The Yerba Mate, scientifically known as Ilex Paraguariensis and colloquially known as simple “Mate,” is a tree that grows in America’s subtropical lands. It was discovered and consumed by the Guaranies, the pre-Columbian natives that lived in what we now know as Paraguay, Northeastern Argentina, Southern Brazil, Southeastern Bolivia, and Northern Uruguay.
The Guaranies dried, processed and macerated the leaves of the Yerba Mate, or “Ka’a” as they called it, to produce a natural, stimulating infusion. They drank the infusion as a medicine for several diseases, intestinal problems, and also as a restorative elixir to provide them strength and energy. These potent nutritional and medicinal properties made it an extremely desirable beverage. The tradition survived many generations and has persisted as a vital part of the culture of the region.
Quite recently, the leaves of this particular tree have gained popularity outside South America, for reasons other than being a curious traditional Latin infusion. The Yerba Mate is a source of varied benefits, including three of the most touted: 100% natural, low-calorie, and low cost.
The main nutritional benefits include:
Source of Important Vitamins and Minerals
Mate is rich in B-complex vitamins, which aid in the release and use of energy from food. Vitamins C, E, and carotenes are also present. As for minerals, it contains significant amounts of Potassium, which is essential for the heart, and Magnesium, essential to help the body incorporate protein, as well as iron, phosphorus, and sodium.
It contains polyphenols that function as antioxidants, which protect the body against oxidation by free radicals, which are responsible for numerous diseases and premature aging. In other words, the Mate can slow the signs of age, detoxify the blood, and prevent certain types of cancer. It got more antioxidants than tree tea.
The Yerba Mate is a natural source of energy that stimulates intellectual and physical activity. Thanks to the xanthine, which is a precursor to stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine, it stimulates the central nervous system, promotes mental activity, and enhances the ability to focus.
Supports Cardiovascular Health
The antioxidants and amino acids present in yerba mate help fat and cholesterol move through bloodstream so that they don’t accumulate on artery walls. The saponins help reduce the number of low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) present in the blood.
Helps Control Weight
Drinking mate provides a satiety sensation and helps to “trick the stomach” when a craving for food arrives during the day or between meals. At the same time, when you drink yerba mate regularly, you may also burn more of the calories stored in fat cells as fuel, resulting in weight loss.
Mate aids digestion by stimulating increased production of bile and gastric acids. It helps to keep the colon clean for effective and efficient waste elimination and helps reduce the stomach bacteria.
Mate stimulates urine production, facilitating the elimination of toxic substances.
Many Benefits Few Side Effects
There are not many contraindications to yerba mate consumption, but there are some possible side effects. As with most things, excessive consumption can be counter-productive, so take into account:
Acidity and Gastritis
It may produce heartburn or a feeling of digestive discomfort. When this happens, it is recommended to stop or reduce consumption of tolerable levels.
Continuous consumption can lead to liver and/or spleen inflammation. Its use is not recommended in case of articulation problems, such as arthritis or osteoarthritis.
Mate is something used in intense or chronic constipation treatments and associated disorders for its powerful purgative effect, so consider this if planning to drink it, particularly in high quantities.
It is not recommended for children and hypertensive people.
How Much Can I Drink?
A safe amount is not defined and side effects are not the same for everybody. Still, as a reference, South American consumers drink on average up to 2 liters of mate a day (when prepared in the traditional way, this means consuming 100 grams of yerba mate daily). Doctors and nutritionists in the region say that this is a safe maximum quantity.
Now Let’s Prepare Some Mate!
there are different ways to consume the Yerba Mare, the most typical and traditional method in South America is an infusion in hot water. The Yerba is placed in a hollowed gourd called a “mate” made out of a calabash and drunk through a metallic or wooden straw that serves as a filter (called a “bombilla” in Spanish). Nevertheless, you can choose the way you like the most, either hot or cold, sour or sweet, in herbs or “mate bags,” alone or with some aromatic herbs, with milk, lemon, or orange juices.
The plant is also quite versatile. The extract and concentrate can also be used to cook and flavor foods and cakes, as well as for medicinal and cosmetic uses ( e.g. creams, soaps, and anticellulite gels). Mate infusion is quite bitter and has an intense green color, which is the reason why it is sometimes used as a natural dye!
So if you have never tried the yerba mate, I can imagine that all its incredible benefits make you want to do so as soon as possible! Do not hesitate to incorporate this wonderful and complete plant into your diet, but always remember to take possible side effects into consideration and try not to exceed the recommended intake, in order to be able to enjoy all of its benefits without any regret.
Never boil water for mate! Water should be between 70 and 80-degree Celsius. With this temperature, you preserve flavor and aroma and conserve all of mates properties and nutrients.
Choose an organic and certified origin of yerba mate, as nutrients may vary from brand to brand regarding production processes, crops, and land.