Ilex kudingcha C.J.Tseng
Ilex latifolia puberula W.P.Fang & Z.M.Tan
Common Name: Kuding Cha
Ilex kaushue is an evergreen tree growing around 8 metres tall[
This is one of the two principle Ilex species that are used to make a tea-like drink that is very popular in parts of China and other parts of east Asia. Known as 'large-leafed ku ding cha', it has a long history of use, going back at least 2,000 years, as a health-promoting beverage[
]. The plant is sometimes cultivated for its leaves in southern China.
Ilex kaushue has a wide distribution and there are no known specific threats. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2021)[
Although no specific reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, Ilex species in general contain several potentially toxic compounds, particularly saponins, glycosides and triterpenoids. These compounds also often have a range of potential health benefits[
The berries are usually the part of the plant most likely to be toxic, though the degree of toxicity is usually low. Their bitter flavour usually prevents a person eating more than one or two, but even a small handful of the fruit eaten by a healthy adult is unlikely to cause more than feelings of nausea that can lead on to vomiting and diarrhoea[
The compounds in the leaves are particularly interesting. The leaves of many Ilex species around the world are commonly used to make health-promoting teas that, when drunk on a regular basis, help to regulate bodily functions and can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower blood-cholesterol levels etc (See Ilex paraguariensis or Ilex kaushue for examples)[
]. Even these teas, however, if taken in very concentrated doses, can act as a laxative or cause vomiting. Indeed, several species are used by traditional peoples to induce vomiting as a means of purifying the body (see Ilex guayusa or Ilex vomitoria for examples)
E. Asia - southern Chine, northern Vietnam
Dense forest; at elevations from 1,000 - 1,200 metres[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Wild
Ilex species generally tolerate most soils that are not water-logged[
A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required.
The leaves are used as a tea substitute. Refreshing, stimulating and thirst-quenching. A bitter flavour, though with a somewhat sweet aftertaste. The tea is rich in micronutrients but contains no caffiene. A popular drink in parts of east Asia, its regular consumption is said to have a range of health-promoting benefits, helping to regulate a range of body functiond[
]. Its most important biological activity is probably its effect upon lipid metabolism and blood circulation, helping in the prevention of conditions such as arteriosclerosis and hypertension[
A tea made from the leaves is said to quench thirst, refresh the mind, improve eyesight, and remove phlegm[
]. It has also been used to treat a range of conditions, including the common cold, rhinitis, itching eyes, conjunctival congestion, and headaches. It is helpful for improving the digestion and alleviating the adverse effects of alcohol[
Used externally as a wash, the tea can kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, and relieve itching.
The leaves contain a number of health-promoting compounds, including triterpenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. Amongst their many health benefits, these compounds are strongly antioxidant, they regulate lipid metabolism, can protect the cardiovascular system and prevent cancer[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It can take 18 months to germinate. Stored seed generally requires two winters and a summer before it will germinate and should be sown as soon as possible in a cold frame. Scarification, followed by a warm stratification and then a cold stratification may speed up the germination time. The seedlings are rather slow-growing. Pot them up into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame for their first year. It is possible to plant them out into a nursery bed in late spring of the following year, but they should not be left here for more than two years since they do not like being transplanted. Alternatively, grow them on in their pots for a second season and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Give them a good mulch and some protection for their first winter outdoors.