Yerba Mate is a South American herb from the holly shrub of the South American rain forest. It grows wild in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Brazil, but is most abundantly in Paraguay where it is also cultivated. Drinking Mate is a longtime traditional social activity in Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay — family or friends pass around a “gourd” (fist-sized, round wooden ball-like cup) of the brew (just hot water and Mate leaves & stems), sipped through a “bombilla” (which translates to “little pump” or “straw”), often made of silver or bamboo.
In South America, Yerba Mate has been revered for centuries as the “drink of the gods” and is still drunk daily for health, sustained energy and mental clarity by millions. The leaves of the rainforest Mate tree naturally contain vitamins and minerals, amino acids and are rich in antioxidants — with reported ORAC antioxidant levels even higher than many brewed green teas.
Reason #1: There are 196 active chemical compounds found in the Yerba Mate plant. Of those, 144 are also found in green tea. Yerba Mate contains 11 polyphenols. Polyphenols are a group of phytochemicals, a group of recently-discovered compounds that act as powerful antioxidants and are considered to exhibit anti-cancer effects in mammals by strengthening an organism’s natural defenses and protecting it against cellular destruction.
Reason #2: Each infusion of Mate contains:
Vitamins: A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, B Complex
Minerals: Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus
Additional Compounds: Fatty Acids, Chlorophyll, Flavonols, Polyphenols, Trace Minerals, Antioxidants, Pantothenic Acid and 15 Amino Acids.
Source: Arch Latinoam Nutr. 1991 Sep;41(3):441-54.
Reason #3: In addition to polyphenols, Yerba Mate leaves contain saponins. Saponins are phytochemicals that have been found to specifically stimulate the immune system and aid the body in protecting against disease. They possess significant anti-inflammatory properties. Source: Adv Exp Med Biol. 1996;405:47-56.
Reason #4: With about one-third the caffeine of coffee, plus the presence of natural calming tryptophan and other elements, many also report the lack of jitters, shakes and anxiety that can accompany coffee drinking, resulting in all of the “good buzz” of coffee without the bad. And perhaps most significant is the reported lack of “coffee crash”. Source: Phytochemistry. 2000 Dec;55(7):853-7.
Reason #5: Because of its low caffeine levels, it does not interfere with sleep cycles. In fact, it has a tendency to balance the cycles, inducing more REM sleep when necessary, or increases the amount of time spent in delta states. Many people say they require less sleep when using yerba mate because they experience a deeper, more relaxing sleep.
Reason #6: For many years now, physicians in Europe have been incorporating yerba mate in treatments for obesity. In 2000, a research team studying obesity at the Charlottenlund Medical Center in Denmark tested an herbal preparation of Yerba Matefor gastric emptying and subsequent weight loss. They concluded that the herbal preparation, yerba mate capsules, significantly delayed gastric emptying, reduced the time to perceived gastric fullness and induced significant weight loss over 45 days in overweight patients treated in a primary health care context. In addition, maintenance treatment given in an uncontrolled context resulted in no further weight loss, nor weight regain in the group as a whole. Sources: J Hum Nutr Diet. 2001 Jun;14(3):243-50; Phytomedicine. 1999 Oct;6(4):231-8.
Reason #7: Yerba mate has significant antioxidant activity. In a study published in 1995 by Biochemicaland Molecular Biology International, researchers concluded that water extracts of yerba mate “were more potent antioxidants than either ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or butylated hydroxytoluene.” In a more recent study, published in the November 2001 issue of Fitoterapia, researchers took a look at seven different plant species in South America. They found that yerba mate “contained a higher content of flavonoids and caffeoyl derivatives than any other assayed species.” Sources: Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2000 Mar 16;269(2):357-60; Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 May;957:279-83.
Reason #8: Polyphenols found in tea and yerba mate have been shown to prevent both the growth of bacteria responsible for bad breath and the bacteria’s production of odorous compounds.
Reason #9: Consumption of yerba mate improves serum lipid parameters in healthy dyslipidemic subjects and provides an additional LDL-cholesterol reduction in individuals on statin therapy. Source: J. Agric Food Chem. 2009 Sep 23;57(18):8316-24.
Reason #10: In vivo and in vitro studies are showing yerba mate to exhibit significant cancer-fighting activity. Researchers at the University of Illinois (2005) found yerba mate to be “rich in phenolic constituents” and to “inhibit oral cancer cell proliferation” while it promoted proliferation of oral cancer cell lines at certain concentrations. Source: J. Agric. Food Chem., 2005, 53 (6), pp 1966–1973.