Ingredient Type: Botanical, Extract
Also Known As: Erythroxylum catuaba, Golden trumpet
Catuaba is an extract of Trichilia catigua, a medicinal plant that originated from the Brazillian rainforest. This natural remedy is made mainly from the back of trees. The formulation usually varies depending on the type of tree selected upon harvest. This natural remedy has long been known for its aphrodisiac properties. Common trees used for their medicinal purposes include the Erythroxylum Caatingae, Trichilia catigua, Anemopaegma arvense, and Micropholis Caudata. Of these trees, the parts utilized for processing include the cut bark and the root of the tree. From the parts processed, amongst the derived constituents is a group of alkaloids known as catuabine, which is considered the more active component of the tree that exhibits effects on the nervous system (18). Catuaba's other constituents include tannins, aromatic oils, fatty resins, phytosterols, cycloligans, sesquiterpenes, and flavonoids (17).
Native to Brazil, Catuaba is known as a legendary aphrodisiac. First used by the Tupi Indians, songs were composed about the plant, praising its qualities. The Tupi Indians claim that Catuaba has bestowed the men with unrivaled sexual prowess. It is claimed that Catuaba is responsible for their large genitals and powerful sex drive. For this reason, Catuaba has earned the nickname Elephant Men of the Jungle (16).
It is also said that Catuaba has been used in Brazilian Folk Medicine to enhance the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system as well as aiding in cognition and memory. Catuaba, meaning "what gives strength to Indian," was also traditionally used as a general tonic to balance and strengthen overall body functions, especially the nervous system and the cardiovascular system (19).
WHAT DOES SCIENCE TELL US?
Catuaba Possibly Affects Mood:
In a study, researchers conducted a preclinical evaluation of Trichilia catigua extracts on the CNS of the test subjects (mice). As a result, the authors attempted to uncover the truth about the possible antidepressant, anxiolytic, motor, and cognitive effects of the crude extract of Trichilia catigua. The total phenolic and tannin content from the extract was analyzed using the crude extract (200-800 mg/kg) and an ethyl-acetate fraction (100-400 mg/kg) on the experimental group. Their behavioral tests were then conducted 1-hour post-administration of the treatment preparations. Following analysis and observation of the results, it was found that a form of antidepressant-like activity was detected. Acute administration suggests the formulation has a role to play in the management of depression (6).
In another study, researchers reviewed various works and the history of Catuaba regarding its therapeutic and cosmetic values. In the review, Catuaba was clearly stated to be an important medicinal plant that has been used to manage different human health-related issues. Catuaba was shown to play a crucial role in developing certain pharmaceuticals to help make specific therapies more efficient in managing complex diseases. One of the common uses of Catuaba, which was emphasized across multiple studies, was its effect on the reduction of anxiety. Additionally, other plant species exhibited similar biological activities to that of Catuaba (13).
Researchers conducted this study to explore the main reasons for the need for pharmaceutical alternatives to treat depression. As the experimental group was administered varying strengths of Catuaba, the researchers were able to identify how different strengths of Catuaba were expressed. It was found out that the T. catigua extracts (Catuaba) exerted some antidepressant-like effects as well as anti-immobility activity. It was recognized that this activity was attributed to monoamine reuptake and release in the synaptosomal preparations caused by the extract. The T. catigua was also found to inhibit the uptake and increase serotonin release, each leading to different effects. One of which exhibited such actions similar to that which relates to a dopamine-mediated antidepressant-like activity. From this observance, it was recognized that Catuaba has the potential in the management of anxiety (3).
Catuaba Possibly Increases Energy:
Apart from the study's review mentioned above, the authors also considered comparing the chemical composition, the antioxidant properties, and the anticholinesterase activity of four different polarities extracts from T. catigua. The barks' properties were observed to play an essential role in reducing fatigue, stress, and improve memory. Other compounds found to be associated with the Catuaba bark are Cinchonain IIa, Ia, and Ib. Antioxidant and anticholinesterase activity was observed in each of the extracts. Based on the statistical findings and composition, the hydroalcoholic type of extract was found to exert stronger anti-fatigue activity (3).
In this review article, researchers explored the role of medicinal plants on human health. Important health benefits such as trypanocidal, antibacterial, antioxidant, antidepressant, improvement of memory, anti-inflammatory, and antinociceptive activities were shown by the study to be expressed through the use of Catuaba. Additionally, there was another effect associated with Catuaba, a photo-cosmetic activity for a role in cellulite treatment and anti-aging. It was observed from various literature reviews that the Catuaba plant's extracts had been found to play a vital role in the management of fatigue (2).
