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Did you know America has a native tea plant? It’s called a yaupon. Or a yaupon holly bush to be exact. It grows pretty much everywhere south of North Carolina to eastern Texas. It’s an evergreen that prefers drought conditions. We’re not talking tolerates well, I mean, it likes drought conditions. You can recognize it by its dark green leaves and bright red berries. The scientific name is ilex vomitoria – a name that is false in basis (misnomer) since yaupon doesn’t cause vomiting. The history behind the name is kind of neat and definitely worth knowing.

History

A thousand years ago, Native American traders dried, packed and shipped the leaves to all the way to Cahokia, a mound city near the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. It was widely travelled and used in purification rituals – ones that sometimes involved purging (hence, vomitus). A naturalist in 1775 said the Cherokee called the yaupon “the beloved tree”. Early settlers exported the yaupon to Europe.

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But yaupon was shunned by tea purists (of which I am one, but am totally willing to bring yaupon back into consumption, provided no one feels like it’s cultural appropriation) in favor of tea from Asia (both green and black). Yaupon would join the legions of herbal teas – though unlike most herbal teas, it packs a wallop of caffeine and resembles a black tea in flavor.

So other than being the only North American herb to contain, what are the benefits of drinking yaupon?

Health Benefits

Tests performed on the chemical structure on the yaupon have indicated that it posses antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Yaupon tests have proven that yaupon can reduce your risk of colon cancer.

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Colon cancer
There are two chemicals in yaupon that decrease risk of cancer in a healthy colon. These chemical compounds are called quercetin and kaempferol 3-rutinosides. It’s these two chemicals, which contain antioxidants and the anti-inflammatory properties. By reducing inflammation, you cut the risk of colon cancer.

Antioxidants
Are excellent to help prevent aging and ending the damage free radicals can cause to the body. People who consume less antioxidants are more likely to develop chronic illness.

Harvesting Yaupon

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If you’re lucky enough to have this growing near you, or in your garden, or know someone who has it in their garden, try harvesting your own, you can make your own tea. To harvest the tea, harvest can happen in high summer and into fall, but if you wait for some of the bushes to develop red berries (around October) – harvest those. Bushes with berries are identified as female and produce a higher quality tasting tea. If you’re just looking for your caffeine fix with health benefits, then harvest from any bush. Dry the leaves somewhere dark and cool in a single layer. Brewing the tea is a matter of dropping the dried leaves into boiling water for anywhere from 4-9 minutes.

Buying Yaupon Tea

For those of us who don’t live in the Southern United States, there are a few companies you can buy yaupon tea from. (Please post other suggestions in the comments!!)

Cat Spring Yaupon Tea
Zhi Native Yaupon Tea
YauponTea from Etsy

I’d like to remind everyone that we are in no way affiliated with any of these dispenser’s and I’m really just trying to make your lives easier by finding different places to get Yaupon.

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