Citation: Hypersphere . "Two Kinds: An Experience with Catuaba (exp99232)". Erowid.org. Nov 5, 2020. erowid.org/exp/99232
Two Kinds of Catuaba
I am submitting this report to clear up some confusion regarding catuaba bark. There are two distinct species being sold as catuaba, and although there are some similarities, I find they are also different plants with different effects. I have worked directly with both species, so I will try to compare and contrast them here.
Subject & Background: Male, 28 years old and 125 pounds. I have a background in herbal medicine and ethnobotany and have experimented with a wide range of psychoactive plants. Usually a daily drinker of yerba mate and smoker of Cannabis. To fairly judge the effects, each type of catuaba was sampled on a separate day and other substances were avoided on that day.
The first species of interest is Erythroxylum catuaba (“small catuaba”). This plant is in the coca family (Erythroxylaceae). The second species is Trichilia catigua (“big catuaba”), which is in the Meliaceae family. It is worth emailing your vendor and asking them specifically which species they have, as they are often sold interchangeably. I have personally found that Trichilia catigua is far more commonly available than Erythroxylum catuaba. The only sources I have found for Erythroxylum catuaba is wild harvested material coming from Brazil. Since these species are sold interchangeably, many vendors do not distinguish them unless you contact them and specifically ask which species they have.
I’ll start with small catuaba (Erythroxylum catuaba):
Appearance: A reddish-brown powdered bark (I have only found it in powdered form). It has a mild scent, to me it smells a little bit like licorice but not as strong. Tasting the powder, it is quite bitter and also has a mild taste reminiscent of licorice.
Dose: 1-3 teaspoons of the powdered bark is a good dose for me. I weighed it out, with the spoon I am using I get about 2.5 grams per spoon, so I’ll put the dose range here as 2.5-7.5 grams.
Preparation: I decoct the bark in water at a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes. I can get 2-3 steepings before it is exhausted.
Effects of a 5 gram dose, decocted in water as described above:
The tea comes out red-orange, like hibiscus flower tea, and with an oily sheen on top. The taste is refreshing, and reminds me a little of homemade coca cola (the real stuff, made by boiling kola nut with coca leaf). It is bitter, so I like to add a small spoonful of honey to sweeten it. Like coca tea, small catuaba causes some numbing of the mouth and throat when I drink it (there is no cocaine in small catuaba, but perhaps some of the other alkaloids cause this numbing effect?).
Small catuaba I find to be stimulating. Within minutes, I start to notice an increase in energy levels and find myself more awake and alert than before. If I drink a lot of the tea quickly, I can even get a little bit jittery from it, feeling the need to move around more and having “butterflies” in my stomach. The stimulation is different than coca (I actually find coca less stimulating in the body, but with a stronger mental aspect, almost a mild trance state). Probably the closest stimulating herb I could compare it to is Ephedra sinensis (Ma Huang). The feeling of tingly energy in my body is very similar to a light dose of Ma Huang. I also notice a mild increase in heart rate.
Mentally, I find my mind feels clearer, and thoughts flow easily. There is a slight mood lift, I wouldn’t call it euphoric, but I am a little more perky and cheerful than before. Small catuaba also gives me a great feeling of strength and vitality, like I could run really fast or lift heavy objects easily. It is a particularly useful herb to have on days when I wake up tired and lazy.
I have used the tea also when I have a head cold – it gives me energy to make it through the day, and the numbing qualities can sooth a sore throat or cough. Small catuaba seems to open up the respiratory tract, and I feel like I can breathe easier. I would consider it to be an adaptogen (a herb that helps the body adapt to stressful or changing conditions).
Small catuaba has a well deserved reputation as an aphrodisiac. I find it to be a sensory enhancer – after drinking the tea, my skin gets all buzzy and tingly (a mild body high) and my sense of touch is heightened, which can be a nice enhancement for intimacy. Small catuaba also seems to enhance blood flow to the genitals. What I do find, is that after drinking small catuaba I get aroused easier, and have more frequent spontaneous erections. The effect on erections seems long lasting, if I drink catuaba tea in the morning, I often wake up in the middle of the following night with a raging hard on. It is funny because usually I am not even having a sexual dream.
The main stimulating effects from drinking small catuaba last for 3-4 hours
The main stimulating effects from drinking small catuaba last for 3-4 hours
(longer than coca), although there is a long residual effect. As I mentioned earlier, the ease of getting an erection seems to persist for several more hours.
Now let’s look at big catuaba (Trichilia catigua):
Appearance: A reddish brown bark. I have usually seen it in the form of shredded slivers of bark. It has a mild root-beer like scent that reminds me of sarsaparilla (Smilax sp.) or of Sassafras bark (though not as strong smelling as Sassafras!). The bark is not as bitter tasting as small catuaba, but it is more tannic (gives me an astringent, dried out mouth feeling similar to drinking a tannin heavy red wine).
Dose: I usually make a tea from one or two small handfuls of the shredded bark slivers, as much as I can pick up between my thumb and three fingers. Weighing this out, one small handful for me is about 7 grams, so I’ll put the dose range here as 7-14 grams.
Preparation: Same as above, I decoct the bark in water at a gentle simmer for about 15 minutes, and can get 2-3 steepings done this way.
Effects of a 14 gram dose, decocted in water:
The tea comes out a deep red-brown colour. Upon tasting it is quite astringent (makes my mouth dry and puckered feeling) due to the tannin content. I add some honey to sweeten. Unlike small catuaba, big catuaba does not numb my mouth and throat. It has almost a hint of spice, like cinnamon, in the flavour.
The psychoactive effects are different also. Unlike small catuaba, big catuaba is not particularly stimulating. Instead, it has a mild relaxing quality. I consider this herb to be one of the best nervines, and it is great for treating anxiety and other nervous conditions. The main effect I notice is on my mood, big catuaba is a fantastic mood balancer. I find it to be a “feel good” herb and it can be mildly euphoric. It’s not an overt psychoactive quality, I just notice my mood improves a lot after drinking the tea. If I am in am in a shitty mood or feeling slightly depressed, big catuaba tea really helps bring me back up. Sometimes it feels like I have a piece of the sun, shining within my chest, and I can’t help but smile. Compared to other nervine herbs like kava kava or holy basil, big catuaba is not as sedative. This makes it useful for social situations or going about my day-to-day activities. A lot of nervines can make me sleepy, but big catuaba is very soothing to anxiety without causing sleepiness.
As with Erythroxylum catuaba, I find it to be a sensory enhancer. It makes me feel warm all over, and sense of touch is enhanced. As an erotic enhancer, I think it’s main value is the relaxing quality and heightening of the sense of touch. Being relaxed really helps to get “in the mood” I find. In this way I would compare it to blue lotus (Nymphaea rubra), because it is mildly euphoric, a sensory enhancer, and relaxing.
It is hard to say exactly how long the effects of big catuaba last, because it is a subtle effect to begin with. I would say that the main effects last about 4-5 hours. There are no after effects that I have noticed. As with small catuaba, big catuaba has adaptogenic qualities and seems to help me adjust to stressful environmental conditions.
Small catuaba (Erythroxylum catuaba) is primarily a stimulating herb that gives a mild mood lift. As an aphrodisiac, it seems to promote blood flow to the genitals.
Big catuaba (Trichilia catigua)is primarily a nervine herb that has a strong mood balancing and uplifting quality. As an aphrodisiac, I find it helpful mainly in that it is a relaxing 'feel good' plant that helps me get in the mood.
Both species enhance sensations, especially the sense of touch.
I enjoy both herbs thoroughly.
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