Catuaba Bark - A Dope Botanical From Brazil: Nootropic Benefits

April 1, 2020

Written by

Lucas Aoun

Founder @ Ergogenic Health

This traditional medicinal Nutraceutical, also called Trichilia Catigua, is native to the rainforests of Northern Brazil where it's been used since time immemorial as a natural herbal libido enhancer. It's pronounced properly with a bit of South American flourish, Cat-ooh-ahh-bah. It's a full-spectrum Dopaminergic Nootropic that's especially enhancing when stacked with the cofactor Muira Puama.

This article is mostly going to focus on decoding what the human studies are saying about Catuaba Bark and how this squares up with the anecdotal experiences of Biohackers online. For more of my own personal experiences, thoughts, and comparisons please see the written and video reviews in the sidebar.

History

Like Rhodiola or Ginseng in the East, Catuaba has been used as a tonic in traditional Brazilian medicine for libido, fertility, maintaining memory, stress management, and as an anti-fatigue measure. From a 2018 article published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology

popularly known as "big catuaba", is traditionally used in Brazilian folk medicine for its neuroactive potential as memory stimulant, and antinociceptive and antidepressant effects.

On a bio-metaphysical note, if you asked an indigenous shaman where the traditional knowledge about things like Catuaba Bark came from they'll invoke ancient guiding metaphysical entities. An explanation that a skeptical materialist mind would of course reject. But, the question still lingers, how did traditional medicine emerge eons ago? Of all the thousands of species of poisonous plants populating this planet, how were our ancestors wise enough to choose to ingest the very few that tremendously empower our health and wellbeing? Did aliens tell them which plants had healing properties? Was there an advanced antediluvian civilization, largely forgotten by mainstream history, that mastered the scientific method in deep antiquity and shared with proto-cultures around the world which plants could save lives? A less provocative hypothesis is that Nutracuetical folk medicine emerged around the world as a result of selection bias - from my book review of Rigor Mortis:

There's an argument to be made that we are evolutionarily intertwined with herbal medicine as our ancestors have been using them for thousands of years to stay alive in a brutal and dangerous world. Your ancestor was the village chieftain who could afford Ginsing so he could get an erection to impregnate his fourth wife and have his 16th child. You're the result of thousands of years of stark evolutionary selection bias favoring those who responded positively to natural medicine. 

But the evidence for it is not limited to folk medicine traditions, there are over 40 scientific papers and studies done worldwide evaluating this nutraceutical's effects and safety profile

Libido Enhancer

It's most renowned as an herbal sexual performance enhancer. All men, sometimes have less-than-awesome erections and there's no shame in supplementing a little something to help.

  • Unlike, Horny Goat Weed, for example, It's not a testosterone enhancer, it boosts libido by stimulating dopamine, low dopamine has everything to do with disinterest in sex and flaccid erections.
  •  It may not spike libido immediately it may take several days to a week for its effect on Libido to become apparent. 
  • Unlike some other natural libido enhancers, it doesn't make you really sweaty, which is, of course, preferable, I don't want to be a sweaty mess until I get my clothes off and get horizontal with Mrs. Roseland!

If you're a man, don't let your ego get in the way of you having a better sex life or a happy relationship with your partner. If you've been in a long term relationship, you know that your libido and urge to tear each other's clothes off declines with time, sex can become a bit of a chore. And predictably, the less you have sex, the more the relationship grows discordant. I think that the divorce epidemic that has so impacted the Boomer and Generation Z demographic cohorts has everything to do with the catastrophic effect of the unprecedented chemical toxicity of modernity on the sex drives of couples. I think that you could replace about half the self-help relationship advice books that you can find with herbal libido enhancers, like Catuaba.

Some rowdy sex hackers on Longecity, are apparently really enjoying it. Dehook writes...

I didn't expect much, but after 3 days I was horny as hell; my lower region was throbbing constantly and my orgasms were out of this world. These feelings lasted about 2 days. The problem is I developed a tolerance for it after 4 days so I had to stay off it for a week to get back the effect again.

