Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club/V23/Drink Plants of the North American Indians
|Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club
Drink Plants of the North American Indians
|TORREY BOTANICAL CLUB.|
|Vol. 23.||Lancaster, Pa., February 29, 1896.||No. 2.|
|Drink Plants of the North American Indians.|
|By Dr. V. Havard, U. S. A.|
These plants may be considered under three heads :—
1st. Those yielding alcoholic liquors.
2d. Those yielding stimulating, exhilarating or intoxicating principles other than alcohol.
3d. Those furnishing palatable juices, or, by infusion, pleasant beverages more or less used to quench thirst.
As foreign to my purpose, I shall exclude all plants from which drinks are prepared only for medicinal uses.
1. Plants yielding alcoholic liquors.
All authorities substantially agree that American Indians, north of Mexico, had not acquired the knowledge of preparing alcoholic drinks at the time of the landing of Columbus, and that, whatever their vices may have been, they were free from that of drunkenness. Thus the missionary priest Gabriel Sagard, in his History of Canada (1636), after inveighing against intemperance, says :
“Our savages, in their feasts, are, thank God, free from such misfortune, for they use neither wine, beer nor cider ; if any one among them asks for a drink, which very rarely happens, he is offered fresh water, not in a glass, but in a dipper or off the kettle itself from which he freely drinks and is thus saved from drunkenness, a great blessing to the body and soul, for it is likely that if they had wine they would become as intemperate as ourselves.”
In Mexico, the Maguey (Agave Americana) has been cultivated from time immemorial for the abundant sap, or aguamiel, which collects in the cavity made in the heart of the plant by the removal of the young central leaves and is then fermented into pulque, the national drink of Mexico. Pulque smells much like half turned buttermilk, but is cooling, refreshing, nutritious and stimulating. It contains 3 to 4 per cent, of alcohol and is therefore about as strong as beer. The historian Sahagun says that long before the conquest, the use and abuse of pulque were so general that one of the Aztec kings forbade the sale of it and punished drunkenness with death. The Mexican liquor, mescal, or vino mescal, manufactured by distillation from the baked, pounded and fermented heads of several species of Agave, was unknown to the Aztecs, who like other American aborigines were ignorant of distillation, an art introduced from Europe. They only knew the first part of the process, how to macerate and boil the baked heads in water and ferment the decoction, so as to obtain a sort of “mescal beer” which, however, does not appear to have been a popular beverage.
The discovery, in some parts of Mexico, of crude stills constructed of native material, has led some authors to think that distillation may have been practiced on this continent before the coming of Columbus, but there is no ground for such belief in the accounts of the first explorers nor in the Indian traditions.
Agave Americana does not grow naturally north of Mexico. Of our few native species of Agave, none produce the abundant sap necessary for the making of pulque, and they are mostly used for food purposes. The Indians of Arizona and New Mexico, however, according to Col. Cremony, who lived several years among them before our Civil War, knew then how to prepare “mescal beer” from the heads of Agave Parryi and A. Palmeri.
According to Oviedo and Von Humboldt, maize was used in the religious rites of both Mexicans and Peruvians, and sugar procured from it, as well as a vinous liquor called chicha, “drunkenness having already become frequent under the Aztec dynasty.” How much of this drunkenness is attributable to chicha and how much to pulque would be difficult to determine. It is probable enough that both beverages were important factors in the demoralization and degeneration of the Aztecs which enabled Cortez, with a handful of men, to conquer the whole empire of Montezuma.
The cultivation of Maize, as we know, spread rapidly northward from Mexico, so that even before the days of Columbus it was the principal crop of all the agricultural Indians from the Rio Grande to the St. Lawrence and irom the Atlantic to the Colorado of the West. Considering the abundance of corn among our Indians, and their craving for all intoxicants, it seems almost incomprehensible that the primitive and very simple art of making corn beer should never have found its way north of the Rio Grande.
For several generations, the Apaches of Arizona and New Mexico have been known to prepare from corn an alcoholic drink which they called tizwin or tulpi. They are extremely fond of it and have ignored or defied all ordinances for its suppression ; tizwin formerly figured prominently in all their ceremonial dances which were generally preceded by a long fast in order the better to experience its full intoxicating effects. It is one of the strange circumstances of this obscure subject that the Apaches have always been nomadic, hunting and plundering Indians, seldom planting any vegetables and always more inclined to steal corn than to raise it. On the other hand, their agricultural neighbors, the Pimos, Papagos and Pueblo Indians, with always plenty of maize in stock, do not seem to have indulged in tizwin although they must, of course, have known its preparation and effects ; their abstinence was probably a matter of indifference, perhaps of principles ; caring less for intoxicants than the roving and murderous Apaches, they had not yet developed a taste for it.
