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Do you like yerba mate? You'll love guayusa! The forgotten sister of yerba mate is back in the game

Do you like yerba mate? You'll love guayusa! The forgotten sister of yerba mate is back in the game

It belongs to the holly family and grows in the South American tropics. Although it looks inconspicuous, its leaves conceal the power of natural stimulation and a host of health-promoting ingredients. Yerba mate? Close, but not quite! Meet guayusa by Pachamama – the forgotten sister of yerba mate, which you will love!


  1. Sister of yerba mate. Ilex guayusa – what is this plant?
  2. Guayusa tea vs yerba mate. How does guayusa work?
  3. Guayusa – does it have side effects?
  4. On the trail of a mystery
  5. Guayusa Pachamama. How did the brand come about?
  6. Start your Guayusa Pachamama adventure today!

Guayusa. Sister of yerba mate

Aquifoliaceae is a family of more than 600 species found worldwide. Many of them have economic uses, but only two share their natural wealth in the best sense of the word. The first of these plants is Ilex paraguariensis, which is, of course, the plant well known to us, yerba mate drinkers. Until recently, it seemed to us unrivalled as a daily source of energy and support for the body. We have become acquainted with the second one lately. Ilex guayusa, as this is its species name, is also called wayusa or huayusa among the indigenous peoples where it originates. It is closely related to Ilex paraguariensis (yerba mate). Guayusa, like yerba mate, is an evergreen tree that grows wild in the Amazon forest. It reaches about 6-10 metres in height and the first reports of its miraculous properties being used date back around 1,500 years.

As a matter of trivia, let us also mention the other “sisters” of the holly family. Ilex dumosa contains no caffeine at all. Ilex vomitoria, known as yaupon “black drink”, is part of North American Indian ritual ceremonies. In Asia, on the other hand, plants with the botanical names Ilex kudingcha and Ilex latifolia are known to be used to prepare a very bitter “kuding tea”.

Back to Ilex guayusa, in the wild it is found in the equatorial forests of Ecuador and Peru, where it has been part of the Indian diet for centuries – particularly among the Jivaro and Kichwa tribal communities. Guayusa leaves are boiled and used to make an infusion, which the Indians serve in special wooden bowls. Each serving contains a high concentration of natural caffeine as well as minerals and other valuable nutrients. Not surprisingly, centuries ago guayusa was perfect as a stimulant before hunting or fighting. As with yerba mate, the plant's extraordinary properties were identified with its divine origin. Even its consumption took on the character of a tribal ritual. Archaeological discoveries attest to the esteem in which guayusa tea was held centuries ago. Traces of the plant have been found in ancient tombs in the Bolivian Andes – hundreds of kilometres from its natural sites.

Ilex guayusa

How does guayusa tea differ from yerba mate?

Reading the previous paragraph, you might have thought we were talking about yerba mate. No wonder. Both the morphology of the plant, as well as its use, properties and cultural significance are similar. However, the devil is in the details... So it's time to address what sets guayusa tea apart from other herbal infusions and will make you want to reach for Pachamama right now!

Two plants, different effects. How do they vary?

The first major difference between the two sisters is the remarkable stimulating potential. Guayusa infusion contains around 3-4% pure caffeine, although sources say it can be up to 7.6%. It is therefore one of the most energising natural stimulants! In comparison, guarana contains around 4-6% caffeine, coffee up to 3% caffeine, yerba mate 1-1.2% caffeine and tea 1-5% caffeine. Although guayusa infusion is strongly stimulating, it also has an extremely harmonious and soothing effect. This is all due to the presence of theobromine, which dilates blood vessels, which translates into lowering blood pressure. Some sources state that Ilex guayusa also contains l-theanine, a substance known for its relaxing and anti-stress effects on the body, which also stimulates the intensity of alpha waves in the brain and translates into improved concentration and mental performance. In the scientific publications on guayusa, we find precise information on the chemical composition of the plant – here it does not differ significantly from llex paraguariensis. As many as 17 amino acids are contained in guayusa tea. There are also phenolic compounds, carbohydrates and minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, iron and zinc. Like yerba mate, Ilex guayusa exhibits antioxidant activity. The antioxidants it contains fight the body's harmful free radicals, which contribute to faster cell ageing, can damage DNA and influence the development of cancer. Guayusa leaves, although similar in appearance and weight to its sister yerba mate, have different qualities in infusion form. They contain no tannin, which gives guayusa a very mild taste, somewhat similar to nettle infusion. The guayusa tea will not repel with bitterness and is perfect in combination with other herbs or juice, for example.

Yerba mate and guayusa – extraordinary properties known for centuries

The early discoverers, the Indians who inhabited South America hundreds of years ago, used both yerba mate and guayusa as a stimulant designed to boost the body, increase concentration and brighten the mind before hunting. The two mystical sisters, Ilex paraguariensis and Ilex guayusa, were also elements of Indian ritual ceremonies. The unprecedented combination of energising properties and beneficial effects on brain function tips the scales towards one extremely interesting use of guayusa that sets it apart from the yerba mate we know so well. According to Indian beliefs, an infusion of guayusa facilitated the body's entry into a ritualised state of conscious sleep. The dreams induced by the infusion were said to foretell the future. Not surprisingly, the plant has always been present in the shamanic ceremonies of the Amazonian Indians.

