Known to South Americans as the “Drink of the Gods”, yerba mate (pronounced “yerba mahtay”) is a hot beverage made from the dried leaves of the Ilex Paraguariense bush indigenous to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. And thanks to its caffeine-like content, the drink is a natural stimulant.
Yerba Mate has been used since ancient times as a tea, is recommended throughout South America for its rejuvenating, nutritional, and energizing effects, particularly for mental and physical fatigue. Yerba Mate can be taken as an effective weight-loss aid and scientific research shows Mate to be a powerful antioxidant and that it can protect DNA from double-strand breaks. It also has the ability to inhibit LDL oxidation. Mate naturally contains a wide range of polyphenols, methylxanthines, and chlorogenic acid, which together are responsible for its many health benefits.*
According to Dr. Mowrey, Director of Mountainwest Institute of Herbal Sciences, one group of investigators from the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded that Yerba Mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life”. They focused especially on Pantothenic Acid, remarking that it is “rare to find a plant with so much of this significant and vital nutrient… It is indeed difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to Mate in nutritional value.”
In addition, results from a study done by researchers at the University of Madrid assert a high content of mineral elements, especially K, Mg, and Mn, in Mate. They considered those findings “to be of great relevance” to the nutritional value of Mate infusions.
Yerba mate evangelists claim the beverage, which contains a mix of vitamins and amino acids, can “boost immunity, restore youthful hair color, retard aging, combat fatigue, control the appetite and eliminate insomnia”, and more – and research tends to support many of those claims, such as finding Yerba Mate to have hypocholesteremic (cholesterol lowering), antioxidant, hepato protective (protecting the liver) properties and a bitter taste all of which are attributed to the phenolic constituents of the leaves.
Yerba Mate is packed with naturally-occurring nutrients and anti-oxidants and there are 196 volatile (or 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. Phytochemicals (phyto- meaning plant) are 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 (i.e. lycopene in tomatoes, flavonoids in blueberries, and isoflavones in soy).
Yerba Mate has caffeoyl derivatives (caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid and 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid) and flavonoids (quercetin, rutin and kaempferol). In addition to polyphenols, Yerba Mate leaves contain saponins (In fact, one recent study yielded 3 new saponins in the Yerba Mate leaf!) Saponins are phytochemicals that have been found to specifically stimulate the immune system and aid the body in protecting against disease.
In 2005, researchers at the University of Illinois studied 25 different types of mate. They found the tea to contain “higher levels of antioxidants than green tea”… and, based on cell studies, “may help prevent oral cancer.”