I am unable to determine the exact time when the Apaches began the manufacture of tizwin ; the first explorers of California, Arizona and New Mexico say nothing about it or any other alcoholic drink. I am informed by an army officer, stationed at the San Carlos agency, Arizona, that the old men of the tribe say that it began long before their time, that their fathers learned it from the Chiricahuas (then dwelling on the Mexican border), who themselves learned it from the Mexicans. But it seems impossible that this knowledge should have reached the Indians of Arizona, before the conquest of Mexico, without spreading to all or most agricultural and corn-raising Indians, so that, in the absence of more positive information, we may assume that it was obtained from the Mexicans, or Mexican Indians, who towards the end of the last or the beginning of this century traded among the tribes north of the Gila river, or were carried into captivity to their rancherías. This assumption is strengthened by the fact that the Apaches are of northern origin, and that none of their many tribes ever lived in Mexico. From the Mexicans, likewise, and at about the same time, in my opinion, came the knowledge of the other alcoholic beverages prepared by our southwestern tribes.
It is worth noting that at the only part of the American continent trodden by the foot of Christopher Columbus, namely the coast of Venezuela, the great discoverer observed and recorded the two alcoholic drinks used by the natives ; they were the same as in Mexico, one prepared from corn, the other from the Maguey.
The most striking botanical feature of southwest Arizona and northern Sonora, as well as one of the wonders of the vegetable world, is the far-famed Giant Cactus (Cereus giganteus Engelm.), the Suhuara or Pitahaya of the Mexicans, a fluted column 30 to 50 feet high, crowned, in season, with handsome pink flowers. The fruit is two to three inches long, full of a rich crimson pulp of fine flavor and a great dainty to the Indians and Mexicans of the region. From it they prepare a clear light-brown syrup which is used as a substitute for sugar, and a fermented liquor having the taste and smell of sour beer, although somewhat stronger. The still larger and sweeter fruit of Cereus Thurberi Engelm. or Pitahaya dulce of Sonora and Lower California, is used for the same purposes. According to Colonel Cremony, already quoted, “It is upon this liquor that the Pimos, Maricopas and Yumas get drunk once a year, the revelry continuing for a week or two at a time ; but it is also a custom with them to take regular turns so that only one-third of the party is supposed to indulge at a time, the remainder being required to take care of their stimulated comrades and protect them from injuring each other or being injured by other tribes.”
The fruit of several species of Opuntia, especially O. Tuna Mill, and O. Ficus-Indica Haw., has also been used by Mexican Indians to make an intoxicating drink, called colonche, with a pink color and the taste of hard cider. They peel and then press it ; the juice is passed through straw sieves and placed by the fire or in the sun where it begins to ferment in about an hour. We also have species of Opuntia available for the purpose in our southwestern territory but I am not aware that they ever were utilized in this way.
Several species of Yucca, notably Y. baccata Torr., Y. macrocarpa Coville and Y. Treculeana Carr., of our southwestern territory and northern Mexico, bear a fleshy, banana-like fruit which is delicious when ripe. It contains a-large proportion of sugar and is easily converted by the Chihuahua Indians into a fermented beverage which is sometimes distilled by the Mexicans into indifferent aguardiente.
The Mezquite (Prosopis juliflora DC.) is by far the most common tree or shrub of the immense desert tracts drained by the Rio Grande, Gila and Lower Colorado, as it is the most useful to their inhabitants, supplying both food and fuel. The fruit is a bean-like pod containing more than half its weight of nutritive principles, especially sugar in the proportion of 25 to 30 per cent ; when cooked, pounded, mixed in water and strained, it yields a very nutritive and pleasant beverage called “atole;” this readily undergoes fermentation whereby a kind of beer is produced, formerly much used by the Colorado and Gila River Indians.
Another species of Prosopis (P. pubescens Benth.), called Screw Bean or Tornillo and also very abundant in the same region, bears likewise a very saccharine fruit used in the same way.
