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AQUIFOLIACEAE Bartling Holly Family

The four genera and over 450 species are widely distributed in tropical and temperate regions of both hemispheres, but the centre of representation lies in Central and South America. The species are usually medium-sized (sometimes large) trees. The largest and economically most important genus is Ilex, a number of species of which are horticulturally employed as ornamentals and as the source of several caffeine-rich preparations: yaupon (I. vomitoria), yerba maté (I. paraguariensis), guayusa (I. guayusa).

The family is closely related to the Celastraceae, Most of the chemical work has been done on the many species and varieties of Ilex used as stimulants, bitter tonics and diaphoretics. Caffeine is a major constituent of the genus; triterpenes and chlorogenic acid derivatives are also present.

Ilex guayusa Loesener, Nov. Act. Nat. Cur. 78 (1901) 310; emend. Shemluck, Bot. Mus. Leafl., Harvard Univ. 27 (1979) 158, t.42.

guayusa (Col., Ecuad.) ShN 221, 235, 239; SWH 26359, 26360

This tree is the source of the famous stimulant drink guayusa. In the Ecuadorean Amazonia, the tea is considered to be "good to calm nerves" and "good for women who are pregnant." A tea is taken also when ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi) is drunk to "kill the bitter taste" and "to prevent hangover." It is likewise said to "give strength to deal with Ayahuasca. The tea is further stated to be efficacious for "stomach problems, and to have aphrodisiac properties." The native inhabitants of the region of Mocoa employ guayusa in decoction for numerous medicinal purposes: "pain in the liver", malarial fevers, syphilis and especially to calm stomach pains and to regulate faulty menstruation. A tea of leaves is used as a stimulant.

Leaves of guayusa are still sold in markets in Pasto and Quito as medicines. Except for its caffeine content, nothing further is known about the chemistry of the Amazonian species.


Garcia-Barriga, H., Flora Medicinal de Colombia, Instituto de Ciéncias Naturales, Bogotá (1974-5).
Garcia-Barriga, H., Nueva Rev. Colomb. Folclor. 1 (1986) no. 1.
Patifio, V. M., Econ. Bot. 22 (1968) 311.
Schultes, R. E., Bot. Mus. Leafl., Harvard Univ. 27 (1979) 143.
Shemluck, M., Bot. Mus. Leafl., Harvard Univ. 27 (1979) 155.

Taken from:
"The healing forest, medicinal and toxic plants of the northwest Amazonia", by Richard Evans Schultes and Robert F. Raffauf.
Discordia Press. Historical, Ethno- & Ecoonomic Botany Series Volume 2.
ISBN 0-931146-14-3


























Also See: Maté