Friday, November 16, 2018

Black Drink - Ilex vomitoria

Long before Europeans arrived, Native Americans made a caffeinated beverage, known as the Black Drink, from toasted leaves of the yaupon holly plant.  The drink was typically used in rituals promoting purity, peace and friendship. The leaves were traded with tribes outside the plant's natural range. It was offered to former enemies during peacemaking ceremonies.  While the recipe can vary between tribes, the full formula was not given to outsiders.
Native American Black Drink - Preparation/Ceremony

It is speculated that the black drink may have contained emetic herbs in addition to yaupon leaves, since rituals often, but not always, included vomiting.  Although the scientific name for yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria, refers to vomiting, the leaves do not cause vomiting.

Yaupon Holly

Ilex vomitoria - The plant is the only known indigenous plant to North America that contained caffeine.The Latin name comes from an incorrect belief by Europeans that the plant caused vomiting in certain ceremonies.
Ilex vomitoria - Yaupon Holly

Cassina or yaupon tea

After European contact with tribes in what is today the Southeastern United States, colonists began using the charred leaves of the yaupon holly to make a tea similar to the black drink, but without the ritual of vomiting.

During the Civil War, yaupon tea was used as a substitute for coffee and tea throughout the South.

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