This ends the list of plants yielding alcoholic liquors. It appears that the only United States Indians preparing these liquors were those of our southwestern border. The most obvious reason for this geographical peculiarity is that these Indians have always had relations with the Mexican natives and were visited at a very early date by white men ; thus Arizona and New Mexico were pretty thoroughly explored by Spaniards before Hudson entered the Bay oí New York or the May Flower landed at Plymouth Rock.
We might perhaps account for the ignorance of our eastern Indians concerning “corn beer” which, after all, is only a vile beverage, but we may well wonder at their failure to make wine. To say nothing of our many kinds of berries, more species of Grapes grow in this country than in all the rest of the world and, for many tribes, must have been a staple food ; again, nothing is easier than to make wine, the process consisting merely in pressing out the juice and letting it ferment. It is strange indeed they should not have stumbled upon it.
2. Plants yielding stimulating, exhilarating or intoxicating principles not alcoholic.
While stationed on the Rio Grande, west of the Pecos, my attention was drawn to a plant, called Peyote, which appears to possess remarkable properties. It is Anhalonium Engelmanni Lern. (A. fissuratum Engelm.), a napiform, tuberculous cactus, 2-3 inches long and hardly rising above ground. Mexicans cut it into slices which are kept dry for medicinal purposes, being commonly used in fevers. It is principally as an intoxicant, however, that it has become noted along the Mexican border, being eaten raw or added to native tizwin to make it stronger. It is said that Indians or Mexicans partaking of this adulterated tizwin become temporarily crazy and uncontrollable.
Closely related to Anhalonium is the genus Lophophora recently separated from it by Prof. Coulter. L. Williamsii var. Lewinii Coult. (Anhalonium Lewinii Hennings) is a small hemispherical cactus, 2 to 3 inches wide, with the tubercles in 13 sinuous ribs, and covered above with silky hairy tufts. It is found in barren rocky soil along both sides of the lower Rio Grande and southward. It is said to be the Peyote or Peyotl of northern Mexico and to possess rather ill-defined deliriant or intoxicant properties whether used alone or added to native drinks.
The “tops,” under the name of Mescal Buttons, have been the subject of more or less investigation. Lewin and Heffter found in them several alkaloids and at least two resinous substances, the latter being the active principles. An alcoholic extract, according to Lewin, produces in animals symptoms almost identical with those caused by strychnine, being in small doses a cardiac and respiratory stimulant.
Very different, however, were the results of careful experiments made by Dr. Prentiss and Dr. Morgan of Washington who found that the chief physiological effect was the production of beautiful colored visions in an ever-changing and brilliant picture ; it was attended with wonder and admiration, but no merriment, delirium or intoxication. The Kiowa Indians were formerly much addicted to the use of this plant in their religious ceremonies when dwelling on the Rio Grande and, although now living in the Indian territory, have not yet given it up. Each Indian chews and swallows 10 or 12 buttons at intervals between sundown and morning and then sits quietly for a day or two enjoying the pleasurable effects of the drug.
It is impossible to reconcile the results of Lewin with those of Prentiss and Morgan, and I am inclined to believe that they worked with different plants. Further experiments are much needed with all species of Anhalonium and Lophophora.
According to H. H. Bancroft, Mexican Indians used various herbs and roots to make their drinks more intoxicating, the most powerful of which “was a kind of mushroom which excited the passions and caused the partaker to see snakes and divers other visions.”
In Lower California the Indians, says the same author, “found drunkenness in the fumes of a certain herb smoked through a stone tube and used chiefly during festivals.” This herb was doubtless a species of Datura. According to Dr. Palmer, the California, Colorado River and Payute Indians prepare a beverage from the leaves and seeds of Datura meteloides which excites, intoxicates, and then stupefies them. It was also added to alcoholic drinks to render them more effective. The same species is the Toloachi of southern Texas and northern Mexico, a name also applied to the Mexican D. quercifolia H.B.K., and perhaps other species. The Toloachi has marked deliriant properties and is credited, in the popular mind, with having caused the insanity of the unfortunate empress Carlotta.
Another well-known plant which may be mentioned here is Sophora secundiflora Lag., the Frijolillo of Texas. The red beanlike seed contains an alkaloid, sophorine, a strong irritant-narcotic poison. According to Bellanger, the Indians near San Antonio formerly used it as an intoxicant, half a bean producing “delirious exhilaration followed by a sleep which lasts 2 or 3 days,” and it is asserted that a whole bean would kill a man. I am not aware however that it was used in infusion or decoction, or added to other drinks, although this is likely enough, the bean being very hard and difficult to chew.
