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Guayusa: the Sacred Plant of the Kichwa People of the Amazon

There is a Kichwa legend that says that, before becoming a sacred plant, the guayusa was a powerful and divine spirit, it was very robust and strong; in some versions, it was the spirit of the jaguar. This spirit encouraged and motivated people to achieve their most difficult goals; it helped them make intelligent and wise decisions; it bestowed upon them the joy of living and thriving; it invigorated their spirits; and, it stimulated their libido and promoted fertility.

According to the beliefs of the Amazonian Kichwa people, guayusa can sharpen a person’s intelligence and keep one on high alert. Thus, if the community is ever in danger, people can stay awake all night thanks to drinking a guayusa infusion. This plant is considered sacred among the Kichwa, and it’s a central part of their legends and myths.

The guayusa (Ilex Guayusa) is plant a native to the tropical Amazon rainforest. Etymologically, it means good, pleasant, or invigorating leaf. It has been cultivated by Amazonian people for at least 1500 years. Guayusa is related to Paraguayan mate (Ilex paraguayensis), which is widely consumed in the form of 'mate cebado' in Argentina and Uruguay.

Guayusa is a small tree: it grows no more than three or four meters high. It has bright green leaves, which the Amazonian Kichwa people harvest very carefully. Then, they fold the leaves in half and thread them with a needle. These strung leaves are then place