Date of Graduation

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Adrienne Johnson

Second Advisor

Michael Stanfield


Guayusa, a tree used for its leaves, that when dried, boiled, and consumed in tea form, acts as a natural stimulant due to its high levels of caffeine. Initially used among Kichwa people, the plant is thought to be a panacea with abilities to heal health complications such as infertility, headaches, and nausea. In addition, the Kichwa community holds an incredibly strong ritualistic and cultural connection to the tea. Guayusa is said to connect the person and community to the dream world through the process of gathering in the early hours of the morning to drink the tea, and decipher the meanings of the dreams dreamt the night before in order to guide their daily decisions. In recent times, the Kichwa community has begun to engage in commercial practices by selling harvested guayusa leaves in the hopes of steadying a new form of income. Global demand for the plant has significantly increased as countries in the global north have discovered its medicinal properties. As the commodification of guayusa grows, correspondingly so do its socio-environmental impacts on indigenous communities and livelihoods. A mixed methods study was conducted to determine what impacts the commodification of guayusa has had on the economic, social, and cultural aspects of Kichwa indigenous livelihoods in the Ecuadorian Amazon. After this analysis, results showed that guayusa commodification had multifaceted effects and presented itself in increased exclusivity, changes in cultural consumption, resistance of commodification and lack of support and broken promises.