Outsider is very enthusiastic about its effect when taken with the cofactor Muira Puama

I used recently a combination of catuaba, damiane and muira puama, I just took 1/3 the dose and I can feel a big difference in sex power. Those last three seem the most potent the amazon can offer. 

Lufega reports: Catuaba also makes me more amorous and loving and stuff. 

It likely helps with erectile dysfunction as it boosts nitric oxide and has a vasorelaxant effect. I found it a little funny that an animal study was done evaluating its effects on libido with rabbits (as if those furry little monsters need any encouragement!)

Dopaminergic Nootropic

It's attractive as a Nutraceutical Nootropic, boosting Dopamine has broad-spectrum effects; improving mood, enhancing cognition, and sharpening focus along with imbuing creativity, and verbal wit. More dopamine will likely make you a more dangerous version of yourself.

In modernity, we are overwhelmed with Dopamine stimulators, cheap thrills like junk food, viral videos, porn, and "Likes" on our most recent clever social media post, to name just a few. To address their stimulation addiction and drink deeply in the pleasure of the meaningful things in life, some are turning to "Dopamine Fasting" depriving themselves of all amusement and stimulation for days or weeks. I think a better solution is optimizing the Dopaminergic system with nutrition and supplementation of things like Catuaba.

A cerebral ischemia animal study found that it restored long-term retrograde memory

Ischemia caused persistent retrograde amnesia, and this effect was prevented by [Catuaba]. This memory protection (or preservation) persisted even after the treatment was discontinued, despite the absence of histological neuroprotection... The data indicate that antioxidant and/or antiinflammatory actions in the early phase of ischemia/reperfusion contribute to the long-term antiamnesic effect of [Catuaba].

Another study suggested that its neuroinflammation mitigating effect contributed to an overall effect on improving memory.

Catuaba Bark Nootropic

Imminent Biohacker, self-experimenter extraordinaire Abelard Lindsay sings its praises

I take Catuaba everyday because I find it's an awesome anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-depressant. It tastes good too! Like unsweetened gourmet coffee. I really can't say enough good things about it.

Antidepressant

The scientific research, traditional medicine literature, and anecdotal evidence speak to its effects as an antidepressant. Considering that the common pharmaceutical antidepressants that psychiatrists prescribe are at best useless and at worst Iatrogenic - doing sometimes a lot more harm than good - if you're depressed or just feel a little blue during the winter months, Catuaba would be a great idea to include in a natural herbal antidepressant cocktail. You would want to stack it with herbs like Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, and Lion's Mane along with some antidepressant lifestyle hacks; meditation, exercise, diet, etc.

Animal research established its anti-depressive effect via induced hippocampal cell proliferation.

Catuaba Bark Antidepressant Study 1000

A 2008 Brazilian study notes its anti-depressive effect via dopamine modulation...

The present study provides convincing evidence for a dopamine-mediated antidepressant-like effect of the active principle(s) present in the hydroalcoholic extract of [Catuaba]

A Spanish Biohacker praised its effect on mood.

This herb is very zen, relaxing and focusing... [Catuaba] is the best anxiolytic and antidepressant I have found.

Thedevinroy on Longecity reported

Like expected, it is slightly stimulating and a slight antidepressant... I feel slightly stimulated now... more motivation and ability to focus. Nothing crazy... just a good mood.

Anti-Inflammatory Pain Killer

Its mild opioid-like mechanism alleviates pain and acute inflammation. Inflammation is not a universal evil, sometimes you want inflammation to do its thing, like after injuring a joint in the gym. But chronic inflammation should be addressed with anti-inflammatory nutrition and herbs, like Catuaba bark. Apparently, it helps with something called Burning Mouth Syndrome, which I hope to never experience! 

Dmitry Zhukovin reports

Also, I noticed that my lower back pain goes away and general body aches. Catuaba has many uses and it delivers.

