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Diversity of Methylxanthine Content inIlex cassine L. andIlex vomitoria Ait.: Assessing Sources of the North American Stimulant Cassina

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Abstract

Indigenous people of southeastern North America drank cassina, a stimulant and emetic decoction that the colonial British termed “black drink.” Though most authors citeIlex vomitoria Ait. as the botanical source of cassina, confusion persists because some researchers identify the source asI. cassine L. To clarify the link between plant and product, the methylxanthine alkaloid contents ofI. vomitoria andI. cassine were compared. Since methylxanthines (i.e., caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline) have pharmacological properties congruent with the recorded effects of cassina consumption, the alkaloids provide a chemical basis for the evaluation of both taxa as sources of the beverage. Methylxanthine levels are higher inI. vomitoria than inI. cassine, and the principal alkaloid of the former is caffeine. Based on its alkaloid content,I. vomitoria is the best-supported candidate source of cassina.

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Correspondence to Adam L Edwards.

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Edwards, A.L., Bennett, B.C. Diversity of Methylxanthine Content inIlex cassine L. andIlex vomitoria Ait.: Assessing Sources of the North American Stimulant Cassina. Econ Bot 59, 275–285 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1663/0013-0001(2005)059[0275:DOMCII]2.0.CO;2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1663/0013-0001(2005)059[0275:DOMCII]2.0.CO;2

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