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Myrtaceae (Myrtle Family)
Forms and Subspecies
There are a number of wild forms and cultivars,
which differ primarily in the size of their fruits
(Lutterodt and Maleque 1988,219).
Psidium guajava Raddi
Psidium pamiferum 1.
Psidium pyriferum 1.
Aci'huit, ah pichib, al-pil-ca (Chontal), araza,
a'sihui't (Totonac), asiuit, asiwit, bec (Huastec),
bek, bijui (Zapotec), bimpish (Shipibo-Conibo),
bui, ca'aru (Coya), caru, chak-pichi (Mayan, "red
guava"), chalx6cotl (Aztec), coloc, cuympatan,
djambubaum, enandi (Tarascan), gouyave, guabesbaum,
guaibasim (Mayo), guajavabaum, guajava
tree, guajave, guajave-apfel, guava,281 guave,
guavenbaum, guayaba, guayaba dulce, guayaba
manzana, guayaba perulera, guayabilla, guayabilla
cimarrona, guayabo, guayabo colorado, guayabo
del monte, guayabo de venado, guayabo morada,
guayavabaum, guyav, huayabo, jaljocote pichi,
jalocote, jukoin papoxtiks, julu, kautonga, kolok,
kuava, ku'ava, kuawa (Hawaiian), kuma (Siona),
lacow (Huave), mo'eyi (Cuitlatec), ngoaba (Fang),
iii-joh (Chinantec), nulu (Cuna), pachi', palo de
guayabo blanco, pata (Tzotzil), patan, pehui
(Zapotec), pichi, pichi' (Mayan), pichib, pici,
pitchcuy, pocs-cuy (Zoque), pojosh (Popoluca),
posh-keip (Mixe), potoj, potos, pox (Mixe), poxr,
puita, sacpichi, sahuintu, saiyli, sumbadan (Zoque),
tuava, tzon t kichi (Amuzgo), ushca-aru (Tepehuano),
vayevavaxi-te (Huichol), VI papalagi, xalacotl
(Nahuatl), xalcolotl, xalx6cotl, xaxokotl,
xaxucotl (Nahutl), xoxococuabitl (Aztec), yagahuii
The plant was originally native from Mexico to
Brazil but is now grown throughout the world as a
tropical economic plant (Anzeneder et al. 1993,
59*). In Peru, it was already in cultivation by the
eighth century B.C.E. (Root 1996,105*). The first
report about the guava tree is contained in Relaci6n
de las casas de Yucatan, written by the Franciscan
monk Diego de Landa (1524-1579). One of the
earliest botanical descriptions of the tree as well as
a copperplate engraving of the fruits were
provided by the East Indies traveler George
Meister (1677). The chewing of the leaves as a narcotic and diarrhea medicine is well known in
the tropics. In contrast, the psychoactive use of the
leaves was only recently discovered in Ghana
(Lutterodt and Maleque 1988, 220).
The guava tree is apparently originally from
Mexico but is now found in all of the tropical
zones from Mexico to Peru (Dressler 1953, 154*).
It also is planted in other parts of South America
(Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina), where it sometimes
occurs as a wild or feral plant (Santos Biloni 1990,
222*). It prefers a distinctly tropical climate and
has spread throughout the world (Africa, Oceania,
Southeast Asia, India).
Propagation occurs through cuttings or seeds. In
nature, the seeds are spread by birds, bats, rodents,
and humans. The seeds contained in the fruits
pass through the digestive tract without harm and
are excreted "well fertilized" (Lutterodt and
The small, gnarled evergreen tree, which does not
grow much taller than 10 meters, has squamous
bark and opposite elliptical leaves (5 to 15 cm
long, 3 to 6 cm wide). The large white flowers have
five petals and have a large number of stamens (up
to 275). The fruits (approximately 7.5 cm in
length) are initially green but turn yellow and
exude a fruity aroma as they mature. The fruits of
the wild form contain a great number of seeds and
only a. little pulp. This situation is reversed in
cultivated fruit trees, which develop only a few
seeds while producing a great deal of pulp
(Lutterodt and Maleque 1988,219 f.).
The guava tree is easily confused with Psidium
acutangulum DC., which also is called guayaba
and cultivated for its edible fruits (Vickers and
- Leaves (djambu leaves, djambu folium, folia
- Root cortex
Preparation and Dosage
The fresh leaves are chewed or drunk as a decoction
as needed. Overdoses do not appear to occur.
In Southeast Asia, and especially in China, a
narcotic Psidium drug is obtained in a very
unusual manner. The fresh leaves are fed to insects (walking sticks, praying mantises, especially
Hepteropteryx dilata) as their exclusive food. The
dung the insects excrete is collected, kneaded into
small balls, dried, and stored in an airtight
container. When needed, some of these balls are
dissolved in hot water and drunk. The winecolored
drink is said to have a «pleasant taste"
(Lutterodt 1992, 156).
Use of the leaves as a psychoactive substance was
first observed among the Ga tribes who live near
the coast in Ghana. They chew the fresh leaves. It
has not been reported whether ritual customs
(e.g., communal chewing as a socially integrative
element, magical acts, healing ceremonies) are
associated with this use. The Ga say that the
chewed leaves exert a depressing effect upon the
central nervous system that is useful in cases of
sleeplessness, and that the leaves also suppress the
effects of alcohol (Lutterodt and Maleque 1988,
In the Philippines, the bark is chewed in betel
quids as a substitute for areca nuts (Areca catechu)(Hartwich 1911,529*).
