Botanical: Ilex paraguariensis; Ilex paraguayensis
Family: Aquifoliaceae (holly)
Other common names: Maté, South American Holly, Ilex, Paraguay Tea, St. Bartholomew's Tea,
Ilex Maté, Missionaries' Tea, Jesuit Tea, Hervea, Matté Tea, Houx Maté, Brazil Tea, Gon-gouha
Yerba Maté is a powerful stimulant and more popular in its native South America than tea or coffee (it is the national drink of Argentina!). The herb has a reputation as a nutritious tonic that not only stimulates the body (providing youthful vigor and energy), but it also stimulates the mind (promoting mental acuity and clarity).
The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
Yerba Maté is a large, white-flowered, evergreen shrub that grows wild near streams in moist, well-drained soil in sun or shade and requires at least a forty-five-degree Fahrenheit temperature to succeed. It is native to subtropical South America and has been cultivated as a very valuable commercial crop in northern Argentina (Corrientes and Misiones), southern Brazil, eastern Paraguay and western Uruguay (and it has also been naturalized in Texas). Paraguay exports millions of pounds of Yerba Maté annually. The Yerba Maté plant grows as a shrub or small tree that produces a large red fruit or drupe (which is never consumed) and leafy shoots that may be picked at intervals throughout the year in the same manner as tea. Its leaves have a serrated margin, and they are used in herbal medicine and also made into a tea that is the beverage of choice in much of South America. Because of its enormous popularity, Yerba Maté is heavily cultivated as a valuable crop and has displaced great areas of rain forest canopy trees. Although the trees can sometimes reach a height of twenty feet, they are still much lower than the rain forest canopy they replace and have, thus, created an environmental issue. A beverage made from the leaf is the national drink of Argentina, where it is touted as an energizer and a tonic, and it is so popular that the average Argentinian consumes about eleven pounds annually. The odor is not particularly agreeable and the taste rather bitter, but it is drunk at every meal and every hour. Yerba Maté was first brought under cultivation by Jesuit missionaries, who had learned of the herb and its many benefits (as a cooling drink and a folk remedy for scurvy) from the South American Indians; and the Jesuits risked their own safety, searching for the shrubs in the dense jungles of Brazil, where it grew wild. After cultivating the small trees in their missions, the common names, Jesuit Tea and Missionaries' Tea, emerged. The name Maté (pronounced mah-tay) is derived from the Spanish word, meaning "gourd," which was the vessel in which the drink was infused in the manner of tea, and the cup passed around. In Portuguese (the language of Brazil), the hollow gourd is called cabaça; and in Paraguay, Yerba Maté is drunk as a cold beverage - usually out of a cow's horn in the countryside. Yerba Maté was introduced into the United States in the 1970s, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has generally recognized the herb as safe for use as a food additive and supplement. Some of the constituents in Yerba Maté include caffeine, theobromine, theophylline, chlorophyll, flavonoids (rutin, kaemferol, quercetin and rutin), tannins (caffeic and chlorogenic acids), polyphenols, ursolic acid, amino acids, vanillin, choline, inositol, nicotinic acid, pyridoxine, trace minerals, potassium, magnesium, manganese, B-vitamins and vitamins C and E.
Yerba Maté has been used for centuries as an invigorating, bracing tonic that revitalizes the body, while also working to stimulate the mind; and some even claim that it combats the ageing process. It produces a natural energy without interfering with sleep (although it isn't recommended for insomniacs). Yerba Maté is generally considered a powerful stimulant that will also help to enhance the efficacy of other stimulant and healing herbs.
Yerba Maté is recommended for balancing and strengthening immune function and toning the nervous system. It is said to help restore the entire system and ease mild nervous depression, soothe tension headaches, increase energy and fight fatigue.
As a diaphoretic, Yerba Maté helps to promote perspiration (thereby also removing toxins from the body through the skin) and lowering fever and cooling the body. The herb is also believed to be a powerful diuretic that encourages urine flow and helps the body expel excess retained fluid. This is particularly helpful in relieving the excess water weight and bloated feelings associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Yerba Maté is considered an excellent antioxidant that fights free radicals in the system. The herb contains polyphenols that are said to be similar to those in green tea. They are compounds that prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad cholesterol," which helps to inhibit the progress of arteriosclerosis.
According to Dr. Qi Dai, assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, a ten-year study found that the particularly strong antioxidant effects of the polyphenols, which may be found in Yerba Maté, act to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's disease.
Yerba Maté is believed to possess anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful in alleviating rheumatic conditions and inflammatory bowel disorders. The herb is also thought to stimulate the production of cortisone, which is a natural anti-inflammatory.
As an herbal stimulant, Yerba Maté is thought to help relieve constipation, and because it is high in mineral content, the herb helps to restore minerals lost in the laxative process.
Yerba Maté is the source of trace minerals and considered very nutritious and sustaining. It was frequently carried as the only refreshment on journeys lasting several days.
Supporting its reputation as a stimulant, Yerba Maté is said to stimulate the burning of fat. There are claims that the herb suppresses or helps to curb the appetite. It is also thought that the caffeine stimulates weight loss by short-circuiting the feedback mechanisms that keep the body from producing more adrenaline when stimulated by other weight loss herbs. While probably not actually affecting weight loss by itself, it appears to boost the stimulant properties of other herbs.
Because Yerba Maté is especially rich in minerals such as magnesium, manganese and potassium, it helps the body maintain electrolyte balance and restore lost minerals caused by rapid weight loss due to a high protein diet.
Yerba Maté is thought to be a depurative, an agent that cleanses and purifies the blood. The herb is also said to be useful for alleviating allergies.
Pregnant or nursing women and people who suffer from insomnia should not use Yerba Maté Herbal Supplement because of the stimulating effects of the caffeine content. The herb should not be taken with meals, since it may interfere with the absorption of nutrients, and Yerba Maté should not be used in large amounts (many times the recommended dosage), as it is a potent stimulant. Maté may interfere with the actions of lithium, and this interaction might also occur with other drugs used for manic depression and mental illness (studied but not proven). Yerba Maté and the phenyl-propanolamine in certain antihistamines and diet drugs may increase blood pressure (studied but not proven). Those with liver problems should avoid Yerba Maté. Yerba Maté may interfere with the actions of several prescription drugs, and the warnings associated with caffeine apply to this plant. Those with cardiac disorders should consult a physician before taking Yerba Maté.