Catuaba is an herb of Brazilian origin with an over 500 year history of use. Experienced harvesters define two kinds of the plant as those having various benefits associated with catuaba – “big catuaba” (mahogany family, Trichilia catigua) and “small catuaba” (Erythroxylum catuaba). They don’t differ in medicinal properties they provide, but usually differ from other plant’s varieties – such as Anemopaegma (catuaba-verdadeira in Brazil), which is often presented on western market as “catuaba”, but doesn’t really possess real catuaba’s effects. Erythroxylum catuaba grows 2-4 m tall, has yellow-to-orange flowers and oval inedible fruit. The flowers of “big catuaba” are of a cremy color, and the plant grows 6-10 m tall.
For the most of herbal formulas the bark of the plant is used. Its major chemical compounds include alkaloids, tannins, aromatic oils and fatty resins, phytosterols, cyclolignans, sesquiterpenes, and flavonoids.
“Until a father reaches 60, the son is his; after that, the son is catuaba’s!” This is a line from the Brazilian song praising aphrodisiac properties of the plant. These were first discovered by Tupi Indians in Brazil and this knowledge has been passed through generations. Today Brazilian herbal medicine uses catuaba as tonic for central nervous system with, also benefiting from its aphrodisiac properties.
Decoction prepared from the bark is used to handle sexual impotency, sexual weakness, agitation, nervousness, exhaustion, and memory failures. These are alkaloids (yohimbine) in the plant that are believed to act enhancing sexual system by stimulating parts of nervous system responsible for sexual performance.
Popularized in Brazil, catuaba is widely used now in American and European herbal medicine as well. Herbalists suggest using it for the same conditions: stimulating genital function, treating sexual impotence, and various nervous conditions, such as exhaustion, hypochondria, pain related to central nervous system disorders, fatigue, and insomnia. Moreover, prolonged consumption of the herb (one week to 10 days) leads to erotic dreaming, which is followed by certain influence on increased libido.
Aphrodisiac actions of catuaba are effective in both women and men, although the most effective results are noted for male impotence.
While providing relief from nervous disorders, catuaba gives a mild euphoria and lift, although no other side effects or toxicity have been noticed on this herb.
Usually catuaba is sold in form of tincture. It is taken with a small amount of water and a teaspoon of lemon juice. The latter will aciditify the tincture for the release of alkaloids into the water and their more effective penetration to the body.
Also, catuaba is commonly used with Muira Puama root which enhances the stimulating properties for the male genital system and urinary organs.