In many traditional medicine systems, the leaves
are used as an analgesic, a neuroleptic, and an
agent for treating diarrhea (including that caused
by cholera) (Lutterodt 1992, 151). However, folk
medical knowledge of the beneficial effects of the
leaves as a diarrhea medicine (which have been
pharmacologically confirmed) is not as widespread
as one might assume (Lutterodt 1992, 155).
In Hawaii, the fresh young leaves are chewed
and swallowed to treat diarrhea (Krauss 1981,
24*). An infusion of the leaves is used for the same
purpose in Trinidad (Wong 1976, 133*).
The Yucatec Maya drink a decoction made
from the bark or the leaves to treat diarrhea
(Pulido S. and Serralta P. 1993, 46*). In Belize, a
tea made from the leaves is gargled to treat mouth
sores and bleeding gums. A decoction of nine leaves and nine young fruits (boiled for twenty
minutes) is drunk three times daily before meals
in cases of diarrhea, dysentery, upset stomach, and
colds (Arvigo and Balick 1994, 121 *).
In South America, teas made from the leaves
are drunk to treat digestive disorders (Anzeneder
et al. 1993, 59*). In Chile and Peru, the leaves are
chewed to strengthen the teeth (Schultes 1980,
110*). In Panama, the leaves are chewed for
toothaches (Lutterodt and Maleque 1988,220).
The Fang of central Africa use the leaves to
make an anthelmintic juice (Akendengue 1992,
169*). In Samoa, the leaves are used as a cough
medicine and as an antidote for all types of
poisonings (Uhe 1974,22*).
The leaves contain some 10% tannin, f3-sitosterol,
maslenic acid, guaijavolic acid, essential oil
(chiefly caryophyllene, along with f3-bisabolene,
aromadendrene, f3-selinene, nerolidiol, caryophyllene
oxide, sel-11-en-4a-ol, and eugenol),
triterpenoids (oleanolic, ursolic, crategolic, and
guaijavolic acids) ,282 a quercetin derivative,
guaijaverin (= 3-a-I-arabopyranoside), and
several unidentified substances (Argueta et al.
1994, 711 *; Lutterodt and Maleque 1988, 220;
Wong 1976, 133*). The glycoside quercetin283 and
its derivative (quercetin-3-arabinoside) are
regarded as the primary active constituents
(responsible for the narcotic effects) (Lutterodt
and Maleque 1988,229).
In an earlier study, guava leaves were found to
contain the polyphenols quercetin, guaijaverin,
leucocyanidin, and amritsoside (Seshadri and
Vashishta 1965). Opiates (opium alkaloids) and
cannabinoids (cf. THe) have not been detected
(Lutterodt 1992, 152).
The fruit contains large amounts of vitamins
(A, B, C), about two to three times as much as an
orange (Arvigo and Balick 1994, 121*).
Animal experiments using a leaf extract demonstrated
a distinct morphinelike effect as a result of
inhibition of acetylcholine release (cf. morphine).
This effect was likely produced by the quercetin
contained in the leaves (Lutterodt 1989 and 1992,
152). The active constituent does not appear to
bind to the opioid receptors and is not thought to
have any «addictive potential" (Lutterodt and
Maleque 1988, 225). Toxic effects and overdoses
are unknown (Argueta et al. 1994, 711 *).
A hot-water extract of dried leaves has
antibacterial effects upon Sarcina lutea, Staphylococcus
aureus, and Mycobacterium phlei. An
aqueous extract of the fresh leaves has fungicidal
effects (Arvigo and Balick 1994, 121*).
Commercial Forms and Regulations
Guava leaves are sometimes found as ingredients
in tea mixtures (stomach teas) sold in pharmacies
Brieskorn, Carl Heinz, Klaus Miinzhuber, and
Gerhard Unger. 1975. Crataegolsaure und
Steroidglukoside aus Bliitenknospen von
Syzygium aromaticum. Phytochemistry 14:2308-9.
Cheng, J. T., and R. S. Yang. 1983. Hypoglycemic
effects of guava juice in mice and human
subjects. American Journal ofChinese Medicine 11
Khadem, H. el-, and Y. S. Mohammed. 1958.
Constituents of the leaves of Psidium guajava. II:
Quercetin, avicularin and guaijaverin. Journal of
the Chemical Society (London): 3320-23.
Lutterodt, George D. 1989. Inhibition of
gastrointestinal release of acetylcholine by ethnoquercetin
as a possible mode of action of Psidium
guajava leaf extracts in the treatment of acute
diarrhoeal disease. Journal ofEthnopharmacology
---.1992. Inhibition of Microlax*-induced
experimental diarrhoea with narcotic-like
extracts of Psidium guajava leaf in rats. Journal of
Lutterodt, George D., and Abdul Maleque. 1988.
Effects on mice locomotor activity of a narcoticlike
principle from Psidium guajava leaves.
Journal ofEthnopharmacology 24:219-31.
Osman, A. M., M. E. Younes, and A. E. Sheta. 1974.
Triterpenoids of the leaves of Psidium guajava.
Seshadri, T. R, and K. Vasishta. 1965. Polyphenols of
the leaves of Psidium guajava-quercetin,
guaijaverin, leucocyanidin and amritsoside.Phytochemistry 4:989-92.