The Medicinal Significance of Ilex

The Ilex genus is the scientific name for plants that belong to the same family as the holly tree. Despite growing slowly during the younger years of their lives, according to botanists, holly trees and shrubs are hardy, can grow in almost any type of soil and can survive under virtually any type of light.

Arguably, the strongest cultural association we have with these types of trees and shrubs involves the holidays. (You know: it's that stuff underneath which you saw mom kissing Santa, etc.). A health news article entitled "We three kings and Christmas trees: pharmacotherapy from presents and diseases from decorations," published in a 2007 edition of the Australian Medical Journal hazards a theory explaining how holly trees and the Christmas holidays came to become so closely associated in the public consciousness. The answer is pharmaceuticals, of course.

You may or may not know that, in addition to providing a thing under which your mother can play tonsil hockey with Santa, Ilex is an important ingredient of topically applied painkillers. Unfortunately, mistletoe and all of its various relatives of the ilex genus fail to provide modern science with satisfy evidence of aphrodisiac qualities. To compensate, however surprisingly, it reduces hypertension in rats as well as fighting prostate cancer in humans.

As a crucial ingredient of Biofreeze, ilex serves three important functions. It improves texture, lengthens the analgesic effects of the formula and lends it a pleasant scent. Below, I will explain further:

  • Ilex reduces some of the greasy, suntan lotion-like quality of topical analgesics such as Biofreeze. In order to isolate the important qualities of ilex for such uses, makers of the popular product first brew the leaves of the South American holly shrub, and then condense the extract into a powder. Biofreeze is carefully formulated to save users from the unsightly, deodorant-like residue that many competing products leave on the skin.
  • In addition to making Biofreeze more pleasing to the touch, the specific type of ilex contained in the analgesic product serves the second and more important function of lengthening the time during which Biofreeze remains effective as an analgesic. In part, thanks to ilex, the effects of Biofreeze can last as long as six hours.
  • One of the most unflattering associations with topical analgesic products is their "geriatric" or "chemical" smell. Last, but not least, ilex lends a distinctive scent to Biofreeze that many people find significantly more pleasing than similar alternative products.

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