Health Benefits of Bioactive Compounds from the Genus Ilex, a Source of Traditional Caffeinated Beverages

Nutrients. 2018 Nov 5;10(11):1682. doi: 10.3390/nu10111682.


Tea and coffee are caffeinated beverages commonly consumed around the world in daily life. Tea from Camellia sinensis is widely available and is a good source of caffeine and other bioactive compounds (e.g., polyphenols and carotenoids). Other tea-like beverages, such as those from the genus Ilex, the large-leaved Kudingcha (Ilex latifolia Thunb and Ilex kudingcha C.J. Tseng), Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis A. St.-Hil), Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria), and Guayusa (Ilex guayusa Loes) are also traditional drinks, with lesser overall usage, but have attracted much recent attention and have been subjected to further study. This review summarizes the distribution, composition, and health benefits of caffeinated beverages from the genus Ilex. Plants of this genus mainly contain polyphenols and alkaloids, and show diverse health benefits, which, as well as supporting their further popularization as beverages, may also lead to potential applications in the pharmaceutical or nutraceutical industries.

Keywords: caffeine; guayusa; kudingcha; polyphenols; yaupon holly; yerba mate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Beverages / analysis*
  • Caffeine / pharmacology
  • Camellia sinensis / chemistry
  • Cardiovascular Agents / pharmacology
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology
  • Coffee / chemistry
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Ilex / chemistry*
  • Ilex paraguariensis / chemistry*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology
  • Tea / chemistry


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Coffee
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols
  • Tea
  • Carotenoids
  • Caffeine