Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Yerba Mate?

Yerba mate is an herbal tea made from the leaves and twigs of the mate plant that's popular in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and other South American countries where the plant occurs natively. Like coffee and other teas, yerba mate stimulates the nervous system and is most commonly consumed as an energy booster.

Yerba mate has been enjoyed for centuries by people across South America. It is traditionally enjoyed hot with a filtered straw in a hollow gourd, while other people prefer drinking it over ice. The plant is a member of the holly family and produces a strong, bitter drink similar to green tea. Yerba mate is known as a natural remedy for:

Although yerba mate is consumed by millions of people and touted for its many positive effects, more research is needed to make definitive conclusions about its benefits.  

Nutrition Information

One cup of yerba mate contains:

  • Calories: 15
  • Protein: 0.5 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0.0 grams

Yerba mate is a good source of: 

Potential Health Benefits of Yerba Mate

Yerba mate is a rich source of antioxidants due to the presence of substances such as xanthines, caffeoyl derivatives, and saponins. However, some of the things that make yerba mate so potent, such as its high caffeine content, can also create health problems for some people.

Studies have shown a number of potential health benefits to drinking yerba mate: 

Greater Energy

Yerba mate provides an energy boost due to its high caffeine content, which is linked to increased alertness, improved concentration, reduced fatigue, and enhanced physical performance.

Improved Mental Health

Drinking yerba mate may be helpful in treating mental disorders such as attention disorders, depression, mood disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse. 

Weight Loss

Preliminary studies have shown that yerba mate can help stimulate fat oxidation and feelings of fullness, leading to significant decreases in weight in some patients. The direct cause for this decrease is unknown, but researchers suspect that the effect could be due to mate’s caffeine and antioxidant mix.

Disease Prevention

Yerba mate offers a potent mix of antioxidants that may help protect against certain types of cancers, inflammation, cardiovascular issues, liver diseases, and more. Antioxidants are an important part of a healthy immune system. 

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Potential Risks of Yerba Mate

Yerba mate contains a potent mix of caffeine, antioxidants, and more, so make sure to consult with your doctor before consuming it or any other supplement. Consider the following before drinking yerba mate:

Carcinogenic Properties

Although some research has shown that yerba mate may have anticarcinogenic properties similar to green tea, other research has shown a potential link between yerba mate and cancers of the throat and mouth, especially when consumed at high temperatures. Further research is necessary to conclusively determine how yerba mate impacts the development of cancer in moderate and frequent drinkers. 

Stimulant Effects

Like with coffee, the increased alertness, and energy felt by consuming yerba mate is caused by stimulation of the nervous system. For some people suffering from hypertension, heart disease, or heart arrhythmias, caffeinated drinks like yerba mate may cause complications such as increased blood pressure, a higher risk of losing a pregnancy, and higher blood lipids.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 30, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

Expert Review of Cardiovascular Therapy: “The impact of coffee consumption on blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus.”

Food and Chemical Toxicology: "Effects of caffeine on human behavior."

Journal of Food Science: “Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): A Comprehensive Review on Chemistry, Health Implications, and Technological Considerations.”

Mayo Clinic: “A friend suggested that I try yerba mate tea to boost my energy. What is yerba mate?”

MedicalNewsToday.com: “What are the health benefits of yerba maté tea?”

Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Science and Biotechnology: “Yerba maté: Pharmacological Properties, Research and Biotechnology.” 

Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública: “Cancer and yerba mate consumption: a review of possible associations.”

Scientific American: “What Are the Health Benefits of Yerba Mate?”

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