Broad Spectrum Anti-Infection Agent

The future badly needs a replacement for antibiotics; superbugs are mutating and getting more virulent as doctors and scientists spend billions of (mostly) taxpayer dollars trying to make a better mousetrap. Catauba probably won't make expensive Iatrogenic pharmaceutical antibiotics irrelevant but it's demonstrated to have Antimicrobial effects, making it a notable nutraceutical preventative measure in a world rife with nasty microscopic critters that are just getting nastier.

It has a demonstrated Antibacterial effect against...

  • Bacillus cereus
  • Bacillus subtilis
  • Enterococcus faecalis
  • Escherichia coli
  • Micrococcus luteus
  • Mycobacterium smegmatis
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Staphylococcus aureus

Antifungal effect on

  • Candida albicans

Antiviral effect on

  • Bovine Herpes Virus (BoHV-1)
  •  Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1)
  •  HIV
  •  Polio Virus (PV-1)

Antiparasitic effect combating

  • Trypomastigotes

A 2019 study suggests it as an alternative to the common antibiotic drug Vancomycin

The results suggest that extract of [Catuaba] could potentially be used as an adjuvant to treatment and is a promising candidate for the development of new antimicrobial drugs.

Vs Fatigue

Fatigue is the nemesis of the high performer. Clinical research suggests that Catuaba could give you an extra degree of perseverance in your endeavors whether they necessitate pushing yourself to failure in the gym, jogging that extra mile in your daily run, or working an extra 2 hours at night on your entrepreneurial projects. 

The most recent Brazilian animal study identifies it as a potent anti-fatigue agent...

Trichilia catigua A. Juss. (Meliaceae) is a species known as catuaba and used in folk medicine for the treatment of fatigue, stress, impotence and memory deficit... These data suggest the hydroalcoholic extract as the most suitable for plant extraction and partially support the folk use of T. catigua as antifatigue drug. . Trichilia catigua hydroalcoholic extract exhibits antioxidant and anticholinesterase activity in vitro and reduces the fatigue induced by forced exercise

It posses an adaptogen effect (anti-stress, memory enhancement, increased physical and/or sexual performance) according to a review paper that started with 766 different Brazilian plants and narrowed all the way down to evaluating four that had the most notable Adaptogenic effects.

Anti-Cancer

The most recent Brazilian in vitro study done found that pharmacological components present in it could revert the malignant phenotype of breast cancer cells.

Gut Healing

Another animal study found it helpful in treating inflammatory bowel disease:

[Catuaba] extracts possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and bactericidal properties. These properties suggest [Catuaba]  extracts as a potential treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

Neuroprotective

Oxidative stress is a killer, it's at the root of neurodegenerative diseases...

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Ischemia-reperfusion
  • Parkinson’s Disease

The animal research demonstrates that Catuaba reduces oxidative stress in the hippocampus, making it a preventative measure for neurodegeneration. An animal study found a benefit in the mitigation of nervous system damage caused by Diabetes...

The [ethyl-acetate fraction] from [Catuaba] partially conferred protection against diabetic neuropathy in the enteric nervous system.

Catuaba Inflammation Neuroprotective

Mechanisms of Action

The Nootropic awesomeness of Catuaba is thanks to its effects of both releasing extra dopamine and inhibiting dopamine reuptake. Other mechanisms discussed in the scientific literature...

  • It improves the dopamine sensitivity of the D1 receptor.
  • It's more Dopaminergic than Serotinergic, but it has a similar effect on Serotonin. From a paper detailing the evidence of its antidepressant effects, Catuaba inhibited the uptake and increased the release of serotonin...
  • It has a similar effect on acetylcholine, increasing release and inhibiting reuptake, according to a 2018 paper.
  •  It's ethyl-acetate fractions exhibit an effect modulating amyloid-beta toxicity, which could make it Alzheimer's preventative. 
  • It modulates the production of immune antibodies.
  • From a preclinical evaluation, The present results showed an in vitro antioxidant activity for [ethyl-acetate fraction] and suggested that it may be useful for cognitive improvement.
  • It contains epicatechins and several other powerful antioxidants.

It's recognized as an Adaptogen that holistically modulates our biology for full-spectrum resilience.

