The Benefits of Catuaba

Can Catuaba Boost Your Mood?

catuaba is sourced from the bark of a tree native to the Amazon rainforest (pictured)
Catuaba is sourced from the bark of a tree native to the Amazon rainforest. R. Tyler Gross/Aura Open/Getty Images

Catuaba is a natural remedy long used in herbal medicine. A popular treatment in traditional Brazilian medicine, it's typically sourced from the bark of a tree native to the Amazon rainforest. Found to reduce inflammation in scientific studies, catuaba is said to offer a variety of health benefits.

Uses for Catuaba

Catuaba is touted as a natural remedy for the following health conditions:

In addition, catuaba is said to enhance libido, improve sexual performance, boost mood, promote weight loss, and protect against some forms of cancer.

Benefits of Catuaba

So far, few studies have tested the health effects of catuaba. Still, some preliminary research suggests that catuaba may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on catuaba:

1)  Depression

Catuaba may have antidepressant-like effects, according to a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology in 2005. In tests on rats and mice, scientists observed that catuaba may combat depression in part by increasing the release of serotonin and melatonin (two brain chemicals involved in regulating mood).

2)  Brain Health

In a rat-based study published in Neurochemical Research in 2012, researchers determined that catuaba may aid in the prevention of ischemia.

(Closely associated with stroke, ischemia is a condition marked by insufficient blood flow to the brain.) In an experiment involving samples of brain tissue taken from rats, the study's authors found that antioxidants in catuaba may help prevent ischemia by reducing oxidative stress.

3)  Parkinson's Disease

Catuaba shows promise in the treatment of Parkinson's disease, suggests a preliminary study published in the journal Brain Research in 2008. In the study, tests on human cells demonstrated that catuaba may help fight Parkinson's disease by protecting against the degeneration of certain nerve cells.

Alternatives to Catuaba

If you're seeking a natural approach to enhancing libido, studies show that certain supplements may serve as an alternative to catuaba. Although research on these supplements is fairly limited, there's some evidence that remedies such as ginkgo biloba, DHEA, and maca may help improve sexual function. What's more, studies suggest the herb Panax ginseng may help treat erectile dysfunction.

While scientific support for catuaba's supposedly mood-boosting effects is limited, many other remedies appear to aid in mood enhancement. For instance, studies indicate that St. John's wort, omega-3 fatty acids, SAMe, and 5-HTP may offer mood-improving benefits.

Lifestyle practices such as exercising regularly, getting sufficient sleep, meditating, and doing yoga have also been found to regulate mood.

What's more, research shows that aromatherapy remedies like lemon essential oil, lavender essential oil, and rosemary essential oil may possess mood-lifting properties.

Other Things to Know

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of catuaba. However, there's some concern that catuaba may trigger a number of side effects, such as headache, dizziness, and excessive sweating. Also, certain varieties of catuaba contain yohimbine, an herb with serious health risks. Consult your primary care provider for information about possible precautions, interactions or adverse effects. 

Get more tips on using herbs and other dietary supplements safely here

Where to Find Catuaba

Available for purchase online, catuaba is sold in some natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Sources

Barbosa NR, Fischmann L, Talib LL, Gattaz WF. "Inhibition of platelet phospholipase A2 activity by catuaba extract suggests antiinflammatory properties." Phytother Res. 2004 Nov;18(11):942-4.

Campos MM, Fernandes ES, Ferreira J, Santos AR, Calixto JB. "Antidepressant-like effects of Trichilia catigua (Catuaba) extract: evidence for dopaminergic-mediated mechanisms." Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005 Oct;182(1):45-53.

Kamdem JP, Waczuk EP, Kade IJ, Wagner C, Boligon AA, Athayde ML, Souza DO, Rocha JB. "Catuaba (Trichilia catigua) prevents against oxidative damage induced by in vitro ischemia-reperfusion in rat hippocampal slices." Neurochem Res. 2012 Dec;37(12):2826-35.

Valverde G De Andrade D1, Madureira de Oliveria D, Barreto G, Bertolino LA, Saraceno E, Capani F, Giraldez LD. "Effects of the extract of Anemopaegma mirandum (Catuaba) on Rotenone-induced apoptosis in human neuroblastomas SH-SY5Y cells." Brain Res. 2008 Mar 10;1198:188-96.

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