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The healing power of holly

  1. Most people know holly as a sprig with berries and leaves in a well-worn civil Christmas arrangement. It is also a popular ornamental plant in the garden and hedges are made from it. These uses are of a decorative nature. Man has not always considered holly exclusively as decorum. There was a time when mankind associated holly with medicinal uses. Holly leaves are fine to drink as a tea and a natural medicine for gout and bronchitis. However, you cannot eat holly berries; there are too many toxic substances for that.


  1. General information Holly and mate Tea from holly leaves Fruits of the holly 10 fun facts about holly Ingredients Growing holly yourself

General information

  1. Holly can reach a height of 10 to 25 meters. The plant is found in Western and Southern Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia. It is an evergreen tree that has both a male and a female species. There are examples of holly trees that live to 500 years old but in practice they rarely grow older than 100. The fruits contain the poison ilicin but after the frost this substance disappears from the tree and the fruits are eaten by rodents, birds and larger herbivores such as deer.

Holly and mate

  1. Holly or Ilex aquifolium is closely related to Ilex paraguariensis or maté, which is why both plants have the same family name. Mate is made into a stimulating drink that also aids digestion.

Holly leaf tea

  1. The leaves of holly are picked in June to serve as a tea. Unlike the fruits, the leaves of the holly are not poisonous. This tea has been used in folk medicine for many years as a fever reducer and diuretic. This last property makes it a good plant to fight edema, gout and other rheumatic diseases. Furthermore, holly is traditionally used in Europe for diarrhea and bronchitis.

Holly fruits

  1. The holly fruits may be poisonous, but in the past they served as a medicine for constipation and epilepsy. Due to their bright color, the fruits sometimes attract children or animals. Children can vomit when they have eaten five berries and adults should eat at least 20 to 30 berries before vomiting. Incidentally, despite vomiting, substances can still enter the body and cause a rash, but that is rare. Other unpleasant symptoms of eating too many berries are: nausea, abdominal cramps, pupil dilation, hyperthermia or becoming too hot, and sleepiness. People cannot die because the berries are a strong emetic called ilicin, so that anyone who eats too many of these berries does not absorb the toxic substance. Still, it is better to point out to children that this is a poisonous berry. Some children vomit from holly berries dozens of times an hour, which is an unpleasant experience. Roasted seed of the bright red holly fruit has been used as a coffee substitute since ancient times. The seeds have antioxidants and they contain phenylacetic acid.

10 fun facts about holly

  1. The bark of holly can be used to obtain a yellow dye.


  1. The leaves of holly are picked in May and June for their medicinal properties and dried for later use. These leaves contain tannins or tannins, saponins or soaps, xanthines such as theobromine and the yellow dye ilexanthine, caffeine, coffee acid, bitter substances such as ilicin and flavonoids.

Grow your own holly

  1. Holly is for sale at many garden centers. Hulst also grows wild in the Netherlands. The nice thing about holly is that it is an evergreen shrub in winter; its leaves never fall off. To get the nice berries on the holly you actually have to plant both male and female holly trees, but there are cultivated varieties for sale that pollinate themselves. If you want to grow holly yourself, you can sow it, take cuttings, divide it or dig up an offshoot and plant it elsewhere. Holly is a slow grower, so a large holly is a valuable asset. Holly is hardy to no less than -24 degrees Celsius. The tree can survive so well in the cold because its leaves contain a relatively high amount of fats, which means that they freeze a lot less quickly than leaves that consist largely of water. Holly is often put in the garden so that you also have something beautiful to look at in winter. You can also dry the leaves, crumble them and put them in a tea mix! Making your own herbal tea is becoming increasingly popular.

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