Amazing Exotic Herbs From The Amazon

Even though many herbal medicines have not yet found scientific validation in the West, it is only logic that people wouldn’t use a product for hundreds of years if it didn’t work. Many of the herbs known for having great health benefits were just recently considered pretty exotic, even green tea. It is likely that this will happen the same way with herbs from the Amazon basin, one of the most bountiful environments on the planet. It has been looked to by explorers and botanists for “the next big thing,” which will have been in use by those in the Amazon basin for centuries.

Maca, which as been cultivated for at least 2000 years by the Andean people in Peru’s central highlands, is related to the brassica family, which includes radishes, mustard and cabbage. Although its foliage appears somewhat like a radish, maca grows close to the ground. Maca contains numerous beneficial compounds that increase overall health and vitality. The cultivation of maca dates back to Incan sites in 1600 B.C. During early European colonization, maca was used by the local natives as a form of currency. Maca is found thriving between 10,000 and 16,000 feet and seems to grow better in harsher conditions. Efforts to grow the plant in Central Europe have been unsuccessful, as maca seems to enjoy its home turf best. Maca is popular in Peru, a beloved super food that is commonly powdered and mixed into drinks. Maca is a natural energizer, known mainly for its libido enhancing abilities. However, it does have other uses, as it can act as an adaptogen like rhodiola or ginseng providing many similar benefits. Maca is recommended for its ability to boost the immune system, and support menopause and hormonal balance in general. Maca is most recognized as a great source of energy and endurance for daily use, as alkaloids from maca root are partially responsible for its affects on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA). These alkaloids, along with compounds called macamides and macaenes, have been boosting energy and overall aphrodisiac prowess in men and women for over 2000 years. Other reasons maca is such an excellent plant includes its isothiocyanates which may reduce risk of breast and stomach cancer.

Guarana, widely loved for its mild stimulating effect due to caffeine, has many benefits. This herb is so logically ingrained in the culture of Brazil that it actually out-sells Coca-Cola in its soft drink form. Like other herbs, guarana was in use locally way before European settlement. Its Latin name, Paullinia cupana, comes from the German botanist C.F. Paullini who first encountered it in the 1700s. This evergreen vine can be found climbing up the Brazilian forest trees, however the seed is the only part used. Clinical studies have proven that guarana boosted memory alertness in participants, even when the caffeine level per dose was as low as 9 mg, compared to the 100 mg found in a cup of coffee, proving that agents other than caffeine contribute to a feeling of well-being. Guarana contains many antioxidants which include: catechin, epicatechin, and proanthocyanidins that protect cells against destruction from free radicals and give benefits to the body’s tissues and blood.

Catuaba Bark, a common tree found in South America, contains components known as alkaloids which are responsible for the mental boost most people get when they take catuabe-based supplements and mixes. Because various species and genus types use the common name, there may be a little confusion regarding catuaba. Read labels carefully to find Erythroxylum catuaba, which has shown the best results in clinical studies.

Many people consider coffee an essential part of their morning. The part of coffee that we use the most is the seed of the coffee fruit, appearing as a bright, red berry. Because it is so delicate and cannot last long in hot conditions, most of the time the fruit is left behind in the process of making coffee. However, advances in technology have tapped the previously discarded resource. Current research of coffee fruit shows its impressive abilities to decrease tumor size and possibly prevent their formation in the first place. It seems that the elements in the coffee berry activate T-lymphocytes, causing mammary tumors to be shrunk or simply put on hold.

Muira puama, which grows between 15 to 45 feet high, is native to the Amazon basin of Brazil. The dried bark has been used for centuries for its energy support with components including beta-sitositerol, campesterol, and lupeol. Like other central nervous stimulants, muira puama has an ability to boost memory retrieval and protect brain tissue. This traditional ingredient could someday be fighting Alzheimer’s the way green tea and turmeric are currently. In a published French study 262 men with low libido and poor erectile function were told to take an extract of Muira puama. This resulted in 62% experiencing significant improvement.

Acai berry is found on a tall-growing palm with berries that provide a rich source of anthocyanins, potent purple pigments, and extraordinary high antioxidant activity. After being harvested, acai fruits decay rapidly, meaning special processing is necessary to make certain that the nutrients of acai berry make it to consumers outside of the Amazon basin. Not only does this fruit fight free radical damage, but it also helps our natural digestive enzymes and boosts our immune defenses. Current research is studying whether compounds in acai have a fighting effect on leukemia as well, and is showing positive results. When choosing an acai berry, look for supplements that are organically-grown under fair trade. The best companies ensure that the local people harvesting acai gather more than just the short-term benefits, and therefore provide jobs and better lives for generations to come. The traditional cultures that use, and have used these ingredients for generations wouldn’t have done so if they weren’t effective. Thankfully, we live in a time when formerly locally-used herbs are now available all over the world. We are also fortunate to have companies and individuals working hard to make sure that the people who care for these resources are paid fairly for their efforts and that their families and communities also benefit.

If your looking to boost libido, memory, energy, or boost your over all feeling of wellness, give one of these exotic Amazon herbs a try. All the above listed herbs can be found at your local or online vitamin store.