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Catuaba (Trichillia catigua)

Catuaba is an antidepressant, nootropic, and sexual potency herb from South America.

What is Catuaba?

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.

What Else is Catuaba Known As?

  • Big Catuaba
  • Cataguá
  • Chuchuasha
  • Tatuaba
  • Pau de Reposta
  • Caramuru
  • Catigua

Herbal Actions/Properties of Catuaba

  • Nervine
  • Antidepressant
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Anodyne (pain-killer)
  • Antibacterial
  • Antiviral
  • Antifungal
  • Vasodilator
  • Dopaminergic
  • Antineoplastic (anti-cancer)
  • Anti-inflammatory

What is Catuaba Used For? 

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.

Folklore & History of Catuaba

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.

Catuaba Side-Effects & Safety

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.

How Much Catuaba Do I Use? 

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.

Catuaba in Medical Research

1. Kamdem et al., (2012) Catuaba (Trichilia catigua) Prevents Against Oxidative Damage Induced by In Vitro Ischemia–Reperfusion in Rat Hippocampal Slices. Neurochem Research.

2. Violante et al., (2012) Antimicrobial Activity of Some Medicinal Plants From the Cerrado of the Central Western Region of Brazil.Brazilian Journal of Microbiology.

3. Vianat et al., (2011) Antinociceptive Activity of Trichilia catigua Hydroalcoholic Extract: New Evidence on Its Dopaminergic Effects.Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

4. Pontieri et al., (2007) The herbal drug Catuama reverts and prevents ventricular fibrillation in the isolated rabbit heart.Journal of Electrocardiology.

5. Daolio et al., (2007) Classification of Commercial Catuaba Samples by NMR, HPLC and Chemometrics. Phytochemical Analysis.

6. Campos et al., (2005) Antidepressant-like effects of Trichillia catigua (Catuaba) extract: evidence for dopaminergic-mediated mechanisms.Phytopharmacology.

7. Zanolari et al., (2003) Tropane Alkaloids from the Bark of Erythroxylum vacciniifolium.Journal of Natural Products.

Other Resources

  1. [2009] Brazilian trees: A guide to the identification and cultivation of Brazilian native trees.
  2. [2005] The Healing Power Of Rainforest Herbs.
  3. [2004] Illustrated guide to the trees of Peru.

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