A teapot and teacup filled with green tea.

The Sacred Beverage

Green wayusa leaves in a wooden bowl.
An illustration of an indigenous man holding a banana surrounded by bowls of fruit in the Amazon rainforest.

Cultural Significance

The holly tree of the upper Amazon of the Napo watershed is known as Ilex guayusa and it is considered as an iconic sacred plant to the Kichwa people in the headwaters of Amazonia. As its relatives in the Appalachian Mountains (Ilex. vomitoria) or in the Paraguayan Sierras chaqueñas (Ilex paraguayensis) they are considered sacred drinks with admirable qualities affecting the health and wellbeing of indigenous Cherokee and Warani peoples respectively.

Full of antioxidants, provides a bust of caffeine without the jittery effect of coffee and allegedly serves to prevent a multitude of maladies and disease, prompting an effect of wellbeing similar to the produced by the cacao beans in chocolate. It is used in every possible fashion and for almost any significant ailments in the jungle.

The beverage is prepared as an infusion of the fresh leaves dried with the smoke from the firepit inside the hut; once dried, they are arranged into a wreath that is then hanged to be exposed to the humid air, and are ready to be cut and ripped into small pieces to be boiled in a pot. The beverage is a very effective agent to tone the body with vigor and to level-off the concentration of other substances that may be difficult to easily digest. In sum, the wayusa has become the stapple stimulant, medicinal, and social drink for the people inhabitant the upper Amazon region.

Further Reading

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