Skin Hack

Skin hacking is not merely for the vain, you don't want to lather toxic sunscreen on for a day of fun in the sun. Research indicates that emulsified in canola, andiroba, and buriti oil Catuaba raises Sun Protection Factor making it a potential natural sunscreen.

Heart Health

Animal research indicates it may normalize heart arrhythmias

an herbal drug very popular in Brazil, was tested on the reversion and prevention of ventricular fibrillation (VF) in the isolated rabbit heart... Catuama reverted and prevented [ventricular fibrillation] in this model. T catigua extract is probably the main agent responsible for the beneficial actions observed.

Experiential

An herbal enthusiast in Cambridge praises the properties of Catuaba tea 

I am a regular user of catuaba for its aphrodisiac qualities and all round energy... In the preparation of the catuaba I always smash the bark in a blender so it becomes a powder and this is pretty crucial in its prep because then upon boiling it the alkaloids are released properly and you then enjoy drinking it as a tea.

A Polish Biohacker reported a transformative effect reversing a range of negative symptoms...

For past 2 years I had a parkinson-like symptoms, apathy, anhedonia, lack of emotions and motivation, low libido, joint pain, dizziness, etc. It was getting worse and worse... But when I started drinking catuaba regularly everything is normal again, all symptoms are gone or strongly reduced.

If you'd ask me, for dopamine a strong catuaba tea is better than MAO-i's.

 Normalizing on Longecity is not a huge fan of its taste powdered 

ive tried various types of catuaba for its purported energy and libido inducing effects but to all of which left me with really dry bitter taste in my mouth

Michael Shelton reports on Amazon that Catuaba Bark is effective against post shingles neuralgia.

I got it because of its promise to cure post-herpetic neuralgia which has been a major problem of mine following shingles. I'm happy to say it exceeded my expectations. The neuralgia appeared mostly gone! I recommend it.

A senior citizen praises its pain-relief properties

I use this mainly for energy and pain relief. I'm 70, still have to do a few strenuous things. This helps me with the pain more than the energy.

Notably...

  • It's considered a nervine tonic, it has an anxiety assuaging effect.
  •  Erections sometimes last a while, up to 4 hours.
  •  Like many herbs, powdered it tastes bitter.

Vs Diabetes

Animal research indicates that it holds some promise as an antidiabetic therapy

The present study showed that [ethyl-acetate fraction] improves glucose homeostasis and endocrine pancreas morphology and inhibits the development of diabetic nephropathy in STZ-induced diabetic rats.

  Purity Concerns

There are several other Catuabas that come out of Brazil which you can't expect the same effects from. You want to carefully examine the label of any Catuaba you're considering (and a certificate of analysis from a lab) and double-check that it's actually Trichilia Catigua.

From a spectroscopy study done at the University of Vienna

Fourteen commercial samples of the popular Brazilian aphrodisiac Catuaba specified as bark drugs of Anemopaegma, Erythroxylum and Trichilia species were examined for identity and purity. Only a minority of the examined Catuaba samples contained the crude drugs claimed on the labels. More than half of the products were adulterated with different crude drugs.

In the course of my anecdotal analysis of what people across the internet are saying about it, I noted that about half the Amazon reviews report that it was ineffective. We all know that Amazon reviews can be faked but I still consider the general sentiment of what people are saying there. This leads me to two conclusions...

  1. Catuaba may not be a crowdpleaser Nootropic. It may work wonders for some people and for others it might be totally underwhelming. I did not come across any concerning reports of serious side effects.
  2. Brazil is not renowned for high-quality product integrity standards. Like any Nutraceutical, there's probably a lot of bunk stuff out there for sale that these Amazon reviewers are disappointed with. If it's cheap and they don't provide a COA verifying purity, pass on it!

Sources

Around the internet, you can find a lot of reports from people who have prepared Catuaba from the raw bark, it sounds like a tedious process that's easy to screw up. The best way to take it is either as a 4:1 extract or in a stack combined with Muira Puama.

