General and Genetic Toxicology of Guayusa Concentrate (Ilex guayusa)

Int J Toxicol. Mar-Apr 2016;35(2):222-42. doi: 10.1177/1091581815625594. Epub 2016 Jan 25.


Tea from the leaves of guayusa (Ilex guayusa) has a long history of consumption by Ecuadorian natives in regions where the plant is indigenous. The tea contains the methylxanthines caffeine and theobromine as well as chlorogenic acids, flavonoids, and sugars. Various studies were performed to evaluate the general and genetic toxicology of a standardized liquid concentrate of guayusa (GC). Guayusa concentrate was found to be negative in in vitro genotoxicity tests including the Ames test and a chromosome aberration study in human lymphocytes. The oral median lethal dose (LD50) of GC was >5,000 mg/kg for female rats. Guayusa concentrate was administered to male and female rats in a 90-day subchronic study at 1,200, 2,500, and 5,000 mg/kg/d of GC and a caffeine-positive control at 150 mg/kg/d corresponding to the amount of caffeine in the high-dose GC group. Effects observed in the GC-treated groups were comparable to those in the caffeine control group and included reductions in body weights, food efficiency, triglycerides values, and fat pad weights and increases in blood chemistry values for serum aspartate aminotransferase, serum alanine aminotransferase, and cholesterol and adaptive salivary gland hypertrophy. No signs of incremental toxicity due to any other components of guayusa were observed. The studies indicate no harmful effects of GC in these test systems.

Keywords: caffeine; genotoxicity; guayusa (Ilex guayusa); methylxanthines; safety toxicology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ilex guayusa / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Mutagenicity Tests*
  • Plant Extracts / toxicity*
  • Rats


  • Plant Extracts