In a relatively recent study, researchers provided an ethnobotanical review of Trichilia catigua to identify and review some of the more important health benefits associated with the plant extracts. Their approach was to compile the plants' relevant information from the botanical and chemical constituent point of view. This compilation indicated that T.catigua is considered an important herbal medicine with uses in the treatment of fatigue as well as stress. Several pathways that were noted to be linked with the noted effects, which the author supported based on the various methodologies utilized, further indicated that there is a need for more human clinical trials to adequately understand the plant's activities as it relates to fatigue, stress and other associated ailments (13).
A study looked at the various pharmacological aspects of Trichilia catigua (Meliaceae), which is also known as a species of Catuaba. Researchers attempted to uncover the mystery regarding the use of the herb extract on the management of fatigue, stress, impotence, and memory deficit. The important phytochemical compounds identified in the barks of T. catigua are flavalignans, flavan-3-ols, and flavonoids. These particular compounds were explored because they have been linked with antioxidant activity. Several preclinical studies with T. catigua extracts have identified many pharmacological-associated properties such as anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antinociceptive, pro-memory neuroprotection against ischemia, and oxidative stress. The researchers aimed to compare the chemical composition and the antioxidant and anticholinesterase activity of the extract in vitro. This was created by using four different polarity extracts of the T. catigua. That which seemed to be the most active form was selected and measured for proper analysis. It was then discovered that cinchonain IIa, Ia, and Ib were found in all extracts, but that which contained procyanidins was detected only in the hydroalcoholic extract. The antioxidant and anticholinesterase activities were significantly noted in the extract form; potency increased with the hydroalcoholic extract. The researchers observed that hydroalcoholic extract is the most suitable plant extract from the observed data, partially supporting the use of T. catigua as an anti-fatigue drug (10).
Catuaba Possibly Supports Brain Health:
A research team explored the antioxidative properties of T. catigua with regard to its potential activity against memory loss. This study was based on the understanding of the contribution of oxidative stress on brain damage, especially when associated with ischemic-reperfusion. The idea of the presence of natural antioxidants in plants contributes to the motivation for this study. The authors highlighted the neuroprotective effects of the agents on the brain. This animal study was based on an approach that reviewed the 2-hr oxygen and glucose deprivation (OGD) followed by 1-hr of reperfusion. It was found that the ischemic-reperfusion (I/R) significantly decreased mitochondrial viability, increasing dichlorofluorescein oxidation above the control. However, the effects of T. catigua (40–100 μg/mL) were noticed concerning its protection from the harmful effects of OGD. The oxidative stresses in the medium tested was also determined under different conditions to evaluate the antioxidative features of the T. catigua. However, it was found that T.catigua cannot protect slices from I/R when it was added to the medium after ischemic insult. The authors then concluded that T.catigua possesses antioxidative features that could potentially help prevent oxidative-induced brain damage but not cure it (8).
In an animal study, researchers reviewed the ethyl-acetate fraction (EAF) of Trichilia catigua extracts to prevent memory impairment in mice. This particular study was focused on water maze learning and hippocampal neurodegeneration after an induced transient global cerebral (TGCI). Some of the earlier published studies were extended further to uncover the role of T.catigua against memory impairment. The previous studies had helped identify the major functions of the plant extracts, especially with regard to memory. It was stated that T.catigua offers: prevention of the loss of long-term retrograde memory, confers hippocampal and cortical neuroprotection, and mitigates oxidative stress and neuroinflammation. The EAF extract was administered via an oral route. This was done 30 minutes before the provided TGCI, along with 1 hr following the TGCI. Subjects were additionally placed on a continuous single dose per day for seven days post-ischemic inducement. The protein carbonylation and myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity were analyzed and reviewed, respectively. The researchers found that ischemia caused persistent retrograde amnesia, which was prevented by the administration of T. catigua. This study further supported the memory protective abilities of the T. catigua in terms of preserving the present state and mitigating against further degeneration (7).
Catuaba Possibly has Antimicrobial Properties:
A review was published on the antimicrobial activities of Catuaba. The alkaline extracts of the Catuaba are considered antimicrobial agents against several types of infections. The most common susceptible ones are Escherichia coli and staphylococcus aureus. The extract was also linked with a significant inhibitory activity of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) via induced cytopathic effects or the expression of HIV antigen in humans infected with the lymphotropic virus type positive MT-4 cells. The study also linked this with a form of HIV adsorption to the cells; hence, it is considered to be of medicinal value for several forms of opportunistic infectious microbials (9).
