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Yerba Mate

Category: Food



Introduction and description

Yerba mate is a type of tea. It is made using the leaves of a plant native to South America whose correct botanical name is Ilex paraguariensis. It is a species of holly.

Yerba mate is a well known beverage traditionally consumed in subtropical South America, particularly 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.

And it has health giving properties.


Yerba 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.

In general, therefore, mate is not any use for relaxation and would be better classified as a stimulant, as it acts on the sympathetic nervous system.

This means that like all stimulants you need to be careful how much you have as if you overdose you are going to get palpitations plus a whole lot of other health problems. 

A study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, for example, showed a limited correlation between oral cancer and the drinking of large quantities of "very hot mate". In effect, if you use very hot water and overdose, you suffer.

In terms of mineral content, Yerba mate also contains potassium, magnesium and manganese and a number of studies have indicated the minerals and antioxidants have nutritional benefits.  There are some indications that Yerba mate may help in balancing cholesterol levels. And from indications on PubMed, in moderate doses at low temperatures it has antiviral properties.


The infusion, called mate in Spanish-speaking countries or chimarrão in south Brazil, is prepared by steeping dry leaves (and twigs) of the mate plant in warm or cold but not boiling water. It becomes very bitter if boiling water is used and loses many of its health giving properties.

The flavor of brewed mate resembles an infusion of vegetables, herbs, and grass, and is reminiscent of some varieties of green tea. Flavored mate is also sold, in which the mate leaves are blended with other herbs (such as peppermint) or citrus rind. It is often served sweetened either hot or iced with fruit juice or milk.

An iced, sweetened version of toasted mate is sold as an uncarbonated soft drink, with or without fruit flavoring and called chá mate. Mate batido, which is toasted, has less of a bitter flavor and more of a spicy fragrance. Mate batido becomes creamy when shaken.

Tereré can be prepared using cold or iced water or using cold or iced fruit juice . Medicinal herbs, known as yuyos, are mixed in a mortar and pestle and added to the water for taste or medicinal reasons.

How it works

See the observations from PubMed


Has some useful health giving properties


Cannot be used as a relaxant and is thus better as a one off health based drink.

Related observations