The most interesting plant of this class is doubtless Ilex Vomitoria Aiton (I. Cassine Walt.), the Cassine or Yupon of our southern Indians. It is a handsome evergreen shrub or small tree with thick elliptical leaves about an inch long, crenate-serrate, very obtuse, and small bright red berries. It grows near salt water, never very far in the interior, from Virginia southward along the whole east and west coasts of Florida and the Gulf coast, to the Colorado river of Texas.
Prof. Venable, of the University of North Carolina, in 1883 found in the dried leaves 0.27 per cent, of caffeine. In a previous investigation he had found 0.32 per cent. He also determined that the leaves alone contain this alkaloid and that the two botanically allied species, I. opaca and I. Cassine L. (I. Dahoon Walt.) are entirely destitute of it. The only other kind of Ilex containing caffeine appears to be I. Paraguayensis St. Hil. of South America, the Paraguay tea or mate of Brazil which, according to Peckolt, averages 0.50 per cent, of the alkaloid.
Long before the advent of the whites, our Southern Indians were in the habit of drinking a decoction of the leaves of this plant, as testified by all early explorers. This decoction or “black drink,” as it was called from its color, was used not only by all the coast Indians from Carolina to Florida and Texas, but also by the Indians of the interior on both sides of the Mississippi, the leaves being an important article of trade. It was prepared by thoroughly boiling in water the carefully toasted leaves, then allowing to cool, meanwhile stirring up briskly or pouring it from one bowl to another until it became frothy. Dr. E. M. Hale who gathered much information on the Cassine (Bull. no. 14, U. S. Depart, of Agriculture, 1891), and who appears somewhat biased in its favor, says :
“In my experiments I find that an infusion of cassine leaves with boiling water, after standing till cool, gives a scarcely perceptible taste and slight odor.
This infusion, if boiled for half an hour, gives a dark liquid, like very strong black tea, of an aromatic odor, sui generis, not like coffee, but more like Oolong tea without its pleasant rose odor. The taste is like that of an inferior black tea, quite bitter, but with little delicacy of flavor. It is not an unpleasant beverage, and I can imagine that the palate wouldbecome accustomed to it, as to mate, tea or coffee.”
We may then assume that the “black drink” was a weak coffee or tea with a large admixture of tannin, and free from intoxicating effect. It also appeared to contain an ingredient with decided sudorific and diuretic properties.
Wm. Bartram in his “Travels in Florida” (1792), tells of his feasting with the Indian king of Apalachicola, spending the greater part of the night “in drinking cassine and smoking tobacco.” He describes the ceremonious presentation of the conch-shells full of “black drink” to the king and his guests, but prudently abstains from expressing any judgment on the quality of the beverage. It does not appear to have been liked by the explorers to whom the hospitable Indians always offered it. Jean Ribault (1666) says : “I tasted it and did not find it very bad,” which is faint praise. Dominique de Gourges (1567) “pretended to drink it but swallowed none of it.”
It is likely enough that the Indians had several methods of preparing it, sometimes, for purposes of conviviality, making the decoction rather weak, but at religious festivals making it very strong and doubtless adding other ingredients, such as the Button Snakeroot (Eryngium aquaticum) and perhaps Iris versicolor or even Lobelia inflata, with the effect of imparting strong emetic properties to the mixture. At such festivals the Indians drank copious drafts of it which in a short time made them vomit freely and easily; they continued drinking and ejecting for one or two days until they had sufficiently cleansed themselves.
Dr. Hale, in the bulletin above referred to, states that sometimes the decoction was allowed to ferment and then became an alcoholic beverage “capable of causing considerable intoxication.” It is strange he should make such an assertion when all the evidence he adduces, from many observers, clearly shows that it never had any such effect. Thus McCullough in his “Researches : ” “This tea may have been slightly stimulating, but it seems to have had no other than a diaphoretic or diuretic effect ; ” also Le Moine in his “Narrative” : “It strengthens and nourishes the body and yet does not fly to the head, as we have observed on occasions of these feasts of theirs ; ” and Mrs. Oliver, as quoted by A. S. Gatschet : “It was very bitter and said to be intoxicating, but, if so, it could only have been when drunk to great excess, as it never seemed to produce any visible effect upon them.” We can safely arrive at the same conclusion by the reflexion that no alcohol can be expected from a leaf practically destitute of sugar, or sugar-making elements.