Apparently, in Brazil, you can even get Catuaba wine but its taste is not great, it's reported that it tastes like regret.

BrainX - An Ergogenic Super-Stack

Combines Catuaba Bark with... 

  • Muira Puama Extract - Is anxiogenic, stimulating and sometimes causes anxiety thanks to its inhibition of AChE. Its anxiogenic effects are offset Catuaba's serotonergic effects. It also stimulates NGF-related nerve growth. Women report intenser orgasms on it and greater sex drive.
  •  Uridine Monophosphate - A classic Nootropic that empowers long term and working memory. Uridine has a synergy with Catuaba Bark via its mechanism which Increases Potassium-Evoked Dopamine Release and Promotes Neurite Outgrowth - so may have a Banana with your BrainX.
  •  D-Ribose - The "Healthy Sugar" lowers blood sugar levels while feeding the Mitochondrial ATP process.

BrainX stands out as a Nootropic stack, it's not another capsule that you need to take, it comes in little sachets of powder that you mix in a tea or coffee - which makes it very attractive to me! It has an energizing synergy with coffee and may elongate the effects of caffeine.

I did an interview with Lucas Aoun, the creator of BrainX, that you'll want to listen to before trying Catuaba in any form.

Usage and Dosage

As a Nutracuetical you can be a little more ad-hoc about your dosing, I scoured the internet and came across no examples of people who experienced adverse effects resulting from too much Catuaba. Cycling is advisable, I wouldn't take a Dopaminergic Nootropic every day forever. The anecdotal reports indicate that it takes several days to a week for its effects to become apparent, and then after several weeks or months there's something of a dosage response curve, the effects diminish. I recommend going on it for a month or two and then going off it for a few weeks.

  • 1 gram dose of raw bark extract for healthy adults.
  • As little as several hundred milligrams is beneficial for some.
  • For extracts, you'll want to refer to the label's recommended daily dose.
  • Some biohackers report taking up to 5 grams

Side Effects

I searched high and low across the internet and came up with just one concerning side effect. In animal studies, it has an anti-fertility effect in females, women who are pregnant (or would like to become pregnant) may not want to use Catuaba.

Risk Grade: B+

Even the quality of scientific research done on Catuaba is Brazilian, reflective of this country where people are so busy enjoying life that not a lot gets done. Compared to an adaptogen like Rhodiola, the clinical evidence for it is not strong; there are no clinical trials comparing it with placebo in real, live humans. The vast majority of the scientific papers published about it are Brazilian. I wouldn't hold this against Catuaba because my anecdotal analysis of hundreds of user reports turned up zero concerning reports of serious side effects. But, unfortunately in my book, it doesn't deserve an A risk grade until a clinical trial is done.

One (irresponsible!) biohacker's experience indicates that a lot of Catuaba might boost Serotonin too high resulting in dangerous Serotonin Syndrome. It's an especially bad idea to combine with amphetamines or pharmaceuticals. Although, some discussion on Longecity suggests it could be useful to addicts tapering off addictive pharmaceuticals...

I'm stil testing it because I think this herb is interacting with the amphetamine... After two months of benzo withdrawal my cognition returned to normal... During this period my cognition, focus and mood was good but my motivation was normal... The natives recomends to mix Catuaba with Muira Puama. This last can be a good addition to benzo withdrawal because acts like a benzo antagonist... I guarantee this herb made me drop benzos and now is seducing me to drop amphetamines.

It does have an opioid-like mechanism, but its effects are very mild. I came across nobody reporting that it was addictive or habit-forming. Some of the anecdotal reports indicate that it could be very helpful to those trying to taper off addictive opioids or Kratom.

An articulate Texan on Longecity advises: if you were to combine with an SSRI you'd want to keep Catuaba dosage low so that the serotonin reuptake factor is negligible but you would still obtain some dopaminergic benefit.

 Conclusion

Catuaba is a promising Nutraceutical for Biohackers who want to use it cyclically to reap the benefits of a natural uptick in Dopamine, especially in common with its historical cofactor Muira Puama.


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