Guayusa (gwhy-you-sa)
Guayusa (gwhy-you-sa) is an Amazonian super-leaf naturally packed with caffeine and polyphenols, so it provides a clean, focused energy. There are low tannins in guayusa, so it lacks the astringent, bitter taste sometimes associated with green and black teas. Instead, it tastes smooth and naturally sweet.


Guayusa gives you a unique kind of energy, different from what you get from coffee or traditional energy drinks. We think of it as “clean energy” – it’s how we describe what Amazonian hunters call the “mental strength and courage” they get from drinking guayusa.


The compounds in guayusa give you sustained and focused energy. There are no harsh chemicals. No feeling burned out later. Just organic, healthy energy from a leaf. Drink guayusa to get the energy you want now without sacrificing how you feel later. Not all energy is created equal – keep yours clean.



Guayusa is grown in biodiverse agroforestry plots, or chakras. To the untrained eye, these ‘forest gardens’ look like pristine natural rainforest, though, to the farmers who cultivate them, they are highly managed agricultural plots combining a diverse mix of plants. Guayusa is a shade-grown plant – meaning it needs the shade of other trees to fully develop – and flourishes in this setting.


After a long history of cultivation, guayusa no longer naturally reproduces. New trees are planted from cuttings. This process involves taking part of a branch from an existing tree and placing it in rich soil. New cuttings reach productivity approximately 3 years after planting, when they grow to a height of about 8 feet.


RUNA regularly purchases fresh leaves from Kichwa farmers. We then dry and mill the leaves in our processing facility in the small town of Archidona, in the Napo Province of Ecuador. The leaves are air-dried (we do not use burning wood in the drying process).

Traditional Uses

Traditionally, indigenous Kichwa families wake up before dawn and gather around a communal fire to drink gourds of guayusa. During this early-morning ritual, community members share dreams, myths, and legends. Several myths recount how the guayusa plant taught human beings how to dream, and throughout the morning shamans interpret dreams from the previous night.


Hunters also drink guayusa before nighttime hunting trips in order to heighten their senses of awareness and focus. Drinking guayusa enables them to get more in touch with the surrounding environment, allowing them to hunt safely in the jungle. For this reason guayusa is known as “The Night Watchman.”


In contrast to many indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon that grow coffee or tea (plants imported from other parts of the world), the Kichwa people grow guayusa, a native plant of immense cultural importance and mythological significance. Growing guayusa and sharing it with an international community is a powerful way for the Kichwa people to observe traditional cultural practices and recognize important values they hold in the modern world.


Q: Is guayusa actually “tea”?

A: No. “Tea” refers to a single species of plant, Camellia sinensis, native to Southeast Asia. Green, black, and white teas all come from this plant. Guayusa (Ilex guayusa) is a different species of plant native to the Amazon rainforest. While the leaves are brewed in a similar fashion as tealeaves in order to make the hot beverages we know and love, guayusa is not tea.


Q: Is guayusa like yerba maté?

A: Guayusa (Ilex guayusa) is the Upper Amazonian cousin of yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis), which is from the Atlantic Rainforest. Both are caffeinated rainforest holly trees. Guayusa and yerba mate both contain healthy polyphenols and caffeine to offer sustained energy for consumers.


Q: What does “RUNA” mean?

A: RUNA means “fully alive” or “fully living human being” in Kichwa. It is a term of immense cultural pride for the Kichwa people, and represents RUNA’s commitment to sharing the Kichwa’s rich cultural heritage with the global community.


Q: Is RUNA certified organic?

A: Yes. 100% of the guayusa we produce is certified organic. We receive audits and inspections every year to ensure the farmers we work with follow organic cultivation practices. All of our final products are certified organic.


Q: Is RUNA Fair Trade certified?

A: Yes. RUNA earned Fair Trade certification from Fair Trade USA in February 2012.


Q: Is guayusa kosher?

A: Yes.



Q: Is there a risk of PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) in the processing of guayusa?

A: No. After being picked and washed, our guayusa leaves are dried using a high heat, natural gas-fired oven. They are not roasted or smoked – the roasting and smoking processes are what can lead to the presence of PAH in substances such as yerba maté.


Q: Where does guayusa grow?

A: Guayusa is grown almost exclusively in the upper Amazon region of Ecuador. It grows where the Andes Mountains meet the Amazon rainforest, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The farmers RUNA works with are primarily located in the Napo Province of Ecuador.