What is Guayusa Tea – Health Benefits and Side Effects

Have you ever wondered what is guayusa tea? It is a South American drink that is considered a relative of yerba mate. In this article, I will tell you everything you want to know about guayusa, its health benefits, caffeine content, and possible side effects. I will also explain how to brew it and how it tastes.

This website is mainly focused on yerba mate, and since guayusa is similar in many ways, I also wanted to write about it. Many people who like yerba mate might find it interesting to try guayusa as well.

Guayusa tea has a long history and it has been consumed in South America for over 2000 years. It is known for its energizing effect and high content of antioxidants, vitamins, and amino acids. More recently, it has begun to gain popularity also in western countries.

Just like yerba mate tea, guayusa is a natural, energizing and healthy drink. In this article, I will explain what is guayusa tea, how it tastes, how to brew it, and what are its health benefits.

Check out this cool video about Guayusa:

What is Guayusa Tea?

Guayusa tea is brewed from the leaves of a holly tree known by the botanical name Ilex guayusa. It is one of three known caffeinated holly trees. As you might know already, yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is also one of them.

Guayusa tree is grown naturally in the upper Amazonian regions mainly in Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and southern Colombia. It grows 6–30 meters tall in altitudes between 200–2000 meters.

Most of the guayusa is cultivated on small family farms in Ecuador. It is usually grown underneath the canopy of the Amazon rainforest, and the trees are trimmed to about waist height to encourage constant growth of new leaves.

Growing guayusa helps to generate income for the traditional farmers but what might be even more important, it helps to conserve the rain forest. Because it is grown in the shade of the forest, it creates a profitable alternative to cutting down the trees.

What is Guayusa Tea: Ilex guayusa tree

Guayusa Flavor and Aroma

Unlike yerba mate, which can bear a somewhat bitter taste, guayusa has a smooth, earthy, and slightly sweet flavor. Some have described the taste as something between mate and green tea. Compared to green tea, the flavor is less tannic and the texture is more creamy.

Guayusa and Caffeine

Guayusa leaves contain between 1.7–3.5 % of caffeine which is about the same as ground coffee and slightly more than yerba mate. Thus, guayusa tea has relatively high caffeine content.

A cup of guayusa tea has about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. However, the caffeine content can vary greatly depending on how the tea was manufactured and how you brew it. More tea and less water, plus longer brewing time, means a higher concentration of caffeine.

In addition to caffeine, guayusa also contains theobromine and theophylline and has an energizing effect similar to yerba mate. It also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps in releasing caffeine more smoothly and evenly.

The combination of caffeine, L-theanine, theobromine, and theophylline gives energy which is more balanced and the effect is gentler than coffee and is less likely to cause jitters and crashing after it wears down.

Dried bundles of leaves of Ilex guayusa
Dried guayusa leaves

How to Brew Guayusa Tea

The easiest way to brew guayusa tea is to buy it in tea bags. You can also use a french press or other methods to brew your guayusa. Basically, you can brew it like any other herbal tea. It can also be brewed with a traditional method using loose leaf guayusa and the same kind of gourd and bombilla as with yerba mate.

Here are the instructions for brewing guayusa tea:

  1. Heat some water to boil. Let the water cool down a little bit.
  2. Add 1-3 tablespoons (depending on the size of the gourd and desired strength of the tea) of dried guayusa leaves to the gourd and pour hot water in. Brew the tea for 4-10 minutes depending on how strong you want it to be.
  3. Insert a bombilla and drink.

Guayusa is nearly impossible to over brew, and leaves can be steeped again about half a dozen times before their flavor starts to wane.

One nice option is to add some other herbs like mint or to make a refreshing iced guayusa tea. Read my article about brewing yerba mate tea to get more ideas for brewing guayusa.

Guayusa Uses and Health Benefits

The native Kichwa people of Ecuador traditionally use guayusa in their spiritual ceremonies and rituals. Families would awake very early in the morning to drink guayusa while watching the sunrise.

Members of the tribe would sit around a fire while sipping the tea from gourds. During this time the elders teach the younger children the myths and traditions of the tribe, and shamans play their traditional instruments, such as a bamboo flute which they call kena.

The uses and health benefits of guayusa are similar to those of yerba mate:

  • Energy, nutrients, and digestion: Guayusa has an energizing effect and can be used to boost your energy levels in the same way as yerba mate tea. In addition, this tea is full of nutrients. Guayusa has about twice as much antioxidants as compared to green tea and it also contains essential amino acids that can improve mood and induce relaxation. The antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties and help soothe your stomach allowing proper digestion to take place. It also contains vitamins D & C as well as minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, and chromium.
  • Immune and vascular systems plus weight loss: Guayusa contains saponins and polyphenolic compounds that can protect you against chronic disease. They can also prevent unnecessary inflammation throughout the body by relieving strain on the immune system. Theobromine in the tea helps in protecting your overall cardiovascular health by protecting the arteries and blood vessels. Guayusa tea is also very low in calories and it stimulates your metabolism which can help you with losing weight.

Leaves of Ilex guayusa

Does Guayusa Have Any Side Effects?

Drinking guayusa tea is generally considered safe. When consumed in moderation, no links to side effects have been found.

Due to its relatively high caffeine content, excessive consumption may cause symptoms like anxiety, and insomnia. Yet, drinking guayusa doesn’t usually cause any jitteriness that is commonly experienced by coffee drinkers.

Guayusa contains some tannins which might interfere with iron absorption. So if you have iron deficiency, pay attention to the amount you are consuming.

If ingested on an empty stomach, you may experience nausea. I often drink guayusa tea in the morning before breakfast but have not noticed any issues.

Guayusa – A Relative of Yerba Mate

Guayusa, like its close relative yerba mate, is an amazing plant that gives you energy and has several health benefits. The tea brewed from its leaves has been consumed for thousands of years, and today it can help in the conservation of rain forests.

Now that you know what guayusa tea is, maybe you would like to try it? Go ahead and read my article about guayusa tea products and where to buy them.

I hope this article was interesting and contained information that you find useful. If you have any questions or comments please post them in the comments section below.


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Guayusa Tea relative of yerba mate


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10 thoughts on “What is Guayusa Tea – Health Benefits and Side Effects”

  1. This tea has some great health benefits. Sounds like it tastes pretty good because you mentioned its sweet taste but more than that I am glad to see that it stimulates our metabolism, which helps with weight loss.

    I am a big tea drinker and most do not offer such benefits. Thanks for sharing this one.

    • Yes, guayusa tea is really healthy and tastes good! It is also great for losing weight and burning fat as well as boosting your physical exercise.


  2. Hi Joonas,

    To be very frank, I have never heard about Guayusa Tea, so for me, this was really insightful. When it comes to tea, I have green tea daily. In fact, this replaced my afternoon coffee. I am sensitive to caffeine, so should I stay away from Guaysa Tea? Nevertheless, I will definitely try this at least once. Looking forward to more such informative posts.

    • Hi Satish,

      I definitely recommend that you try Guayusa Tea! Maybe you could try it in tea bags, and steep it only for a few minutes, so it will not be too strong.


  3. Thanks for providing this helpful information.
    Guayusa tea is a drink regularly consumed in South America, especially in Ecuador.
    According to research drinking guayusa frequently can lessen your hazard for diabetes and coronary illness. It’s additionally suggested that drinking guayusa can help advance weight reduction.


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