Espinheira santa tea – What is it for, benefits and how to make it!

Espinheira santa tea comes from the leaves of this herb whose scientific name is Maytenus ilicifolia, also known as cankerosa, chuchuwasi or maiteno. It is a shrub native to northeastern Argentina and a large part of Paraguay, southern Brazil and Uruguay.

It is a perennial plant that reaches a height of five meters, with thin branches, straight and wide trunk. It has simple and alternating leaves, with an elliptical shape up to 7 cm in diameter. The flowers are small, the males are yellowish and the females are green with purple lines. The fruit is a yellow capsule with one or two seeds covered by a red membrane.


Espinheira santa is native to South America. The scientific name of Espinheira Santa is Maytenus ilicifolia, and it belongs to the Celasteraceae family of medicinal plants. Espinheira santa is a perennial shrub or mild subtropical climate, typical of hills and mountains, from 1 to 5 m.

In nature, Espinheira Santa herb grows mainly in semi-shade, fertile , deep, somewhat clayey and well-drained places. The leaves of Espinheira Santa are simple and alternate, petioles short, edged with thorny teeth, elliptical or oblong from 4 to 7 cm. And between 1 and 3 cm. wide, the color is bright green and opaque from the ray at the bottom.

The flowers of this medicinal plant are yellowish, small and can also grow alone or in bouquets. The Espinheira Santa fruit is a capsule that contains 1 to 4 seeds and, of course, opens in autumn.


Let us now go into detail about the medicinal uses of espinheira santa tea and how you can use it for some health problems. First of all, the following components should be highlighted among its properties: maytansinoids, it has cangoaronine, Celastrol, dispermol, friedlan, friedelin, ilicoline, kaempferol, maitenin, maytenoic acid, quercetin, tannins, sodium , iron, potassium, magnesium , sulfur , calcium , mucilages, proanthocyanins, salic acid and tingenol. It also contains vitamins A and B. 

What is it for:

Espinheira santa tea  can be used to cure bladder inflammation , intestinal fevers and also to fight stomach infections , it is very good in its external use to wash wounds, cuts, and if growth spurt in tendons is used as a hot compress for soothe the pain. It is also recommended for infection of molars and to reduce inflammation of the gums .

Benefits of  Espinheira Santa Tea  :

1. Relieve asthma:

Espinheira santa tea has the  ability to treat bronchial problems, bronchitis and asthma. It is also used to treat cramps .

2. Anti-cancerous:

Since the 1970s , espinheira santa tea  has been studied to treat cancer problems and as an anti-tumor balm.

3. Natural antacid:

One of the main properties of espinheira santa tea  is to act as a powerful antacid. Its extract neutralizes gastric acids. It is also used as an antispasmodic, that is, to control stomach contractions . To take advantage of these properties, infusions from the leaves are recommended to be used.

Consumption of this infusion helps to regulate the production of hydrochloric acid by the stomach. This makes it a very useful drink for treating ulcers of a nervous origin, but it also cures stomach ulcers.

4. Digestive system:

It is, along with its fertility properties , one of the most recognized benefits. It is used to fight gastritis, dyspepsia and gastroduodenal ulcers . Its use is recommended in cases of alcoholism, taking one liter a day for a month to cleanse the body and relieve side effects.

5. Can be used with yerba mate:

In some cases, this plant is added to yerba mate preparations to enjoy its medicinal properties when consuming this traditional drink. By consuming it with yerba mate, you can control high blood pressure, joint pain, facilitate salivation and prevent tumors.

6. Promotes healing:

Espinheira santa tea  is used externally to stimulate healing and as a bactericide, especially in cases of acne and eczema .

7. Sedative and analgesic:

The use of espinheira santa tea  works as a great tranquilizer with an efficiency very similar to that of morphine. Relieves pain from gastric or throat ulcers and gums . For such cases, you can rinse your mouth.

8. Controls cholesterol:

Espinheira santa tea  acts as a blood cleanser . It is a natural depurative that serves to cleanse the blood of various residues, including cholesterol . It is recommended for people who have quit alcohol and tobacco.

To enjoy these benefits, it is recommended to consume the infusion of the leaves.

Some curiosities:

Let’s go through some curiosities about this medicinal plant that will probably give you more information of interest:

  1. In 1922, professor A. Franca, from the Faculty of Medicine of Paraná, discovered its anti-ulcerogenic properties.
  2. A curiosity, the Guarani Indians used this tea as a contraceptive and fertility regulator, also to induce menstruation or abortions.
  3. Another curiosity is that its leaves and segments are used to replace yerba mate, due to their similarity. Those who work as workers in the province of Misiones, Argentina, toast their leaves and tread them to heal the wounds produced by their work.
  4. It is used to produce coal.
  5. It has great ornamental value, serves as a hedge and its leaves serve as Christmas decorations.

Recipes for  espinheira santa tea  :

1. Espinheira santa with lavender:


– 1 handful of espinheira santa;
– 1 handful of lemon balm ;
– 10 lavender leaves with the flowers;
– 1 handful of mint ;
– 1 liter of water;
– 2 slices of lemon .


  1. Bring the water to a boil, add the herbs, turn off the heat and leave to infuse for a few minutes.
  2. Strain and serve hot with lemon slices.

2. Espinheira santa tea in compresses:

  1. The compresses are recommended for applications where quick responses are desired.
  2. You must use 10 espinheira santa leaves in ½ liter of water, boil for 3 minutes and remove from heat.
  3. Let it cool naturally and then use it.

3. Espinheira santa with rosemary and mint:


– 1 liter of water;
– 2 tablespoons of dried espinheira santa leaves;
– 1 teaspoon of rosemary ;
– 1 teaspoon of mint .


  1. Boil the water, add the herbs and smother for 20 minutes.
  2. Serve warm before meals or before bed.

4. Espinheira santa for external use:

  1. If you want to use this herb, you must heat 50 g in a liter of water, letting it boil for 5 minutes. With this liquid you should wash wounds and ulcers.

5. Espinheira santa tea:


– 3 tablespoons of espinheira santa;
– 500 ml of water.


  1. Boil the herb with the water in a pan for a few minutes.
  2. Turn off, muffle and let it rest.
  3. Serve warm.
  4. If necessary, sweeten with honey to disguise the flavor.

Side effects:

  1. Its use is not recommended for children, pregnant or lactating women.
  2. Consumption of this plant can cause uterine contractions causing miscarriages .
  3. In breastfeeding mothers, it can cause reduced breast milk production.
  4. If you intend to get pregnant , you should consume it as it reduces the fertility of women.
  5. It is also necessary to consult the doctor before any doubts or physical limitations.

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