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.

Folk Names

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

Maleque 1988,219).


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

Plowman 1984,24*).

Psychoactive Material

- Leaves (djambu leaves, djambu folium, folia


- Bark

- 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).

Ritual Use

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*).

NoneMedicinal Use

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

(Pahlow 1993,437*).


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

(1-4): 74-76.

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

Ethnopharmacology 37:151-57.

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.

Phytochemistry 13:2015-16.

Seshadri, T. R, and K. Vasishta. 1965. Polyphenols of

the leaves of Psidium guajava-quercetin,

guaijaverin, leucocyanidin and amritsoside.

Phytochemistry 4:989-92.

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