffeine, energizing theobromine, and the calming effects of L-theanine, Guayusa provides a unique source of energy that promotes a calm and enduring focus, rather than the jitters and anxiety common to coffee . Avoid the coffee drinker’s dreaded “mid-day crash,” switch to guayusa! 
Some people are particularly sensitive to coffee and experience distressing symptoms like insomnia and unrestful sleep when they consume coffee due to its large quantities of caffeine . Although guayusa does have a healthy amount of caffeine, it also contains L-theanine, a natural compound that has been found to protect against the negative effects caffeine has on sleep . Get the energy you want and the sleep you need: Go with guayusa!
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