Did you think holly was just for Christmas? Think again! The Ilex paraguariensis, commonly known as yerba mate, is a South American energy plant and one of three caffeinated holly trees. An increasingly popular beverage, this tisane has less caffeine than black tea (but more than green!) and is known for relieving mental and physical fatigue, reducing inflammation, and improving mood.
Mate is traditionally enjoyed through a silver straw in a hollowed-out gourd, but you should feel free to prepare it any way you like. Some folks prefer their mate plain, while others insist on sweetener and milk to reduce the mate’s edge.
Yerba mate’s cousin, guayusa, comes from the Ilex guayusa, another South American holly variety much beloved by indigenous tribes. It has higher caffeine content than mate, is high in antioxidants, and has been shown to reduce physical and mental stress.
Guayusa has a natural mild sweetness and is most often enjoyed plain, with no sugar or cream. We’re pretty impressed by the guayusa from Runa, which comes as a steepable tisane or a bottled beverage.
Ginseng, a root native to North America and Eastern Asia, increases metabolism and stamina as well as mental focus. It is also used to boost the immune system -- extra desirable during cold and flu season.
While you can take it in capsule or liquid form, I find a nice, hot tea to be perfect on a chilly morning. Or, get crazy and try ginseng coffee!
St. John’s Wort
If you’re suffering from a case of the winter blues, you may want to try St. John’s Wort, a plant long and widely used to treat depression. It can also help reduce stress and boost long-term memory. It’s lovely mixed with other mood-boosting herbs, such as lavender, as it is in this tea from Yogi.
One warning: St. John’s Wort decreases estrogen levels, so do not take it if you are on birth control pills.
Too many glasses of champagne over the holidays? Milk Thistle has been used medicinally since ancient times and is excellent for detoxifying the liver, boosting mood, and treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and stomach upset. All parts of this little miracle plant are edible, with the seeds traditionally being used to make tea.
No matter which unconventional beverage you try, you’re sure to perk up in no time!
Photo Credits: Gonzaol Rivero Gorivero, Anna Premo, Marcingietorigie, Ciar, and Rillke.