Ritualistic use of the holly Ilex guayusa by Amazonian Jívaro Indians

J Ethnopharmacol. 1991 May-Jun;33(1-2):25-30. doi: 10.1016/0378-8741(91)90156-8.


In Amazonian Peru and Ecuador leaf decoctions of the rainforest holly Ilex guayusa with high caffeine concentrations are used as a morning stimulant. After daily ingestion, ritualistic vomiting by male Achuar Indians, better known as Jívaros, reduces excessive caffeine intake, so that blood levels of caffeine and biotransformed dimethylxanthines do not cause undesirable CNS and other effects. Emesis is learned and apparently not due to emetic compounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Caffeine / analysis
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Culture*
  • Ecuador
  • Emetics / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Indians, South American*
  • Male
  • Peru
  • Plant Extracts* / analysis
  • Plant Extracts* / pharmacology
  • Xanthines / analysis
  • Xanthines / blood
  • Xanthines / pharmacology


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Emetics
  • Plant Extracts
  • Xanthines
  • Caffeine