In another review article, researchers explored dimeric glycosylated flavan-3-ol and the potential antimicrobial activity of Trichilia catigua extract in an in vitro model. The study aimed to isolate and characterize active compounds from T. catigua to determine their potency and the efficacy of activity. The extracts were purified from a semipurified fraction of T. catigua bark. This method was conducted to analyze the microbiological activities against bacteria or fungi. The study showed significant antimicrobial activity from the extracts, especially against Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus faecium. As a result of the findings, it was suggested that T. catigua has the potential to be utilized as an adjuvant to treatment against certain microbials. Additionally, it has the potential as a component within developing antimicrobial drugs (11).
In this study, researchers published a paper reviewing various medicinal plants in Brazil that have historically been noted to possess antimicrobial activities. Ethanol extracts from six selected species were isolated and reviewed. The extracts were further screened for their actions against fungi and bacteria. Six control fungal strains and five Gram-positive control strains were reviewed, respectively. All six reviewed plants, including T. catigua, were found to show some level of antimicrobial property against bacterial and fungal microorganisms. The authors concluded from these findings that the tested plant species have medicinal, antimicrobial effects and have the potential to be utilized traditionally as medicinal plants for managing various forms of infection (5).
Catauba Possibly Supports Men's Reproductive Health:
In this study, researchers explored the use of multi-ingredient herbal supplements for erectile dysfunction. The safety and efficacy of VigRX Plus (VXP), which is a type of proprietary polyherbal preparation for targeting males with sexual dysfunction, was reviewed in a randomized multi-center study. Catuaba was found to be one of the main active constituents of VigRX. From the observed data in this study, it was found that Vig RX plus is well tolerated and effective in its ability to improve erectile dysfunction in men (4).
A research team explored the common herbs used in the treatment of Erectile dysfunction. Several formulations were reviewed. Their aphrodisiac features were discussed to help researchers create a better more effective formulation. This literature review further supported the medicinal quality of Catuaba as one of the most active herbal supplements used in managing erectile dysfunction (1).
There is limited research on Catuaba's ability to interact with other medications, including alcohol. Therefore, it is advised to consult your healthcare provider before supplementing with Catuaba if you are currently taking any prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs (12).
Catuaba is often safe for use in most available formulations when consumed in standard dosages recommended by your healthcare provider. The known side effects of Catuaba, when taken at various doses, have not been adequately studied. However, those sensitive to the herb or those consuming it in potentially large doses should be aware that it may trigger some of the following side effects: headaches, dizziness, and excessive sweating. A particular formulation used in treating erectile dysfunction has also been found to cause nausea, rapid heart rate, irritability, or prolonged and painful erections (15).
At this time, there is limited, inconclusive research on the safety and toxicity of Catuaba.
Due to this lack of adequate research, it is advised that pregnant women or those seeking to get pregnant not consume Catuaba as the infantile effects are currently unknown (14). In one study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers reported that a Catuaba extract has impaired fertility in female rats (20).
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Campos MM, et al. Antidepressant-like effects of Trichilia catigua (Catuaba) extract: evidence for dopaminergic-mediated mechanisms. Psychopharmacology. 2005;182(1):45-53.
Shah GR, et al. Evaluation of a multi-herb supplement for erectile dysfunction: a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study. BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine. 2012;12:155.
Violante IMP, et al. Antimicrobial activity of some medicinal plants from the cerrado of the central-western region of Brazil. Brazillian Journal of Microbiology. 2012;43(4).
Chassot JM, et al. Preclinical evaluation of Trichilia catigua extracts on the central nervous system of mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2011;137(3): 1143-1148.
Godinho J, et al. Ethyl-acetate fraction of Trichilia catigua restores long-term retrograde memory and reduces oxidative stress and inflammation after global cerebral ischemia in rats. Behavioural Brain Research. 2018;337: 173-182.
Kamdem JP, et al. Catuaba (Trichilia catigua) Prevents Against Oxidative Damage Induced by In Vitro Ischemia–Reperfusion in Rat Hippocampal Slices. Neurochemical Research. 2012;37: 2826-2835.
Manabe H, et al. Effects of Catuaba extracts on microbial and HIV infection. In Vivo. 1992;6(2): 161-165.
Martins NO, et al. Antioxidant, anticholinesterase and anti-fatigue effects of Trichilia catigua (catuaba). BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2018;18: 172. doi: 10.1186/s12906-018-2222-9
Ritter MR, et al. Dimeric glycosylated flavan-3-ol and antimicrobial in vitro evaluation of Trichilia catigua extracts. Nat Prod Res. 2019. DOI: 10.1080/14786419.2019.1698569
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Dos Santos AH, Ramos AC, Silveira KM, et al. The Exposure to Trichilia catigua (Catuaba) Crude Extract Impairs Fertility of Adult Female Rats but Does Not Cause Reproductive Damage to Male Offspring. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2015;166: 89-91.