You may or may not have heard of guayusa tea before but it is becoming more popular due to it’s impressive properties. I mentioned this tea briefly in my last post on yerba mate and have been using both yerba mate and guayusa for their high caffeine content since fully removing coffee from my diet. We have already had an in-depth look at yerba mate, so let’s see what the research says on guayusa.
What is Guayusa?
Similar to yerba mate, guayusa is a holly tree species found in the Amazonian rain forests of South America. It has been traditionally used by indigenous peoples as a drink that heightens the senses and prevents the need for sleep. Because of this specific use by some indigenous hunters, guayusa has been called the “night watchman”. I think this bad ass name hooked me on guayusa more than anything :-). To make things even more interesting, the name “night watchman” may have actually come from the belief that this tea can produce lucid dreaming. Guayusa is fairly new to North America and there is, unfortunately, not much in the way of research on this plant. However, let’s look at what I found.
Chemical Composition of Guayusa
Given the title of this post, I think you could figure out that guayusa contains a higher amount of caffeine than other teas. What you may not know is that it can contain up to as much caffeine as coffee, and more caffeine than yerba mate (1, 2). If you recall from my yerba mate post, caffeine is a member of a group of nervous system stimulating molecules known as xanthines. There are 3 xanthines contained in plants and they include caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. Yerba mate contains all three of these stimulants while coffee and guayusa only contain caffeine and theobromine (1, 2). However, what guayusa does have and yerba mate doesn’t have is theanine (3). Theanine is an amino acid also found in tea leaves and is said to work in synergy with caffeine, having more of a calming and focusing effect on the brain. Theomine is said to reduce mental/physical stress, improve cognitive performance, and boost mood.
Guayusa has also been shown to be very high in antioxidants (1, 4, 5), so much so that it is suggested that it might have double the antioxidant capacity of green tea (1, 5). Along with the stimulant and theanine content, this is some impressive stuff.
Benefits of Guayusa
Unfortunately, there is not much research available on the health benefits of guayusa. However, given the above noted properties of this tea, I anticipate that it will become more popular in the near future and hopefully spur some more research. For now though, the only study related to the health benefits of guayusa is a mouse study indicating that it could be helpful in a model of diabetes.
However, just because there are limited studies on the health benefits of this tea, let’s not sell it short. Given the above compounds identified in guayusa, I believe that it’s health benefits could be significant. Think along the lines of combining all the benefits of coffee, green tea, and yerba mate without the possible PAH issue of yerba mate and the sensitivity issues that some people have with coffee. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
As I mentioned in my yerba mate post, the buzz associated with mate it is said to be much smoother and more sustained than that from coffee and it’s hypothesized that this might be due to the fact that it contains all three xanthines and a good chunk of antioxidants. This is the same situation with guayusa, and possibly even more so, given that guayusa contains more caffeine, antioxidants, and theanine than mate.
Guayusa clearly possesses a very interesting combination of compounds with little to none of the negative effects associated with coffee and yerba mate. Even with limited scientific evidence of the benefits of guayusa, it seems to me that it may possibly be the best choice for a stimulant drink.
On a personal note, I always used to bring an iced americano in a thermos with me during my rounds of golf, but now I will be experimenting with both yerba mate and guayusa during my rounds to see what I like the best. Hey, I may actually combine yerba mate and guayusa leaves in the same tea just to see what happens.
The Barefoot Golfer