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Guayusa ilex | Whole leaves

Ilex guayusa – What is it?

We recently launched an exciting new product called Munay Energy. It’s the liquid Guayusa extract you’ve all been waiting for! This is reason enough to review some of the traditional uses of the amazing plant that is at the core of the product. Later in this blog, we’ll talk about the different products in our store that contain guayusa.

Ilex guayusa is an Amazonian plant that has been cultivated for centuries by indigenous people. It has a long history of use, especially in Ecuador, where it grows more than in other countries. Ilex guayusa is a natural energizer with a broad application from ceremonial settings to everyday tea.  In recent years, the popularity of Guayusa in the western world has been gaining. It’s consumed as an alternative to coffee which doesn’t give the known side effects of the jitters and inevitable crash.

Guayusa strings
Drying strings of Guayusa leaves. A common scene in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

Guayusa contains a generous amount of caffeine. Generally speaking, the caffeine content of Ilex guayusa is around 3%. This is more than what an unroasted coffee bean contains. Apart from that, Guayusa contains many antioxidants and compounds such as Theobromine and Theophylline, which are known to be ‘feel-good’ components that are also found in Cacao and Chocolate. 

Traditional use

Guayusa is often brewed into a tea.  Traditionally, Guayusa is a subject of ceremonies. During a gathering in the late afternoon or early evening, large amounts of Guayusa are consumed.

Indigenous communities report that Guayusa tea can invoke ‘little dreams’. Those who partake in such ceremonies are meant to talk about their dreams to see if they can unveil anything about the past, present, or future. Some men from an Ashuar tribe reported that Guayusa induces hunting dreams. Both of these stories explain why Guayusa is sometimes considered as being a dream herb. Guayusa is sometimes added to the psychedelic brew Ayahuasca in order to give the participant strength. 


People consume this tea before hunting because of its stimulating effects and potential to activate the senses. Guayusa also helps reduce feelings of hunger. Therefore it enables hunters to go without food for a prolonged time. This is a very desirable effect for extended hunts.

Ethnobotanist C. Ratsch describes in his book the encyclopedia of psychoactive plants that in one community he visited, the men would drink an average of 2.2 liters every morning. This over-consumption of Guayusa would result in vomiting, which is meant to ‘cleanse’ the body of any undigested food. Tribe members preferred this morning ritual because it enabled them to ‘cast off the past, and start the day rejuvenated’.  This ritual is meant to give them strength, endurance, and the ability to ‘see’ better. In this case, vomiting is not induced by the Guayusa itself, but rather it is a skill that is taught to young tribe members.

Guayusa Harvest
Guayusa harvest in the Amazon.

Guayusa products from Waking Herbs

Some of our team members at Waking Herbs obsess over guayusa. Luckily for them (and you), we have a range of Guayusa-based products.

If you want to make tea, then go for the regular slow-dried guayusa leaves. Our Guayusa leaves are grown without pesticides in chakra (forest gardens) and slowly dried by a befriended Kichwa family in the Ecuadorian Amazon. If you’ve ever ordered something from our Netherlands-based warehouse, it is quite likely that you received these Guayusa leaves as a gift.

Munay Energy | Ilex Guayusa essence

Together with Munay Botanicals, we have launched Munay Energy; a liquid Guayusa extract that is made with a very unique extraction process in our own production plant in Ecuador.

At Munay Botanicals, we apply an extraction process that never introduces heat. This way, all of Guayusa’s actives, such as caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline, are kept fully intact in the final Guayusa extract. Munay only uses organically grown guayusa from the same area that our regular dried guayusa comes from.  It’s completely water-soluble, so it’s perfect for packing your smoothie, juice, or coconut water with a punch of healthy energy!

Munay Energy is a Guayusa Essence

Then there’s our famous extract paste blend of Banisteriopsis caapi and Guayusa. To make this paste, fresh B. Caapi vine and Guayusa leaves are boiled right after the harvest. For every 15 kilos of Guayusa and 15 kilos of Banisteriopsis caapi, we get one kilo of this renowned paste.

Finally, we wouldn’t not be Waking Herbs if we didn’t have a rapé that contains ash from guayusa. This one is great for ceremonies because it allows you to gain extra strength and clarity.

Read More:

Gan, Ren-You et al. “Health Benefits of Bioactive Compounds from the Genus Ilex, a Source of Traditional Caffeinated Beverages.” Nutrients vol. 10,11 1682. 5 Nov. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10111682

Pardau, Madelein D et al. “Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Ilex guayusa tea preparations: a comparison to Camellia sinensis teas.” Food & function vol. 8,12 (2017): 4601-4610. doi:10.1039/c7fo01067b

Rätsch, Christian. “The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants”.




Wakingherbs is a family project established in Ecuador. We work from Ecuador and The Netherlands where we have an office and distribution centre.