Guayusa – does it have side effects?

Although the scientific literature does not indicate any side effects of guayusa, a few points need to be mentioned here. Guayusa tea contains caffeine – and quite a lot of it, so, as with yerba mate or coffee, it is unlikely to be drunk by children. Pregnant women or young mothers should also avoid it. Caffeine can contribute to insomnia and hyperactivity, so drinking stimulating drinks late at night is not recommended. Although, if guayusa does indeed induce conscious dreams, it is the evening that would be the best time to drink a serving of the Indian herb infusion.

On the trail of a mystery

It is as stimulating as coffee and yerba mate, soothes the senses and stimulates the brain, and has an excellent, mild taste... Why, then, did guayusa tea reach Europe only a few years ago, and has to build its position on the market practically from scratch? The root of the problem lies in the historical turmoil that made its popularisation difficult. During the conquest period, both yerba mate and guayusa were cultivated and disseminated by the Jesuits. The monks were active in various parts of the colony, but enjoyed the greatest autonomy in the peripheral and insignificant Paraguay from the point of view of the Spanish Crown. Native to these lands, yerba mate quickly became an important export product, held in high regard throughout South America. Originating from the Amazonian forests of Ecuador, guayusa was much less fortunate. The colonisers preferred to concentrate on growing bananas, sugar cane or cotton. Guayusa tea, on the other hand, remained an indigenous secret and for a good few centuries few people other than the Indians themselves were aware of its existence. They say better late than never, which is why the Pachamama brand has embarked on an ambitious mission: to restore guayusa to its rightful place in the pantheon of natural infusions!

Guayusa Pachamama

Guayusa Pachamama. How did the brand come about?

Until now, guayusa tea was available in a few domestic online shops. Unfortunately, the horrendously high prices of around 50 euros per kilo effectively scared off potential buyers. The creators of the Pachamama brand realised that if they wanted a wider range of people, and not just South Americans, to learn about the extraordinary properties of guayusa, it would be necessary to import large quantities of the raw material into Europe themselves, without any intermediaries. Finding a suitable contractor proved to be quite a challenge for the producer. The Ecuadorian internet is very different from the standards we are used to in Europe. The brand's creators quickly realised that they needed to switch to more “traditional” forms of networking. They searched phone books, address databases and even advertisements in the local press.

The next few weeks passed in an atmosphere of uncertainty. In the end, however, it worked! Pachamama made contact with Cristina, the owner of a small organic farm in the Napo province. Located on the border of the national park, the company's premises and the surrounding farmland are very impressive. Lush, exotic vegetation eagerly invades every corner, effectively blurring the boundaries of cultivation and tropical rainforest. Ilex guayusa trees reaching up to several metres in height dominate the entire immediate surroundings. A dozen people work on the plantation – mainly locals from the surrounding villages. Both in the field and in the office itself, there is a friendly atmosphere, without a hint of pressure or undue haste. When the producers told Cristina how many tonnes of raw material they wanted to import, there was a look of consternation. Such a large order had never been placed with her before! Cristina informed the European entrepreneurs that this would require additional work, but was of course possible. A few words of explanation are in order here. Unlike yerba mate produced by large corporations, guayusa is still a fledgling and therefore small and intimate business. Cultivation is limited to a mere few hectares, is often semi-wild in nature and is dominated by an aura that is invariably friendly and far removed from rigid corporate patterns. And this is likely to remain the case, as the laid-back, smiling and positive approach to life is truly the envy of the Ecuadorians.

Start your Guayusa Pachamama adventure today!

We hope we successfully encouraged you to try an unusual and still not very popular plant from remote Ecuador. In our shop, you will find three weight variations of Ilex guayusa by Pachamama and several flavour offerings that are perfectly balanced in additives. Each is made up of 100% certified, organic, stick-free, medium-weight dried leaves. The raw Ilex guayusa base produces a delicious, delicately herbal infusion. How do you brew it? It's easy! To experience the wonderful, mild taste of guayusa and its energising properties, simply pour 1-2 teaspoons of Pachamama into a cup, pour boiling water over the whole thing and steep for 2-3 minutes. For a comfortable sipping of the brew, yerba mate accessories will come in handy, especially the bombilla, which will help to separate the grounds. At your discretion, guayusa can be drunk with sugar or juices, or mixed with other herbs and tea. Try Guayusa Pachamama today and decide for yourself in which form it suits you best!

Source of information:

  1. Wikipedia - Ilex guayusa.
  2. G Wise, A. Negrin, A critical review of the composition and history of safe use of guayusa: a stimulant and antioxidant novel food, Food Science and Nutrition, 2019.
  3. M. Radice, N. Cossio, L. Scalvenzi, Ilex guayusa: A systematic review of its Traditional Uses, Chemical Constituents, Biological Activities and Biotrade Opportunities, Mol2Net, 2016.
  4. R. Adhikary, V. Mandal, l-theanine: A potential multifaceted natural bioactive amide as health supplement, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 2017.