Catuaba is the common name for a series of herbs originating in the Amazon rainforest of South America.
Although the common name refers to several different plants spanning eight separate families — most catuaba samples taken from merchants in the region fall under two different trees — aptly named big catuaba and little catuaba.
Small catuaba is the species Erythroxylum catuaba which is a relative of the plant that gives us cocaine — though there are none of the active ingredients that produce cocaine found in this plant.
Lage catuaba is the species Trichilia catigua which is a relative of the mahogany tree.
Both catuaba species are used for the same applications — as an antidepressant, male-tonic, aphrodisiac, neuroprotective, and nervine. Big catuaba is considered superior as an antidepressant, while little catuaba is better for age-related fatigue and infertility.
- Big Catuaba
- Pau de Reposta
- Anodyne (pain-killer)
- Antineoplastic (anti-cancer)
Catuaba is used for age-related issues in both men and women. It’s highly revered in South America for its effects on libido and for preventing memory loss in old age.
In modern times, the big catuaba species has been shown to offer effects through the dopaminergic system in the brain — suggesting its use for treatment-resistant depression and supporting focus and concentration.
Catuaba has a long history of use in South America — especially in combination with another local herb known as muira puama. Both herbs use the bark of the tree, which would be ground up and combined with water. The concoction would be left to infuse overnight. Men would then strain and consume the beverage the next day to treat infertility, erectile dysfunction, and problems with memory.
There’s a saying from Brazil that “until a father reaches 60, the son is his — after that, the son is Catuabas!”. This saying is in reference to the potency of catuaba as a fertility-enhancer.
There’s little evidence to suggest catuaba is unsafe — however, due to the dopaminergic effects of the plant, it’s not recommended that you use this herb if you’re taking other medications that work through this pathway — including antidepressants, amphetamines, or anxiety medications.
The dose of catuaba is not well mapped out. Most herbalists will use a 1:1 liquid extract of the plant at a dose of around 3–10 mL per day.
Traditional cultures using the herb used generous portions of around 10 – 15 grams of the dried bark per day.
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-  Illustrated guide to the trees of Peru.