Guayusa is a plant native to the Ecuadorian Amazon, whose leaves are used mainly in the preparation of tea due to its stimulating and healing properties.
It has been consumed as an infusion for more than a thousand years by the indigenous communities of Ecuador, who consider it a sacred plant, and to this day it remains highly popular among the population, since it is usually consumed as a substitute for tea and coffee.
It is an endemic crop of Ecuador, which does not grow naturally anywhere else on the planet, which is why it is highly significant for the cultural identity of the peoples of the Amazon region.
The Guayusa is particularly important in the Kichwa culture and is always present in its rituals and ceremonies. Sometimes it is consumed in the form of tea by the assistants. In other occasions, it can also be used as decoration or ornament, in necklaces of leaves, headbands or others. This plant has a very important role in all events of a spiritual nature and in traditional festivities, as it is considered a sacred plant by the Kichwa Anangu community.
The ancient sages claimed that it had healing properties that made the sick better, raised the spirits, gave energy and caused happiness.
Indeed, guayusa leaves are rich in caffeine, a substance that accelerates metabolism and has energizing effects on the human body, causing a sense of well-being that is still being persecuted by many who have become accustomed to consuming it periodically.
Its leaves are also given the power to cleanse and detoxify the body, so it is also consumed by those who perform diets for purifying purposes.
Another effect attributed to the Guayusa is to enhance the fertility of women. It would also help increase the libido and sexual energy of people.
Formerly it was said – and some wise people maintain to this day – that the guayusa also contains magical powers. According to the legend, everyone who consumes this plant is destined to return again and again to its place of origin-the Ecuadorian Amazon-since it would have the power to attract them, no matter where they are.
Early in the morning begin preparations for the ceremony of the guayusa. Men, women and children of the Kichwa community gather around large clay pots to boil the leaves with which they will prepare the infusion. This moment also has another important meaning within the community -and the families-, since during this instance another ritual of great ancestral value is carried out: the ceremony of interpretation of dreams.
As the leaves of the Guayusa boil and the smell of the plant begins to spread through the environment, the attendees of the ceremony gather around the preparation to discuss their dreams, which will later be interpreted by the wisest woman of the community.
Before the sun rises, one by one they begin to relate what they dreamed the night before – some with more eloquence than others – hoping that, after the interpretation, they will be given valuable advice and observations on a practical and spiritual level for each of the participants .
In this instance, traditional Kichwa songs are shared and the guayusa is finally consumed. After this thoughtful process together with the hot drink, the assistants are ready to start the day.
This ceremony, which used to be held periodically in the homes of the indigenous communities, is now incorporated into the tourism activities carried out in the area.
For many years, this plant has attracted the attention of the international scientific community thanks to its varied healing properties. In addition to being a natural energizer for the body, studies show that it would serve as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which explains the use that was formerly given to combat rheumatism.
The truth is that every day there are more properties beneficial to health that are attributed to the guayusa, which has driven the demand for it. This trade has positive effects directly on the Kichwa community, since it is they who, for the most part, plant and sell guayusa, preserving its medicinal use and spreading the tradition of its consumption beyond the region.
We invite you to try Guayusa tea, as part of our “cultural tour“.
Before the sun rises, you can be part of one of the oldest customs of the Kichwa Anangu community, where you can consume this freshly prepared tea and enjoy beautiful songs sung by your hosts.