Yerba Maté --Top 10 Health Benefits

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March 4, 2012, last updated February 23, 2015

By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Have you heard of yerba maté? This herbal brew is the
latest health drink to land on our shores, heaped with
reported health benefits. Yerba maté, also known simply as
maté, is more popular than tea or coffee in South American
countries like Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay.
Yerba maté is said to increase energy, help us lose weight
and strengthen our immune systems. But is yerba maté any
more than hype? What makes yerba maté special? Is yerba
maté really good for us? What are the health benefits fo
yerba mate'?

Yerba maté is made by infusing the roasted leave of the
Ilex paraguariensis herb with hot or cold water. The drink
is traditionally consumed communally, with friends or
colleagues passing round a hollow gourd and drinking the
yerba maté out of it through a metal straw. In the US we’re
less likely to have our own gourd and more likely to buy
yerba maté in tea bags or loose for brewing in a coffee

Although it’s a rather bitter, leafy-tasting drink yerba maté
has a number of reported health benefits and has gathered
a cohort of committed fans.

Celebrities such as Matt Damon, whose wife is Argentinian,
reportedly loves mate', and Madonna have helped to
popularize the drink in America.

Top 10 Health Benefits of Yerba Mate'

1. Yerba Maté is packed with Antioxidants

Yerba maté boasts a high antioxidant content, making
health comparisons with green tea inevitable. As with
tea, the antioxidants in maté are said to help reduce the
risk of heart disease and cancer as well as
improve the
immune system.

Maté’s antioxidant assistance comes from chlorogenic acid.
A 2011 study from the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil
demonstrated a high chlorogenic acid content in yerba
maté, which researchers said was evidence of its
antioxidant qualities.

Consuming chlorogenic acid antioxidants in the form of
maté tea was demonstrated to increase the body’s
antioxidant defense mechanisms against free radicals,
according to 2000 research from Universidad Nacional
de La Plata, Argentina.

Yerba Maté Helps Lower Cholesterol

We’re all looking for a quick way to improve our heart
health. Could the yerba maté drink help cut our high
cholesterol levels? Some researchers say yes, the herb can
help lower our cholesterol. A 2009 study from the Federal
University of Santa Catarina, Brazil looked at 102 people
who drank yerba maté over a period of 40 days. Results
showed that maté reduced LDL cholesterol by up to 8.7
percent. Good news for those of us concerned about our
bad cholesterol, although the link merits further studies.

Yerba Maté Gives You Energy

Far and away the biggest health claim made by maté
enthusiasts is that yerba maté enhances energy, gives you
a buzz and increases alertness. Are these claims true?

There are no direct studies on maté’s energy-increasing
powers but yerba maté does contain caffeine. For this
reason, one 2010 study from the University of Illinois
Urbana-Champaign cautions against excessive drinking of
any beverage such as maté mate by children or pregnant

Many sellers of maté have tried to claim that maté has no
caffeine, and that the drink will consequently give none of
the side effects associated with caffeine.

But this is not true. The caffeine content of yerba maté is
actually equivalent to that found in a small cup of coffee.

Based on the evidence from studies into caffeine generally,
for example a 2002 study from Cardiff University, UK that
reports caffeine increases alertness, reduces tiredness and
improves mental capacity, you would expect maté to
enhance performance to a certain extent. Certainly, many
committed maté drinkers would agree.

Drink Yerba Maté to Lose Weight?

And if alertness wasn’t enough, many experts believe yerba
maté works as a weight loss aid.

We are pretty sure there are no quick fixes when it comes
to dropping the pounds, but one 2001 study from Medical
Center Charlottenlund, Denmark did show a combination
product made up of yerba maté , guarana and damiana to
be beneficial for 44 overweight people as it helped them
lose weight.

A 2009 study from Universidade São Francisco, Bragança
Paulista, Brazil showed yerba maté extract had a potent
anti-obesity effect, although the research took place on
mice fed a high-fat diet. As with many weight loss aids,
more research needs to be completed before we can safely
say yerba maté combats obesity.

