Common Names: Catuaba Casca, Caramuru, Tatuaba, Chuchuhuasha, Pau De Reposta, Piratancara, Golden Trumpet

Family: Erythroxylaceae

Species: catuaba 

Synonyms: None

Clinical overview  

Catuaba is been used for generations among South Americans as a traditional herb to improve sexual desires. It is also considered as a tonic to improve the overall health of the body. It is commonly found the Amazon jungles and related to coca plant but it does not have the alkaloids present in cocaine. The catuaba tree has a knotty and thick trunk and the roots lie above the ground. It is rich in fatty resins, alkaloids, aromatic oils, phytosterols, tannins, etc.

Catuaba herb has a legendary existence in the sexual lore of South America. It is mostly consumed in form of tea and a teaspoon of dried bark of the tree is enough for a cup of boiling water. After taking it off the heat, let it stand for few minutes.

The herb is said to have immediate impact on a person’s mood and libido. When catuaba is used for long periods of time, it results in enhancing the sexual experience and erotic desires. It is said to have a direct impact on the central nervous system of the body. In Japan, it was found that extracts from the catuaba bark have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. In an experiment it was given to mice and observed that catuaba was helpful in protecting them from staph and E.Coli infections. It also prevented the HIV virus to attach itself from the cells. It also helped the white blood cells to survive from HIV virus exposure. These experiments are at a very premature stage now and need to be studied further before they can be used by humans.

A lot of people have started to use this herb and most of the responses of using it have been positive. The most common use of this herb has been to eliminate erectile dysfunction and enhancing the sexual libido. There are no evidences of any side effects and there is no harm even if this herb is used for long term.

In a test tube research study, G. Valverde et al. (March 2008) showed that the herb had, "neuroprotective [protects against nerve cell damage] benefit on human neuroblastomas... and they, "suggest it might be useful for Parkinson's disease (PD)."

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) / Impotence

Animal studies by K. Gauthaman (January 2008) showed that Tribulus terrestris increases testosterone levels, thus increasing sex drive in primates, rabbits and rats. The conclusion was that the herb "may be useful in mild to moderate cases of ED."

However, V.K. Neychev (October 2005) conducted a study in young men and the results showed that, "Tribulus terrestris steroid saponins possess neither direct nor indirect androgen-increasing properties."

Hence there are conflicting results. Most studies done in animals clearly show an increase in testosterone and other sex hormones along with an aphrodisiac benefit but the studies in human showed no such benefits.

We were unable to locate any research studies in humans to show if Tribulus terrestris would be useful in treating erectile dysfunction or impotence.

Aphrodisiac / Low Libido / Increase Sex Drive

Animal studies by K. Gauthaman (January 2008) concluded that Tribulis terrestris increases testosterone levels, thus increasing sex drive in primates, rabbits and rats.

As well, P.G. Adaikan (January 2000) suggested that, "The enhanced relaxant effect observed is probably due to increase in the release of nitric oxide from the endothelium and nerve endings, which may account for its claims as an aphrodisiac."  

Catuaba Health Benefits

Catuaba and Physical Strength

Extracts from Catuaba bark are helpful in production of the energy carriers of the body called as ATP. It is helpful to increase the flow of blood in the body and promote the reach of oxygen to all parts of the body. When the oxygen reaches to our cells in invigorates our body and healthy cells gives strength to the body.

Aphrodisiac properties of Catuaba

Catuaba is considered to posses aphrodisiac properties which act by stimulating the central nervous system. It is useful as a brain nerve stimulant and cure sexual impotency. It is usually consumed in form tea and used for nervous debility, exhaustion, sexual weakness and impotence. It is used as an aphrodisiac for both men and women by health practitioners and herbalists in United States. The most important ingredients of catuaba like the aromatic oils, flavonoid and alkaloids work together to enhance the sexual desire. In males it is also used to cure erectile dysfunction which helps them to perform at their best and revives the sexual cravings.

Catuaba as a vasorelaxant

This herb also helps in relaxing the brain. It helps in relieving from stress and anxiety and also very popular among people suffering from insomnia. Catuaba Acts by releasing stress from the brain vessels and stimulate the cerebral microcirculation. It enhances blood flow and oxygenation of the brain. It is an agent that balances the functioning of the nervous system by restoring or nourishing it. It is believed to pacify the overactive neurotransmitters.

Anti-Viral and Anti-Bacterial

Catuaba is said to possess anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and may help people suffering from these conditions. In Brazil, the catuaba is immersed in rum and kept in a bottle till the properties are drawn out into the alcohol. It is then consumed and said to show its effects within days or weeks of regular use.

Other Uses

Since, catuaba increases blood circulation, it does so in the brain as well and stimulated and enhancing the functioning of the brain. It is useful in cases of dementia, poor memory and Alzheimer's disease.

It is also helpful in the overall toning of the body and strengthens it by nourishing individual organs. It has an impact in releasing stress, weakness, exhaustion and fatigue from the body.

Dosage and Method of Use:

Historically catuaba was consumed by the natives of Amazon in form of a tea made from the bark of the tree. The indigenous Brazilians claimed that if a person drinks 1 to 3 cups of catuaba for few weeks an increase in sexual desire may be observed.

