An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.
Yaupon - Ilex vomitoria - family: Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family).
This evergreen shrub or small tree grows to about twenty feet high. It
has elliptic-to-oblong-shaped toothed dark green leaves. In the spring it
has small white flowers which are followed in the autumn by bright scarlet
fruits. Traditional Native American Indian use of a "Black Drink"
tea brewed from the leaves as a laxative and as a sort of spring tonic.
Settlers also enjoyed this tea. It does contain some caffeine. Caffeine
is a bitter white alkaloid with the formula C8H10N4O2.H2O. It is interesting
to note that caffeine is used by some plants to discourage insect attacks.
In his brilliant and very readable book, A Neotropical Companion, John Kricher
points out that caffeine is used by some plants to discourage insects from
eating its leaves [Kricher]. In other words, caffeine is a sort of plant
insecticide. Note: the orange or red berries of the Yaupon are toxic and
should not be eaten. Native to south-eastern United States. It is grown
as an ornamental in North America. At least one cultivar exists.
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Web page last updated on 26 May 2003.