It remains to be said that the “black drink” has never been used by the whites as an habitual beverage, not even in times when tea and coffee were almost unattainable luxuries ; but that, considering the abundance of the Cassine along some 2,000 miles of our coast, it seems desirable to definitely ascertain its exact economic value.
3. Plants furnishing palatable juices or, by infusion, pleasant beverages and used mainly for the purpose of quenching thirst.
Among the plants furnishing wholesome and palatable juices the first place belongs to the Maples, specially the Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.), White or Silver Maple (A. saccharinum L.) and the Red Maple (A. rubrum L.). It has been clearly shown that the Indians knew the value of the sap of the Sugar Maples, that they drank it and made sugar from it before the advent of the whites ; thus the Recollect missionary Le Clercq (1675-1691) writes : “Our ordinary food was that of the savages, namely sagamite, or cornmeal, squashes and beans, to which we added, as seasoning, marjoram, purslane, a certain species of balm and small wild onions. Our drink was water from the brook, or if one of us was indisposed, we split the bark of a Maple from which flows a sweet sap, which is collected in a bark vessel and considered a precious remedy.”
The principal use of the maple sap, however, was to sweeten food, as mentioned by Joutel, the companion of La Salle : “We arrived at Chicagou in March (1688) and did not have much food, but Providence gave us, to mix with our cornmeal, a manna, the sap obtained from maples which are common and very large in this region.”
The primitive Indian method of making sugar, before the introduction of metal kettles, was to throw red-hot stones in vessels of bark or wood, or again, to freeze the syrup repeatedly in shallow basins and throw off the ice.
Box Elder Acer Negundo L.), one of our most widely distributed trees, also yields an abundant saccharine sap in the spring utilized by our northern and western Indians. Equally valuable, in this respect, is our White Walnut (Juglans cinerea L.), for “if tapped immediately before the leaves unfold, it yields a richly saccharine juice from which sugar may be obtained nearly, if not quite, equal to that from the Sugar Maple” (U. S. Disp.).
Most species of Birch (Betula) yield the same quality of sap, and the Indians undoubtedly knew its value, although they seem to have been ignorant of the very pleasing effects of modern “birch beer” obtained by fermenting the sap of B. lenta and B. lutea.
In our western deserts, where water is scant, nature provides pulpy juicy plants from which Indians can often quench their thirst. Chief among these are several species of cactus, especially of Opuntia whose fruit (prickly pear), as well as the fleshy leaves or joints, contain an abundance of wholesome juice. Besides O. Tuna and O. Ficus-Indica, already noticed, O. Engelmanni Salm. and 2 or 3 analogous species so abundant along our southwestern boundary are especially noteworthy. Cattle and sheep are very fond of the leaves of these plants which are to them food and drink during the dry season, so that flocks of sheep fed upon them need not be driven to water for several months.
Several species of Echinocactus may also be mentioned in this connection, especially E. Visnaga Hook, of the central plateau of Mexico and E. Wislizeni Engelm. of our southwestern territory ; they are called Barrel Cactus from their appearance, the stem being sometimes 4 to 5 feet high and 1 to 2 feet in diameter. The Pulp of the stem is full of watery juice of a pleasant acidulous taste and has often been welcomed by thirsty travelers.
Many species of Agave with thick fleshy leaves, although mostly used by Mexicans and Indians for food, contain a large proportion of watery juice which can easily be pressed out for drinking. This juice, although not unpalatable, has not the sweet taste which cooking alone develops in it. The Sotol (Dasylirion Texanum Sheele) of Texas and northern Mexico shares exactly properties of Agave as a food and drink plant, not only for Indians but also for bear and other animals. The very succulent young stems of Agave and Yucca are also prized by Indians who are often seen sucking them with marked enjoyment.
Another desert plant which the thirsty native utilizes is Ammobroma Sonorae Torr., the Sand-Food, a leafless parasite in the sand-hills of south Arizona and Lower California. The long creeping stems are not only a palatable food but also a good substitute for water.
Many plants contain mucilaginous, starchy or saccharine principles which are readily imparted to water by infusion or decoction, rendering it more nutritive and palatable, maple syrup or sugar, honey, or dried fruit rich in glucose being often added to the mixture. The flour of maize, as well as that of Mezquite and Screw Bean, are thus frequently used by Mexicans and Indians.
