Ilex guayusa Strings | String of leaves | Guayusa ceremony
We source our Ilex Guayusa strings from local Kichwa farmers of the Rio Napo province of Ecuador. Each string has bundles of 10 leaves and weighs between 400 to 450 gr. The strings are 75 to 80 cm long.
When travelling around this area of Ecuador, It is very common to see Ilex guayusa strings on display in small shops along the road. The way the leaves are folded and bundled starts a fermentation process, which turns the leaves brown. Fermented guayusa leaves have a richer flavour profile, which results in a stronger tasting tea.
We also offer green guayusa leaves and 30:1 extract paste.
We once went into an Ayahuasca ceremony in the forest with our Kichwa hosts. Before the start of the ceremony, we were all given an Ilex guayusa string. We were instructed to rub ourselves ‘clean’ from head to toe with the string. Next, the shaman threw all strings of the participants into the fire. When we woke up in the morning. The shaman lit the fire again and made sure that all of the pieces of Guayusa were burned completely.
Traditionally, families brew the leaves as a tea first thing in the early morning. This is typically before their chores. This is practiced almost daily and this tradition is called ‘guayusa upina’. It’s an intimate family moment where night’s dreams, myths, and stories are shared.
The I. guayusa has become predominately a cultivated tree, mostly in the regions of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. Once the leaves have been harvested, they are hung out to dry where the robust earthy flavors develop. Due to its antioxidant and caffeine content, the tea is valued for its stimulating effects, which also brings a clear focus and concentration without the typical caffeine strong kick of coffee.
Known as “The Night-Watchman”, hunters will consume I. guayusa while hunting to maintain alertness and focus throughout the night. The tea is also drunk for stomach problems and as an aphrodisiac (Shemluck 1979, 157). The Mocoa Indians use it to treat liver pains, malaria, syphilis, and stomachaches and to regulate menstruation. In the Kichwa culture, it is said that Guayusa can foretell whether hunting expeditions would be favorable and that it offers protection against snake bites.
Surprisingly, a very well-known ethnobotanist, Richard Evan Schultes found a bundle of I. guayusa in the tomb of a medicine man high in the Bolivian Andes Mountains, far outside of its natural growing environment. The leaves were radio-carbonated dated 355 c.e. This fact implies that guayusa was traded in ancient times between the amazonian and the highlands region in South America.
Ilex guayusa is a beautiful tree that can grow up to 15 meters tall. It is native to Ecuador, northeastern Peru, southwestern Colombia, and grows between 200-2000 meters of elevation. It is an evergreen tree, with its leaves being ovate, elliptic, oblong, or lanceolate. The tree also produces small delicate white flowers that eventually produce red spherical fruit.
Chemically speaking, I. guayusa contains xanthines such as caffeine, along with the two other species of the Holly genus: Ilex paraguariensis, or Yerba Mate, and Ilex vomitaria, or Yaupon Holly. It has been suggested that I. guayusa is the cultivated version of I. paraguariensis. It also contains theobromine(found in cacao beans), Theophylline (found in green tea), glutamic acid, feluric acid, and chlorogenic acid. It also contains 15 essential amino acids and has almost twice as many antioxidants as regular green tea.
Also take a look at our other teas.
Rätsch, Christian. “The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants.”