Photos courtesy of Runa
Energy drinks are generally what you try to keep your little brother from ingesting too much of, to stop him from playing Metal Gear Solid for 176 hours straight and going into irreversible sugar shock. But what if it was possible to buzz your way to untold levels of productivity and spiritual awakening, and not have to worry about your left leg twitching like a dying lizard?
And so it is with Runa, the new energy drink popping with anti-oxidant magnificence and metaphysical revelation. It was founded by New Yorkers Dan MacCombie and Tyler Gage, after their discovery of the seemingly magic elixir guayusa on a post-college trip to the Amazon; each had their own Damascus moment amongst the inimitable Kichwa people of Ecuador.
The drink has acquired a cultish devotion, with scores of serious athletes (soccer star A.J. Soares, Olympic skier Andrew Newell, wakeboarder Darin Shapiro, etc.) having joined a sort of unofficial “Runa Tribe”. But most notably, actor Channing Tatum became a fan and an investor (Runa should come in handy as he tackles the role of Gambit in the 2016 film X-Men: Apocalypse.) He eventually accompanied Gage and MacCombie to the Amazon, to experience the guayusa lifestyle in situ.
How did you first discover guayusa and its powers?
Dan MacCombie: Tyler first drank it [while] working with communities in the Amazon rainforest. When he shared how powerful the guayusa experience and ceremony had been for him, we realized we could partner with the Kichwa people in Ecuador and bring it to the world. They have an old saying there, that once you try guayusa and experience the rainforest, you’ll never truly leave.
Channing Tatum: Before the trip to Ecuador, guayusa was just something that my business partner Reid and I drank on a daily basis to get through our work day, to help us focus and give us energy. Ultimately that’s how we found our way to Runa, and what these guys are doing down in the Amazon.
What is the real “wow” factor of Runa? What sets it apart from other energy sources?
DM: It’s the power of the guayusa super leaf that really sets us apart. Guayusa and Runa give you clean-feeling energy with a remarkably smooth taste, twice the antioxidants of green tea, and low or zero calories. We like to say that all our products are made from a leaf, not a lab, because they’re 100% organic and fair trade. Every bottle directly supports all the work we and our partner communities do in Ecuador.
What did you discover in Ecuador about the people there?
DM: The Kichwa have this really amazing culture of dreaming and storytelling. The guayusa ceremony is such an important part of their lives because it’s the really special time, early in the morning, when they gather as a community to tell their dreams and stories and transition from the dreaming state to the waking…while keeping those dreams with them. They talk about the jaguar spirits of the forest, their ancestors guarding over the land, and the spirits of the animals that they communicate with.
CT: The tradition of guayusa and why the tribes drink it is very intriguing. They wake up super early, and before dawn the entire family congregates while they brew a pot and drink the guayusa from gourds. They say it opens a portal for them into their environment, and it awakens the energy of the day in a ceremonial way. Being down in the Amazon and getting to spend time with the Kichwa and Sapara people, and really trying to understand how and why they use guayusa and some of their other medicinal plants has given me a much greater understanding of how people can relate to nature on a deeper level. Every single plant you see has some use; and it’s a part of their spiritual life.
Any good stories from the trip?
CT: While they drink guayusa for energy, they also bathe in the leaves and believe it detoxifies their energy and scrubs off all the bad juju.
DM: You’ll walk through the trees with them and they’ll point to places where they’ve been bitten by snakes and found the medicines right on the spot that cured them; one grandma who shared her home with us talked about being bitten eight times! The wildest part is they said that nobody in their communities has ever died of a snakebite.