I know that many people eat, and in particular eat carbs, to cope with negative emotions, so I thought it might be helpful to share a personal experience with you. That Nice Boy I Married was having some problems with anxiety. There are, of course, some very effective anti-anxiety medications available, Xanax being the best known. Unfortunately, these medications are among the most addictive and most abused drugs available today. We wanted something a little less hazardous. After all, what good is an anti-anxiety medication if the idea of using it makes you anxious -- at least when you're not under the influence?

Inositol, usually classed with the B vitamins, has a reputation for helping with anxiety, so we added some to TNBIM's vitamin regimen. But I kept on doing my research, and learned about catuaba, a South American herb with two distinctly different uses: It has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, but also a strong reputation as an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety drug).

Oddly enough, along with the dual uses, catuaba has a split personality. There are two different Brazilian trees, commonly referred to as "big catuaba" and "small catuaba," that are used interchangeably. The two species are known as Erythroxylum catuaba and Trichilia catigua. They are related, and in turn are both related to the coca plant, though they contain no cocaine.

Since there appear to be no adverse side effects associated with catuaba -- and certainly it appears safer than the benzodiazapene drugs -- we decided to try it. Capsules of catuaba were expensive at our local health food store, so we bought some bark, and I made a catuaba infusion -- a water extract, like tea. Unfortunately, it was utterly horrible-tasting, and That Nice Boy I Married found it hard to choke down enough of it to make a difference. Since I'd read that an alcohol-based tincture was actually more effective, I thought I'd try that, instead.

I found an inexpensive source of shredded catuaba bark, specifically the Trichilia catigua, and ordered a pound of the stuff for a big $8. I made a tincture thusly: I took a clean peanut butter jar -- I used glass -- and filled it with the shredded bark. I then also filled the jar with cheap vodka. I put on the lid, put the whole thing in an old coffee can, since I'd seen instructions to keep the brewing tincture in a dark place, and left it there for three weeks or so, shaking it whenever I thought of it. Then I strained it, and let TNBIM try it.

It was as foul tasting as the water infusion, but since it was stronger, it took considerably less of the stuff to do the trick. He takes 1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) in a little water -- just a swallow or so -- whenever he feels he needs it. He finds the catuaba to be very effective for anxiety; he generally feels calmer with 15 or 20 minutes. This jibes with the information I have found online, that the stuff works very quickly. It seems unlikely that 1 1/2 teaspoons of vodka would be enough to do the trick, so we attribute the success of the tincture to the catuaba.

I haven't tried the catuaba tincture yet, not being as anxiety-prone as TNBIM. But you can bet that the next time I'm flipping out with stress I will be giving it a shot. (Well, less than a shot. A shot is about three tablespoons. But you know what I mean.)

Do with this information what you will.

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It helped me tremendously through all my births and both of my husband’s heart attacks. You can find it at most health food store. It’s not that expensive and it taste pretty good too.


I just read up some on this catuaba and I believe I will be placing an order for some soon, as I tend to have anxiety and depression issues myself. But I'm curious, have you noticed it being an aphrodisiac as well?

What?? I'm curious! =)

Interesting, but not covenient :(

I've got some anxiety problems myself and would like to stop taking prescriptions for it. This information is very interesting, but when I infrequently find myself in a panic I'm away from home and a pill is much easier to travel with.

Is the idea that regularly taking the tincture will eliminate anxiety or just provide relief for the moment?

I think I'll look into the lithium mentioned in another comment here.

Thanks for the excellent blog!

On the Go

The catuaba is for symptomatic relief. I consider the lithium worth a try, and it's not expensive.

Catuaba is available in capsule form, but I don't know if it's as effective as the tincture seems to be. I suppose you could get a dropper bottle of tincture and carry it in a purse or brief case. Just a thought.

Relief for the moment

I've found that it's a situational thing -- that is, I take it when feeling twitchy, but the effect is not long-lasting or cumulative. Kava kava is another one I've used to good effect, but there may be some side effects, if I recall. Dana would have a better idea on that....

How about Lithium?

Thanks for posting this info. Have you heard of supplemental lithium (lithium Orotate) for anxiety? I too am a research hound (though not as thorough as you are) and I'd been reading that because of refined salt and depleted soil people can develop a deficiency in Lithium. Prescription Lithium (Lithium Carbonate) is in the 100's of mgs, whereas supplemental Lithium is usually in 5mg tablets. My husband suffers from anxiety and intermittent mood swings so I bought some and he's been taking a 5mg tablet a day for the past week (some people take as many as 8 a day). Just that one tablet a day made a big difference. He is much calmer now, but not in a drug-induced way. He is still very much himself, but much more emotionally even.

I tried taking it, and all it did was give me weird dreams all night. He hasn't had that effect - I asked him this morning and he said "Actually the opposite. I haven't had any bad dreams since taking it, now that I think about it." (This is a definite improvement as he usually has anxiety-ridden dreams nearly every night.)

At any rate, it's probably not as bad tasting as the catuaba you've described. :-)


I'd heard good things about lithium orotate, too, and we have taken it off and on, but for TNBIM it wasn't as effective as the catuaba. Glad it works for your husband!


How about trying Motherwort Tincture. It's easily available and very effective. My husband even uses it.

Susan Weed, an wonderful herbalist writes:
" Motherwort tincture is my favorite calmative. It is not sleep inducing nor mind numbing. A dose of 10-20 drops can safely be taken as often as every ten minutes, if needed, to calm and soothe sore spirits. "Like sitting in my mother's lap," one satisfied user commented. Motherwort tea tastes terrible and is not very effective; likewise the capsules are not useful. Motherwort tincture can be taken every day if you wish, but you will find that you don't need it as you have used it for a while."


Interesting. I'll read more about that!