Yerba mate, or yerba mate, is a typical drink of South American countries, a real concentrate of energy for those who want to change from the usual coffee or tea. Discover its properties, uses and contraindications.
The famous mate, also known as yerba mate or herba mate, is obtained from the dried and chopped leaves of the plant botanically known as Ilex paraguariensis, an infusion particularly rich in properties and appreciated above all for its energizing abilities.
Consumed in Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and other areas of South America, yerba mate has been known since ancient times as the indigenous peoples (in particular the Guaranì tribe) used it daily and handed down to our times by the colonizers. Spaniards who appreciated its taste and properties.
Traditional methods are still used to produce mate, the leaves of the plant are collected and dried for many hours and then broken up in such a way that they can be easily used to prepare the infusion. Finally they undergo a light roasting which makes them more aromatic.
Yerba mate: properties and beneficial effects
One of the best known and most appreciated characteristics of this drink is certainly the tonic / energizing one, however scientific research is also bringing to light other very interesting qualities. So let’s see below what are the main beneficial properties of yerba mate.
The infusion of green mate is rich in xanthines and polyphenols, precious antioxidants that defend the cells of our body from the action of free radicals. Interestingly, the antioxidant power of yerba mate appears to be slightly higher than that of green tea.
✓ Energizing and stimulating
The leaves of yerba mate, like coffee and tea, contain caffeine (called in this case mateine as in the case of tea we speak of theine). It is thanks to the presence of this substance that one of the greatest properties of pure yerba mate is that of being an energizing and invigorating drink, to be used for example in periods of great fatigue or during seasonal changes. It is also interesting to know that 100 ml of yerba mate contains about 17 mg of caffeine, a value lower than coffee but higher than that of green tea.
Unlike coffee, the maté drink has the advantage of not generally causing annoying side effects such as tachycardia or agitation, perhaps precisely because caffeine is contained in less quantities. Despite this, very sensitive people may still experience unwelcome sensations after consuming this drink including increased heart rate, sense of anxiety or difficulty falling asleep.
✓ Helps burn fat
Again thanks to caffeine, maté is also a good fat burner, so it can be associated with a slimming diet and regular physical activity one or two cups a day of this drink to promote weight loss and increase the sense of satiety.
Some studies have highlighted the antibacterial and antifungal properties of yerba mate. Specifically, the extracts of mate have been shown to be useful in combating infections from Escherichia coli, a bacterium that can cause annoying gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomach cramps and diarrhea. Furthermore, yerba mate also appears to be able to prevent the growth of the fungus Malassezia furfur, responsible for dandruff. Finally, it appears that plant compounds may provide some protection against intestinal parasites.
✓ Digestive and diuretic
Herba mate also has digestive power, taking it after meals helps the stomach and intestines work, improves circulation and also promotes diuresis by supporting, among other things, the work of the kidneys avoiding the formation of stones.
✓ Useful against high blood sugar
Some preliminary studies indicate that drinking yerba mate may help regulate blood sugar, reduce insulin resistance and diabetes complications.
When to use yerba mate
Given its qualities, we advise you to use yerba mate in periods of psychophysical stress to recover some energy, before playing sports, to speed up the metabolism if it is a little slow but also simply as a moment of relaxation if appreciate the flavor. Drinking one or two cups of mate a day (for example one cup at breakfast and one in the morning) will also help you increase your intake of valuable antioxidants.
Yerba mate: preparation guide
Yerba mate can be purchased in herbalist shops and natural food stores in the form of sachets or in dried leaves. In the first case it is enough to simply leave the sachet to infuse for a few minutes, in the second one it is also necessary to filter, unless you have the traditional object that Argentines and Paraguayans use to prepare and at the same time sip the drink.
Preparing yerba mate in most South American homes is a real ritual, a bit like preparing coffee here. A moment of pleasure to spend in company. Among other things, the preparation is really simple, since the mate is similar in all respects to a normal tea.
The leaves are then used (1 tablespoon for each cup or a teaspoon of powdered mate) which must be left to infuse for a few minutes in boiling water before being filtered.
Traditionally, yerba mate is tasted in a special container called matero equipped with a special straw called bombilla from which you can calmly sip the hot drink without needing to filter it.
Herba mate has a bitter taste, basically herbaceous, and a very characteristic smell. 2-3 cups a day should be drunk, usually it is drunk hot but nothing excludes consuming it cold, especially in the summer.
Yerba mate: contraindications and side effects
Moderate consumption of yerba mate generally does not involve contraindications, but if it is used excessively, gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea and cramps may appear. Furthermore, as already mentioned, those who are particularly sensitive to the unwelcome effects of caffeine (for example tachycardia, agitation or insomnia) could also be affected by the consumption of maté.
If you have never tried it, start in small doses to be able to evaluate the effect it has on you. Mate could interact with some drugs, if you take it always ask your doctor for advice. During pregnancy and breastfeeding it is best to avoid taking this drink. Also a precaution when taking MAOIs and antidepressants as interactions are possible. In these cases, ask your doctor for advice before drinking yerba mate.
Yerba mate: price and where to buy it
Yerba mate can be bought in organic food stores, herbalists or in the numerous online shops dedicated to this type of product. It can be found in leaves or powder and is prepared as described in the paragraph above. The price of mate varies according to the product and its quality, however it is in line with other products of this type. For a good organic product in leaves or powder, you can even reach 15-20 USD for half a kilo or 25 ready-to-use sachets. There are also more concentrated powder extracts on the market, which however have higher prices.