Salvia polystachya Ort. is largely cultivated in northern and central Mexico, under the name of Chia, for its small glossy seeds rich in mucilage and oil. After careful roasting they are ground into meal which, when thrown into water, expands to several times its original bulk, the mucilage rapidly dissolving ; by the addition of sugar, lemon juice or orange-flower water, a very agreeable, wholesome and demulcent beverage is obtained still very popular in Mexico. Other species used for the same purpose are : S. Columbariae Benth., the California Chía, common in California and extending to Arizona and Mexico ; S. carduacea Benth., of southern California and S. tiliaefolia Wahl, of northern Mexico.
Sometimes, tart or acidulous fruits were bruised in water to make it more cooling, refreshing and palatable. This was particularly the case with several species of Sumach : Rhus glabra L., R. hirta Sudw. and R. copallina L., east of the Rocky Mountains ; R. integrifolia B. & H. and R. ovata Wats., of southern California and Lower California. R. integrifolia has very acid berries covered with a white oily efflorescence said to be even more tart than the pulp ; they are frequently gathered by Indians and used fresh, dried or roasted in preparing a very refreshing drink. The fruit of R. ovata is described by Orcutt as being very acid, but coated with a thin crust having the consistency of wax, “as sweet and delicious in flavor as the best of refined sugar” and formerly much collected by the natives ; a combination of the acid pulp with the sweet crust making excellent lemonade.
In California, the Manzanitas are also used for this purpose. Arctostaphylos Manzanita Parry, the Common Manzanita, has a smooth apple-like fruit, 4-6 lines broad, reddish-brown when ripe, mildly astringent, but decidedly acid ; it makes a pleasant cooling drink in summer. A. tomentosa Douglas has a somewhat smaller pubescent fruit.
Likewise used in this manner is the fruit of our two species of Shepherdia, S. argentea Nutt., the Bullberry of the Missouri region, and S. Canadensis Nutt., the Soapberry of the northern States and British America. That of the former contains 2 to 3 per cent, of free acid ; that of the latter contains a small proportion of saponin, so that when triturated in water and beaten up it produces a thick foam which, when sweetened, is highly prized by the natives.
Other common native plants with tart fruit imparting a pleasantly acidulous taste to water are the Barberries, specially Berberis Canadensis Mill, of the east, B. repens Lindl. and B. aquifolium Pursh. of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific States, and B. trifoliata Moric. of Texas and Mexico.
Finally, we may note a few of the plants used in infusion to make aromatic teas. These plants are many ; in fact, there is hardly any scented vegetable within reach which has not been used at some time by natives in preparing beverages, although perhaps oftener for medicinal purposes than to simply gratify the palate.
Sassafras tea, made from the root of the Sassafras tree, was a favorite substitute for Chinese tea in the South during our Civil War, and had always been appreciated by Indians, although they never suspected the superior charms of “root-beer.” During the war for independence, the colonists used, as a substitute for the imported article, the leaves of New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus Americanus L.) which had at least the merit of being very common. It is quite probable that its virtues had been indicated by the natives. It does not contain theine but a very minute proportion of a bitter crystalline alkaloid, ceanothine. According to Porcher, when properly dried and prepared, it is aromatic and not unpleasant, “. . . certainly a good substitute for indifferent black tea.” A very fragrant drink was also prepared from the Spice-Bush (Lindera Benzoin Blume), as well as from Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) and Sweet Fern (Myrica asplenifolia). Much less acceptable must have been the infusion from Marsh Tea (Ledum palustre L.) and Labrador Tea (L. Groenlandicum Oeder) which, but specially the first, contain an acrid aromatic oil. According to Pursh and more recent observers, the dried leaves and flowers of the Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora Ait.) are a pleasant and wholesome substitute for tea.
While in western Texas, I became familiar with the Encenilla or Chaparral Tea (Croton corymbulosus Engelm.) quite abundant in that region. An infusion of the flowering tops makes a very palatable drink much used by Mexicans and Indians, as well as by our colored U. S. soldiers who prefer it to coffee. It appears to be entirely devoid of théine or any other stimulating principle except volatile oils. Other plants similarly used and valued in the same country and northern Mexico are Bidens Bigelovii Gray, Salvia ballotaeflora Benth., Hedeoma Drummundii Benth. and Actinella odorata Gray.