Herbs & Plants

Yerba Mate

Botanical Name :Ilex paraguariensis
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Genus: Ilex
Species: I. paraguariensis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Aquifoliales

Synonyms: I. paraguensis, I. mate, I. domestica, I. sorbilis

Common Names: Yerba Mate , maté, erva mate, congonha, erveira, Paraguay cayi, Paraguay tea, South American holly, matéteestrauch, erva-verdadeira, St. Bartholomew’s tea, Jesuit’s tea, hervea, caminú, kkiro, kali chaye

Habitat :  Yerba Mate is native to subtropical South America in northeastern Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. It was first used and cultivated by the Guaraní people, and also in some Tupí communities in southern Brazil, prior to the European colonization. It was scientifically classified by the Swiss botanist Moses Bertoni, who settled in Paraguay in 1895.

Yerba mate is a widely-cultivated, medium-sized evergreen tree that can grow to 20 m high in the wild. Commonly, when cultivated, it is pruned into a shrubby, 4-8 m tall tree to make harvesting easier. Yerba mate is in the holly family, and bears holly-like leaves that are quite stiff and leathery. In the wild it grows near streams, and thrives at 1,500-2,000 feet above sea level. It has graceful, full-leafed branches, and white flowers that produce small red, black, or yellow berries. It is yerba mate’s tough, leathery leaves that are used medicinally and as a natural, refreshing tea beverage throughout South America. Yerba mate is indigenous to Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay; however, it is now cultivated in many tropical countries to supply a world demand for its leaves.

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The flowers are small, greenish-white, with four petals. The fruit is a red drupe 4–6 mm in diameter.

It is the well known as the source of the beverage called mate after the gourd it is traditionally drunk from. It is native to subtropical South America in northeastern Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. It was first used and cultivated by the Guaraní people, and also in some Tupí communities in southern Brazil, prior to the European colonization. It was scientifically classified by the Swiss botanist Moses Bertoni, who settled in Paraguay in 1895.

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The plant is grown and processed in South America, specifically in northern Argentina (Corrientes, Misiones), Paraguay, Uruguay and southern Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná and Mato Grosso do Sul). Cultivators are known as yerbateros (Spanish) or ervamateiros (Brazilian Portuguese).

Seeds used to germinate new plants are harvested from the second half of January until April only after they have turned dark purple. After harvest, they are submerged in water in order to eliminate floating non-viable seeds and detritus like twigs, leaves, etc. New plants are started between March and May. For plants established in pots, transplanting takes place April through September; for plants with bare roots, it is better to transplant only during the months of June and July.

Many of the natural enemies of Yerba Mate are difficult to control in a plantation setting. Some of these are insects including Gyropsylla spegazziniana, an insect that lays eggs in branches, Hedyphates betulinus, an insect that weakens the tree and makes it more susceptible to mold and mildew, “Perigonia lusca”, an insect that eats the leaves, and several species of mites.

When the mate is harvested, the branches are dried sometimes with a wood fire, imparting a smoky flavor. Then the leaves and sometimes the twigs are broken up.

The plant Ilex paraguariensis can vary in strength of the flavor, caffeine levels and other nutrients depending on whether it is a male or female plant. Female plants tend to be milder in flavor, and lower in caffeine. They are also relatively scarce in the areas where mate is planted and cultivated, not wild-harvested, compared to the male plants.

According to FAO, Brazil is the biggest producer of mate in the world with 434,727 MT (53%), followed by Argentina with 300,000 MT (37%) and Paraguay with 76,663 MT (10%).

