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Ilex. European Holly, Ilex aquifolium; American Holly, Ilex opaca; Paraguay Tea, Ilex paraguariensis; Yau

Ilex. Holly. Houx, Fr. Stechpalme, Christdorn, G.—Several species of Ilex (Fam. Aquifoliaceae) are employed in different parts of the world. The I. Aquifolium L., or European Holly, is usually a shrub, but in some places attains the magnitude of a middling-sized tree. It is the most beautiful of all evergreens, but is unsuited to our climate, being too tender to withstand the winters in the Northern States and equally affected by the hot, dry summers in the Southern States. A viscid substance called bird lime is prepared from the inner bark. The leaves, which are of a bitter, somewhat acrid taste, were formerly much esteemed as a diaphoretic, and in the form of infusion were employed in catarrh, pleurisy, smallpox, gout, etc. At one time they enjoyed a brief reputation in France as a cure for intermittents. They were used in powder, in the dose of a drachm two hours before the paroxysm, and this dose was sometimes repeated frequently during the apyrexia. Their febrifuge virtues are said to depend on a bitter principle, ilicin. Labourdais obtained this principle by boiling a filtered decoction of holly leaves with animal charcoal, allowing the charcoal to subside, washing it, then treating it with alcohol, filtering off the alcoholic solution, and evaporating it to a syrupy consistence. The liquid thus obtained was very bitter, and, on being allowed to evaporate spontaneously, yielded an amorphous substance, having the appearance of gelatin, which was the principle in question. (See A. J. P., xxi, 89.) A yellow coloring substance called ilexanthin, and a peculiar acid called ilicic acid, were obtained by F. Moldenhauer. Ilicic alcohol, C30H50O, was separated by Personne from birdlime and found to be identical with a-amyrin. (C. R. S. B., 1908,862.) Ilexanthin is obtained in the following manner. The leaves are exhausted with alcohol, the alcohol is distilled off, and the residue set aside for several days. A sediment forms, which is separated from the mother liquor, treated with ether to remove the chlorophyll, and then purified by repeated solution in alcohol and crystallization. The composition of ilexanthin is C17H22O11. It crystallizes in yellow needles, which change color at 185° C. (366° F.), melt at 198° C. (388° F.), and at 214° C. (417° F.) boil with decomposition, and are not sublimable. It is insoluble in ether, but soluble in alcohol. In cold water it is almost insoluble; but hot water dissolves it freely, and deposits it in crystals on cooling. The berries are about the size of a pea, red and bitter, and are said to be purgative, emetic, and diuretic. Ten or twelve of them will usually act on the bowels, and sometimes excite vomiting. Their expressed, juice has been used in jaundice.

Ilex opaca Ait., or American holly, is a middling-sized evergreen tree, growing throughout the Atlantic section of the United States, and especially abundant in New Jersey. It is so similar to the European plant that it has been by some writers considered as the same species. The berries, examined by D. P. Pancoast, were found to contain tannin, pectin, two crystallizable organic principles, and salts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. One of the crystallizable principles was inodorous and tasteless, .the ether inodorous but intensely bitter. The latter was obtained by evaporating a tincture to syrupy consistence, alkalizing with potassium carbonate and, extracting with ether. The ether was allowed to evaporate spontaneously when crystals of the bitter principle were deposited. This is probably pure ilicin. (A. J. P., xxviii, 314.) Walter A. Smith (A. J. P., 1887, 1668) obtained a resin soluble in alcohol by the ether extraction, and in the portion of this soluble in water he obtained evidences of a glucoside. This species is said to possess the same medicinal properties as I. aquifolium L.

Ilex paraguariensis A. St. Hil. (I. Mate St.-Hilaire) yields the celebrated Paraguay tea, or Mate, so extensively consumed as a beverage in the interior of South America. It is a small tree or shrub growing wild along the streams in Paraguay, and also cultivated for the sake of its leaves, which are the part used. These are stripped from each plant every two or three years. The period of their collection extends from December to August, sometimes beginning earlier but never continuing later. Companies are formed who penetrate far into the forest at a distance from the settlements, and devote a long time to the collection and preparation of the leaves. These are first dried by exposure to heat, and are then reduced to powder more or less fine, which is kept for several months protected from moisture, and then packed in sacks and delivered to commerce. (A. Demersay, Ann. Ther., 1868, 72; see also Pharm. Rec., May, 1891.) They have a balsamic odor and bitter taste, and are usually at first disagreeable to the palate. They have a pleasant and corroborant effect upon the stomach, but, when largely taken, cause purging and vomiting. They are used in the form of infusion, which is prepared from the entire leaves as we prepare tea; or, under the name of cha mate, a fine powder is put in a cup of hot water by the drinker, and after a moment's stirring, the fluid is sucked up by means of a tube expanded below, and pierced with fine holes, so as to strain out the powder. They contain, besides other substances, a peculiar tannin and the alkaloid caffeine in variable amount. Some fresh leaves of Ilex Paraguariensis grown in the Cambridge Botanical Gardens were found by A. H. Alien, after drying at 100° C. (212° F.), to contain: insoluble matter, 57.94 per cent.; tannin, by lead acetate method, 15.62; tannin, by cupric acetate method, 15.66; caffeine, 1.13; total ash, 6,14; soluble ash, 3.56. (Com. Org. Anal., 2d ed., iii. Part II, 527.) Some elaborate proximate analyses of mate are also published by Theodore Peckolt. (P. J. , vol. xiv, 121.) The consumption of mate, or yerba, in South America is enormous. Although largely produced in the Argentine Republic, tons are annually shipped to countries in South America. For an interesting account of the method of preparation, and an elaborate analysis, see P. J., vol. xiv, 1017.

The Ilex vomitoria Ait. is a handsome evergreen shrub, growing in our Southern States, and especially abundant along the southern coast of Florida. Analysis of its leaves by Venable (A. J. P., 1885, 390) gave 7.39 per cent. of tannic acid and 0.27 per cent. of caffeine. Smith (A. J. P., xliv, 217) found 0.011 per cent. of volatile oil and 0.122 per cent. of caffeine. It is the cassena of the North Carolina Indiana, who formerly employed a decoction made from the toasted leaves, called black drink, or Yaupon, both as a medicine and as a drink of etiquette at their councils. It acts as an emetic. The leaves of the Ilex Dahoon L., or Dahoon holly, have similar properties, and are also said to have entered into the composition of the black drink.


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



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