Guayusa (Ilex guayusa) is a type of holly plant that grows in northern parts of South America. For traditional peoples of the Amazon Rainforest (especially in parts of Ecuador), Guayusa has been a mainstay herb for centuries. While it has been virtually unknown in the West, more people are now “waking up” (literally!) to the benefits of guayusa for health and vitality .
Guayusa Benefits: What Makes It So Special?
Of all the amazing herbs out there for health and healing, many of them come from the rainforest. Current estimates are that well over 5,000 different species of plants and herbs being used for medicinal purposes come from the Amazon rainforest alone. Not to mention that many more are being discovered every day!
So, why focus on guayusa? Guayusa is unique in that it was virtually unknown to most Americans only a few short years ago. Now it is being hailed as a tonic for both body and brain.
Indeed, guayusa contains some unique properties and chemical combinations that make it spotlight worthy. In addition to a lower caffeine count than coffee (about 99 mg per 8 oz cup  to coffee’s 163 mg ), guayusa also contains L-theanine.
The Healing Benefits of L-Theanine
L-Theanine is a neuroprotective amino acid that is found in many herbs and teas, including guayusa. In research studies such as that done at the Unilever Food and Health Research Institute in the Netherlands in 2008 , L-Theanine was able to change brainwave patterns, even in relatively modest quantities. It moved them from beta waves to alpha waves.
Beta brain waves are synonymous with stress (high beta with chronic stress and hyper-alertness ). This is the state of “mind” where ill-health can take hold.
L-Theanine, on the other hand, has the ability to lower brainwaves to alpha, which is the frequency where focus, attention, creativity, and healing blossom.
L-Theanine is thought to promote a state of calm and focus but does not normally promote drowsiness in most people. The L-Theanine content in guayusa, in combination with moderate amounts of theobromine and caffeine, is why many people describe feeling “calm yet focused” after drinking guayusa tea or consuming it in another way.
Several studies have linked L-Theanine with reduced bouts of anxiety, including for those with diagnosed anxiety-centered mental conditions . In addition, research has also discovered that L-Theanine paired with caffeine may increase attention and focus.
A 2010 report published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience monitored young people who consumed L-Theanine and caffeine. The report authors stated that “(t)he combination of moderate levels of L-theanine and caffeine significantly improved accuracy during task switching and self-reported alertness…and reduced self-reported tiredness .”
L-Theanine found in guayusa may be helpful in reducing blood pressure as well. Other investigations have found that L-Theanine can help digestion, inflammation, sinusitis, and as a general immune booster .
Guayusa Provides Important Amino Acids & Antioxidants
Another reason why guayusa should be placed on the herbal shelf of anyone looking to improve health and increase focused energy is because of its amino acid and antioxidant content.
Key amino acids besides L-Theanine in guayusa include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, histidine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, threonine, and valine .
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is vital for the body. If you take away the water, our bodies would be 75% protein! Sadly, many people today are deficient in key essential amino acids such as those mentioned above which form the building blocks of life.
High antioxidant levels in guayusa are equally as impressive. They come in the form of phytonutrients such as polyphenols, flavonoids and saponins, which all help to reduce inflammation, detoxify the body, and stimulate the immune system.
Of particular note is theobromine and caffeine, which are phytonutrient alkaloids  found in plants. Some experts state that guayusa has the second-highest antioxidant content  out there after cacao.
Can Substances in Guayusa Offer Help for Diabetes and Obesity?
Scientists have recently zeroed in on specific substances found in guayusa that may be beneficial for those with diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Guayusa contains a little-known but powerful health-promoting substance called chlorogenic acid. In a January 2018 study , chlorogenic acid was discovered to “modulate lipid metabolism and glucose in both genetically and healthy metabolic related disorders.” This suggests it may be helpful for weight loss as well.
Another substance found in guayusa may make it a useful herb for blood pressure regulation. It is called ursolic acid. A January 2019 report  published in the journal Food Research International studied the properties of both guayusa and its close cousin, yerba mate. They discovered that ursolic acid (found in both plants) helps to activate a protein called TGR5.
TGR5 is a “transcription factor” for diabetes, in that it controls how much genetic information goes from DNA to messenger molecules which control diabetes mechanisms. The report authors note that this is an exciting discovery because TGR5 is a key player in regulating insulin sensitivity and overall energy metabolism and expenditure.
Guayusa is a True “Superfood”
What makes a food a “superfood?” Antioxidant load that is off the charts, benefits to both the body and brain, and a long history of use by traditional peoples in the areas where these foods originate are some key components for what makes certain foods truly “super.” Using this definition, guayusa definitely fits the bill as a superfood.
According to TV personality and herbal researcher Chris Kilham , also known as the “Medicine Hunter,” guayusa tea has been a mainstay of everyday life for the native Jivaro people of the Amazon rainforest for centuries.
As Kilham describes it, “Historically the Jivaro would rise early, make a fire, boil a pot of guayusa leaves, drink the tea and tell stories. This practice helped to reinforce kinship and community, giving people an opportunity to come together and share stories .”
The Jivaro called guayusa the “Night Watchman” because it would help people stay awake, alert, and on their toes without making them drowsy or too wound-up. Indeed, it’s hard to connect (and tell stories) when you are jittery or when you are about to fall asleep.
Guayusa, taken as a tea or in capsule form, appears to have the perfect combination of substances to help our minds unwind as well as focus, not only in the rainforest but in this topsy-turvy place we call the modern world as well! It is also one of eight Amazon rainforest ingredients in our popular Organixx Ageless Brain formula.