Most of the capsules made for human consumption are in the range of 500 – 1000 mg. An ideal dose of catuaba is recommended to be between 500 to 1500 milligrams per day. There are also various strengths and potencies of catuaba extracts that are available like 4:1 extract. Also, it is combined with other herbs as well to improve the effectiveness. Since, it enhances libido a lot of products available in the market claim to have catuaba in different quantities. Not all of them are good in what they claim and some might therefore disappoint you as well.

Contraindications: None known.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Warnings

There are few reported side effects from using this herb. The herb might lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It can also increase the skin's sensitivity to sun exposure.

Possible side effects of Catuaba and its Toxicity:-

There are no identified side effects of catuaba herb. Use of catuaba is relatively new in North America and till now it was predominantly used by the natives in the Amazon. There is also very little information about the safety of long term consumption of catuaba.

Safety - There are no reported health risks from using Tribulus terrestris. In appropriate doses, Tribulus terrestris is probably safe to use.

Pregnancy & Lactation - One research study in animals indicates that Tribulis terrestris might affect the developing fetus. Avoid using. There is no information on the safety of using Tribulus terrestris when breastfeeding. Avoid using.

Common Drug & Health Condition Interactions

Diabetic Medication / Diabetes - theoretical

Several research studies showed that the herb lowers blood sugar level in rats.

No human studies were done so we can only assume that it might increase the effects of anti-diabetic drugs such as Diabeta (glyburide), Glucophage/Glumetza (metformin), Actos (pioglitazone), Avandia (rosiglitazone), Amaryl (glimepiride), Avandamet (rosiglitazone / metformin) and others.

Monitor your glucose levels when starting or stopping this herb.

Prostate Cancer - theoretical

The herb might, in theory, worsen individuals with existing prostate cancer.

Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) - theoretical

The herb might, in theory, cause prostate enlargement. One research showed that it increased the weight of the prostate gland in rats.

Dosage & How to Take It

Doses of 250 mg daily have been used in research studies for enhancement in athletic performance.

There is no information on optimum dosage for the herb so start with a low dosage and increase gradually.

Buy the standardized extract to ensure you get what you pay for. It should be standardized to the active ingredient saponins when possible. (Typical standardized extract contains between 20% to 40% saponins such as furostanol.    

History and Botany of Catuaba

Catuaba is a small tree native to the rain forests of Brazil. It has been used for centuries as and aphrodisiac and as an overall tonic for body. The Catuaba trees grow to about 12 feet and have small orange and yellow flowers. It has an edible fruit but the bark of the tree has historic use as a medicine. It is said that the Tupi Indians from Brazil were the first ones to discover the aphrodisiac properties of Catuaba. Lately, it is also imported to United States and Canada and used as an ingredient in herbal medicines. There are many species of this tree but the most common ones to have medicinal properties are the big and small catuabas also known as the Trichilia catigua and Erythroxylum catuaba respectively. In Brazilian medicine, the barks of these two species have been used interchangeably for same type of conditions.

Catuaba Active Ingredients and Chemicals:-

There are different types of ingredients present in catuaba like fatty resins, alkaloids, various aromatic oils and pigments like tannins. In addition to these Catuaba also contains pigments called flavanoid and other steroid alcohols like phytosterols, sequiterpenes and cyclolignans. According to a study conducted by a Brazilian scientist it was also discovered that catuaba also contains some amounts of the alkaloid yohimbine in it, but it is a mystery about the species considered for study. Catuaba reported anti carcinogenic and bactericidal properties in flavalignans mixtures. Also a compound called cinchonain commonly found in quinine bark can be isolated by chemical treatments from the barks of the big catuaba (Trichilia catigua) tree. 

Research on Catuaba

  1. 1.Pretreatment of mice with hot water and alkaline extracts of Catuaba casca (Erythroxylum catuaba Arr. Cam.) effectively protected them from lethal infection of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Catuaba significantly inhibited both the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-induced cytopathic effect and the expression of HIV antigen in HIV-1HTLV-IIIB or HIV-2ROD infected human lymphotropic virus type I (HTLV-1) positive MT-4 cells. The catuaba extract anti-HIV activity was shown to be induced, at least in part, via the inhibition of HIV adsorption to the cells. The data suggest a medicinal potential of catuaba extracts against opportunistic infection in HIV patients.

Source: Effects of Catuaba extracts on microbial and HIV infection by Manabe H,. Horiuchi Itaro & Co., Ltd., Tokyo, Japan. catuaba bark ,catuaba extract In Vivo. 1992 Mar-Apr;6(2):161-5.

  1. 2.The bark of catuaba (Erythroxylum vacciniifolium Martius, Erythroxylaceae), a tree native to the northern part of Brazil, was investigated for its alkaloid content. The catuaba alkaloid extract was analysed by high-performance liquid chromatography. Catuaba extract led to structural elucidation of six new catuaba alkaloids and partial identification of 18 potentially original alkaloids. On-line identification of tropane alkaloids from Erythroxylum vacciniifolium ( catuaba ) by liquid chromatography-UV detection-multiple mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography-nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry.

Source: Zanolari B. Universite de Lausanne, BEP, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.