Chemical Constituents:
Mate contains three xanthines: caffeine, theobromine and theophylline, the main one being caffeine. Caffeine content varies between 0.7% and 1.7% of dry weight (compared with 0.4– 9.3% for tea leaves, 2.5–7.6% in guarana, and up to 3.2% for ground coffee); theobromine content varies from 0.3% to 0.9%; theophylline is present in small quantities, or can be completely absent. A substance previously called “mateine” is a synonym for caffeine (like theine and guaranine)

Preliminary limited studies of mate have shown that the mate xanthine cocktail is different from other plants containing caffeine, most significantly in its effects on muscle tissue, as opposed to those on the central nervous system, which are similar to those of other natural stimulants.[citation needed] The three xanthines present in mate have been shown to have a relaxing effect on smooth muscle tissue, and a stimulating effect on myocardial (heart) tissue

Mineral content: Mate also contains elements such as potassium, magnesium and manganese.

Meditional Uses:
Main Preparation Method: infusion
Main Actions (in order):
stimulant, tonic (tones, balances, strengthens overall body functions), thermogenic (increase fat-burning), nervine (balances/calms nerves), anti-allergy

Main Uses: a stimulant (for its caffeine content) an overall tonic (tones, balances, strengthens the body) and digestive aid
3.for obesity and as part of weight loss regimens a general nervine (balances/calms nerves) for nerve pain, nervous fatigue, and depression
5.for allergies and sinusitis

Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, bile stimulant, stimulant, thermogenic (increases fat burning), vasodilator

Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
anti-allergy, antidepressant, appetite suppressant, blood cleanser, cardiotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the heart), central nervous system stimulant, digestive stimulant, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), nervine (balances/calms nerves), neurasthenic (reduces nerve pain), neuroprotective (protects brain cells), purgative (strong laxative)

Cautions: It contains natural caffeine. Don’t use if allergic to caffeine or zanthines

Health effects:
As of 2011 there has not been any double-blind, randomized prospective clinical trial of mate drinking with respect to chronic disease. However, a variety of studies have indicated the antioxidants and nutritional benefits combine to help improve the immune system, detoxify the body, relieve allergies, reduce the risk of diabetes and hypoglycemia, burns more calories, acts as an appetite suppressant and weight loss tool, increases the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the heart, may reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, increases mental energy and focus, improves mood, and promotes a deeper sleep, however sleep may be affected in people who are sensitive to caffeine.

Lipid metabolism:
Some non-blinded studies have found mate consumption to be effective in lipid lowering. Studies in animals and humans have observed hypocholesterolemic effects of Ilex paraguariensis aqueous extracts. A single-blind controlled trial of 102 volunteers found that after 40 days of drinking 330 mL / day of mate tea (concentration 50g dry leaves / L water), people with already-healthy cholesterol levels experienced an 8.7% reduction in LDL, and hyperlipidemic individuals experienced an 8.6% reduction in LDL and a 4.4% increase in HDL, on average. Participants already on statin therapy saw a 13.1% reduction in LDL and a 6.2% increase in HDL. The authors thus concluded that drinking yerba mate infusions may reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases.

Mate consumption is associated with oral cancer esophagus cancer, cancer of the larynx,  and squamous cell of the head and neck. The mechanism is believed to be due to the effect of high consumption temperature, rather than due to any innate properties of mate as a beverage.

A study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer showed a limited correlation between oral cancer and the drinking of large quantities of “hot mate”. Smaller quantities (less than 1 liter daily) were found to increase risk only slightly, though alcohol and tobacco consumption had a synergistic effect on increasing oral, throat, and esophageal cancer. The study notes the possibility that the increased risk, rather than stemming from the mate itself, could be credited to the high (near-boiling) temperatures at which the mate is consumed in its most traditional way, the chimarrão. The cellular damage caused by thermal stress could lead the esophagus and gastric epithelium to be metaplasic, adapting to the chronic injury. Then, mutations would lead to cellular dysplasia and to cancer. While the IARC study does not specify a specific temperature range for “hot mate”, it lists general (not “hot”) mate drinking separately, but does not possess the data to assess its effect. It also does not address, in comparison, any effect of consumption temperature with regard to coffee or tea.

Few data are available on the effects of yerba mate on weight in humans and further study may be warranted.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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