Yerba Maté Can Help Protect Against Osteoporosis

It seems maté is associated with bone health as well as
heart health, but what is the evidence? A 2012 study from
the Program for the Prevention and Treatment of
Osteoporosis, Obra Social de Empleados Públicos, Mendoza,
Argentina showed yerba maté is associated with higher
bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.

However, you may need to develop a strong mate' habit to
reap the benefits. Women who drank more than one liter of
maté a day, for more than four years, showed the higher
bone mineral density, a factor that helps guard against

Minerals in Yerba Maté Bring Health Benefits

As well as vitamins and antioxidants, Yerba maté also
contains inorganic compounds like copper, aluminum, iron,
chromium, manganese, potassium and zinc, according to a
2011 survey by the Federal University of Mato Grosso do
Sul, Brazil. How do these minerals help us? By helping
enzymes. For example, copper is an essential part of the
process of numerous enzymes in our body, while
manganese helps the antioxidant enzyme superoxide
dismutase fight free radicals. Copper and manganese are
touted as osteoporosis and arthritis treatments.

Can Maté Help Diabetes Sufferers?

Maté is reported to positively affect the lives of people with
diabetes. One 2005 study from Touro University-California,
Mare Island, Vallejo claims maté helps slow the process of
glycation, a metabolic side effect of
diabetes. However, this
was a test tube trial.

A 2011 study from the Federal University of Santa Catarina,
Campus Universitario s/n, Trindade, Brazil showed maté
improved the glycemic and lipid profiles of Type 2 diabetes
sufferers which, combined with nutritional monitoring,
helps reduce the risk of heart disease in diabetics.

Yerba Maté and Intestinal Benefits

According to 2001 research from Cátedra de Farmacología,
Facultad de Farmacia y Bioquímica, Buenos Aires, Argentina
maté helps increase the flow of bile and assists your
intestines However, if these reported effects are real it is
still not clear how it directly benefits your health.  


A 2010 study from Kyoto Pharmaceutical University in
Japan has discovered that drinking yerba mate in a
concentration of 100g/kg for 7 weeks can delay the rapid
emptying of your stomach.

Why is the speed that your stomach empties its contents

If your stomach empties out too rapidly, it can lead to
plunging blood pressure, fainting and other health
complications. In the elderly, plunging blood pressure
following a meal because of speedy stomach emptying is in
fact a leading cause of death in nursing homes.

Drink Yerba Maté in Moderation – Could Yerba Maté
Cause Cancer?

Despite the many health claims on yerba maté’s side, there
are researchers who have linked drinking maté with an
increased risk of cancer of the head and neck, mouth,
bladder, lung and larynx.

Some experts think the temperature at which maté is drunk
is the factor that increases the risk of cancer of the throat
and mouth, but this wouldn’t explain the extra risk of lung
or bladder cancer.

And many researchers see no link, for instance a 2009
study from the Instituto de Oncología, Buenos Aires,
Argentina which concluded there is no sound population-
based case-control study on maté consumption as a risk
factor for cancer.

According to the International Agency for Research on
Cancer (IARC) Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans
and the US National Toxicology Program's Report of
Carcinogens, there is only a "moderate" amount
of evidence that yerba maté  contains carcinogenic

While we don't find this assertion particularly comforting --
we would have preferred that mate' contain
no evidence of
carcinogenic properties --- what it points to is that the
question is one that begs for further research.

One thing to remember is that an increase in cancer risk is
primarily linked to the way maté is traditionally consumed –
many liters of maté a day, over many years. If you drink
maté occasionally and in moderation you are unlikely to
significantly increase your cancer risk. And you may even
decrease it…

Maté Helps Prevent Colon Cancer

Could we help cut our colon cancer risk by drinking yerba
maté tea?

A 2012 study suggests so.  The study, by the University of
Illinois. showed human colon cancer cells died when
exposed to the same number of bioactive
compounds found in one actual cup of yerba maté.

The compounds in maté also reduced markers of
inflammation, which helps cut the risk of cancer
development. And maté may also help slow down the
process of other cancers, too. Studies in 2005 and 2004 by
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed
yerba maté helped slow the proliferation of oral cancer.

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