Yerba mate is a drink prepared with the leaves and stalk of the medicinal plant Ilex paraguariensis. It is rich in caffeine, polyphenols, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals, and is therefore used as a treatment aid for fatigue, lowering cholesterol, promoting weight loss and strengthening the immune system.
Yerba mate can be found at natural health stores and open markets and purchased as dried leaves or stalks or in tea bags to be consumed as an infusion.
Due to its high caffeine content, this drink should be taken as directed by a doctor or registered dietitian, as total daily caffeine consumption should be taken into consideration.
Yerba mate can offer the following health benefits:
1. Promoting weight loss
Yerba mate can be used to help with weight loss, as the caffeine present in this drink has thermogenic effects. It can boost metabolism, burn more energy and help with visceral fat loss.
In addition, this tea delays gastric emptying and increases the feeling of satiety, which can help to reduce appetite and help with weight loss.
In this context, yerba mate use should be monitored by a doctor and should be part of a balanced diet as recommended by a registered dietitian.
2. Combating fatigue
The caffeine present in yerba mate as a direct effect on the brain. It acts by blocking the effects of adenosine, a substance that triggers fatigue and drowsiness. It also increases the release of neurotransmitters, like adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine, glutamine, and serotonin, which gives it a stimulating effect.
For this reason, yerba mate can help to combat fatigue and decreased motivation. It is a great option to take upon waking up or after lunch. It should be avoided at the end of the evening or before going to bed, as it can cause insomnia and interfere with falling asleep.
3. Improving attention and concentration
In addition to the caffeine present in its composition, yerba mate also contains B-complex vitamins. These vitamins promote nutrient metabolism which provides more energy to the body, increases mental stamina, and boosts decision making, attention, concentration and memory.
Consuming yerba mate is recommended for students and for working adults who require an increased level of alertness, motivation and productivity.
4. Improving mood
Yerba mate is rich in theobromine and caffeine, which help to icnrease serotonin levels in the brain. This neurotransmitter is associated with mood regulation, cardiac rhythm, sleep and appetite. Yerba mate can be used to improve mood and combat symptoms of depression and anxiety.
5. Lowering bad cholesterol
Yerba mate is rich in substances like nicotinic acid, ursolic acid saponins, which have antioxidant action that help to lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Furthermore, the saponins in yerba mate help to decrease fat absorption from foods, which can help to decrease cholesterol.
Nonetheless, yerba mate should not substitute treatment with cholesterol medication and dietary changes prescribed by a doctor, and should only be used as a complement to treatment.
Check out other natural ways to lower cholesterol that you can try as part of your medical treatment.
6. Preventing cardiovascular disease
The polyphenols, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid present in yerba mate contain potent antioxidant action. This helps to reduce the bad cholesterol that is responsible for forming fatty plaques within the arteries. Therefore, yerba mate can help to decrease the accumulation of fat in the blood vessels, and reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, heart attack and stroke.
Regular consumption of yerba mate does not substitute medical treatment however, and should not substitute the need to maintain a healthy, low-fat diet.
7. Managing diabetes
Yerba mate contains chlorogenic acids with antioxidant and hypoglycemic properties. These properties help to reduce cellular damage caused by free radicals, and decrease glucose production in the liver, which can help with blood sugar management.
One study  shows that toasted yerba mate, consumed in quantities of 330 mL 3 times per day for 60 days helped to reduce blood sugar and HBA1C levels. This can help with diabetes management when combined with a diabetic diet.
Nonetheless, it is important to highlight that yerba mate should only be used as a complement to the treatment prescribed by a doctor, and not as a substitute.
Learn more about other teas that can help to lower blood sugar naturally.
8. Improving muscular stamina
Yerba mate can help to reduce muscular inflammation from physical exercise, which can speed-up recovery and reduce post-exercise pain.
In addition, yerba mate can help to improve mood and exercise performance. Its stimulating effects may even contribute to motivation in starting these activities.
9. Strengthening immune system
Yerba mate is rich in saponins that contain anti-inflammatory action, in addition to vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, selenium and zinc. These contain antioxidant properties that help to strengthen the immune system and prevent or fight infections.
How to make yerba mate tea
Yerba mate can be consumed warm or cold. You can also add some drops of lemon juice to add more flavor.
- 1 tablespoon of toasted yerba mate leaves
- 1 cup of boiling water
How to prepare
Add the leaves to the water, cover and allow to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Then strain and drink. You can consume up to 1.5 L of yerba mate per day.
Como fazer chimarrao (Brazilian mate)
Chimarrao is a drink with indigenous roots that is common in regions of South America. It is made using yerba mate and prepared in a specific recipient, called a "cuia" (a gourd-shaped bowl with a filter). The tea is placed inside of the cuia along with a "bomba", which is a type of filtered straw that helps with tea consumption.
To prepare this tea as a chimarrao, fill 2/3 of the cuia with yerba mate. Then cover the cuia and tilt it so that the leaves are all stacked on just one side. Then fill the empty side with hot water (not boiled). The tea will remain stacked on one side, even with the water.
Place a thumb over the bomba and place it on the water side, being sure to reach the bottom of the cuia. Use the bomba to consume the tea while still warm.
Possible side effects
Yerba mate is relatively safe when consumed on occasion. Due to its caffeine content, daily consumption can lead to side effects like headache, insomnia, difficulty sleeping and increased blood pressure.
Some studies [2, 3, 4] show that prolonged consumption of yerba mate can increase the risk for cancer in the respiratory or digestive tracts, due to the presence of aromatic compounds found in its composition. These have the same effect as cigarette smoke and grilled foods.
Contraindications for use
Yerba mate is contraindicated for children, pregnant women, and people with insomnia, nervousness, anxiety disorders or high blood pressure due to its high caffeine content.
In addition, because it reduces blood sugar levels, this tea can only be consumed by diabetics under doctor supervision.
Yerba mate should not be consumed by people who take MAO inhibitors, like selegiline, moclobemide, isocarboxazid, phenelzine, nialamida, iproniazid or tranylcypromine.