Catuaba: Everything You Need To Know

Catuaba (Erythroxylum Catuaba)

Nowadays, catuaba is commonly used for its mood-elevating and anxiolytic properties. However, there are many other possible uses for this long-established and time-honoured herbal medicine. Find out more in the article below.

WHAT IS CATUABA?

Catuaba is a bark infusion derived from several species of South American rainforest trees. It is prized for its aphrodisiac and therapeutic effects, which made it a staple of traditional medicine in this region. 

Catuaba comes from a number of Amazonian trees including Erythroxylum caatinga, Trichilia catigua, Anemopaegma arvense, and Micropholis caudata, among others.

The active ingredients in catuaba are alkaloids called catuabines. These alkaloids are believed to stimulate the central nervous system, producing mind-altering and aphrodisiac effects.

In regions where it grows naturally, catuaba bark is often consumed in the form of a tea. However, in Europe and North America, it is typically sold in the form of capsules, extracts, and powders.

HISTORY OF CATUABA

HISTORY OF CATUABA

Catuaba is a legendary Brazilian herbal medicine with a long and storied history. Its first recorded use was by the Tupi Indians of the Amazon, who believed that it bestowed them with large genitals and vigorous sexual strength and vitality.

It has also been used for its perceived benefits on the central nervous system and cardiovascular system, as well as to improve memory, boost energy, and reduce anxiety and fatigue. Its history in Brazilian folk medicine led to the composition of numerous songs celebrating is abilities. Traditionally, the word “catuaba” is believed to mean “what gives strength to an Indian”.

EFFECTS AND BENEFITS OF CATUABA

EFFECTS AND BENEFITS OF CATUABA

While Catuaba has primarily become known for its aphrodisiac properties, it is also believed to produce a wide array of therapeutic effects. Catuaba is thought to help with conditions such as anxiety, asthma, bacterial infections, bronchitis, depression, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, insomnia, low libido, obesity, memory problems, and more.

To date, there has been limited research investigating or confirming catuaba’s ability to treat these conditions. Moreover, while some forms of catuaba display clear therapeutic and psychoactive properties, the effects of others appear to be largely exaggerated.

DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

Erythroxylum Catuaba DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

When it comes to anxiety and depression, animal studies show that catuaba may have therapeutic potential. According to a 2011 study[1], mice dosed with various amounts of crude and refined catuaba demonstrated behaviours indicating elevated mood and improved memory. While high doses of catuaba were required to produce these effects, it appeared to be well-tolerated and safe for this use.

The same study also found found that an extract of T. catigua activated both the dopaminergic and serotoninergic systems in the brain. However, it is possible that catuaba also induces some of its antidepressant effects due to its stimulant properties, similarly to caffeine. 

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Some researchers believe that catuaba exerts these effects by affecting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. A study from 2005[2] found significant evidence that catuaba induces a dopamine-mediated antidepressant-like effect. 

ANTIMICROBIAL, ANTIOXIDANT, AND ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES

Erythroxylum Catuaba ANTIMICROBIAL ANTIOXIDANT ANTI-INFLAMMATORY PROPERTIES

Additionally, several studies have found catuaba to exert potent antimicrobial properties. In one study[3], researchers found that catuaba alkaloids isolated from Erythroxylum caatinga were capable of neutralising each and every gram-positive bacteria and fungus that was tested.

Numerous preliminary studies have also demonstrated catuaba to have antioxidant properties. For instance, a 2012 animal study[4] found that catuaba may aid in the prevention of brain ischemia, a condition characterised by a lack of blood flow to the brain. Mice dosed with an extract of Trichilia catigua were better protected from the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation, a development that researchers attributed to catuaba’s antioxidant properties.

Furthermore, a 2004 study[5] found that catuaba was able to inhibit the action of PLA2, an enzyme that researchers believe triggers inflammation. As such, researchers believe that catuaba may be able to exert significant anti-inflammatory effects through this pathway. Moreover, an animal study[6] from 1998 found that catuaba was capable of inducing analgesic (pain-relieving) properties that peaked after roughly 6 hours and lasted for about 12 hours.

HOW TO USE CATUABA

HOW TO USE CATUABA

Catuaba can be consumed in several different ways, depending on the form it comes in. However, all catuaba is consumed orally or sublingually in one way or another.

Traditionally, catuaba bark is scraped from trees and brewed into a tea. Catuaba tea is produced by boiling 1–2 tablespoons of bark in roughly 500ml of water for about 15 minutes. Afterward, it is typically filtered to remove any solid chunks of bark, leaving behind nothing but catuaba-infused tea.

Catuaba (Erythroxylum Catuaba)

View Catuaba

Catuaba is also commonly consumed in the form of a concentrated extract or tincture. Tinctures are made by mixing catuaba with high-proof alcohol like vodka, allowing infusion to take place over a prolonged period of time (usually weeks). Tinctures can be ingested orally or administered sublingually, depending on preference. Many people prefer to consume catuaba in this form as it is much quicker and more convenient than the tea method.

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SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AND WARNINGS WHEN USING CATUABA

Catuaba SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

Due to a lack of sufficient evidence, there are no known side effects of catuaba. However, it’s still wise to be mindful when dosing any substance with the ability to affect the heart and/or nervous system. Moreover, while there are no known interactions between catuaba and other drugs, you should always be careful when mixing it with any other substance, especially if the substance exerts stimulating effects. It is recommended that pregnant and breastfeeding women avoid using catuaba altogether as its effects in these instances are completely unknown.

Disclaimer:
We are not making medical claims. This article has been written for informational purposes only, and is based on research published by other externals sources.

External Resources:
  1. Antinociceptive Activity of Trichilia catigua Hydroalcoholic Extract: New Evidence on Its Dopaminergic Effects - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3095233/
  2. Antidepressant-like effects of Trichilia catigua (Catuaba) extract: evidence for dopaminergic-mediated mechanisms. - PubMed - NCBI - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15991001
  3. IJMS | Free Full-Text | Antimicrobial, Antiproliferative and Proapoptotic Activities of Extract, Fractions and Isolated Compounds from the Stem of Erythroxylum caatingae Plowman - https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms13044124
  4. Catuaba ( Trichilia catigua) Prevents Against Oxidative Damage Induced by In Vitro Ischemia–Reperfusion in Rat Hippocampal Slices | SpringerLink - https://doi.org/10.1007/s11064-012-0876-0
  5. Inhibition of platelet phospholipase A2 activity by catuaba extract suggests antiinflammatory properties. - PubMed - NCBI - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15597313
  6. Error - Cookies Turned Off - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/(SICI)1099-1573(199703)11:2%3C101::AID-PTR28%3E3.0.CO;2-U