Yerba mate is an evergreen plant typical of the countries of South America, and it can be found mainly in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. From its leaves you can obtain the homonymous drink also called Argentine tea or simply mate that contains mateine, a substance similar to caffeine but which gives the drink energizing characteristics different from those of coffee since the release of caffeine is slower and the stimulant benefit of the drink lasts longer. Furthermore, yerba mate is also rich in polyphenols and contains vitamin C and B vitamins, in addition to mineral salts. It has also an high satiating power and so it is a useful drink for those who are following a diet and want to appease the sense of hunger. But let's find out what are the benefits of this drink and when, instead, it is contraindicated.
Healthy Characteristics of Yerba Mate
Yerba mate is antioxidant: yerba mate has antioxidant characteristics thanks to polyphenols which counteract the action of free radicals, thus slowing down the cellular aging process.
Yerba mate helps diuresis: the draining effect helps to rid the body of toxins also helping the kidneys, thanks to two substances contained in the yerba mate: theobromine and theophylline. The drink based on yerba mate is therefore an excellent remedy to prevent kidney stones.
Yerba mate is stimulating and energizing: it has stimulating effects similar to those of coffee but manages to give the body and mind an immediate feeling of well-being, a sensation that lasts longer, and has more positive effects than coffee. Furthermore, with the right doses yerba mate does not cause palpitations or a sense of agitation. Yerba mate is also an excellent remedy when you need to regain energy and concentration. It is recommended for those who practice sports because, in addition to donating energy, it reduces the production of lactic acid.
Yerba mate is slimming: this slimming effect is due to both its high satiating power that limits the sense of hunger, and its thermogenic characteristics that increase metabolism. Obviously all this must always be associated with a low-calorie diet, drinking from 2 to 3 cups of mate per day.
Yerba mate is a panacea for stomach and intestine: consumed after meal, yerba mate helps digestion and promotes the absorption of nutrients. The benefits of a good digestion also affect the intestine by helping in case of a lazy bowel or constipation.
Yerba mate prevents tumors: a study conducted by the University of Illinois has shown that the active ingredients contained in the plant are able to eradicate the cancer cells responsible for colon tumor.
Yerba mate reduces cholesterol: the theophylline contained in the yerba mate is able to lower the levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and to ensure a good functioning of the heart.
Yerba Mate: Where to Buy it And How to Prepare It
The mate-based drink can be prepared either from the dried leaves or thanks to ready-made sachets; in both cases the herb can be bought in herbalist’s shops, in ethnic food departments, in organic or online stores, and its cost varies from 10 to 15 euros for a pack of sachets or dried leaves. There are two ways to prepare the mate, the first is to follow the same procedure for the preparation of teas and herbal teas: leave the dried leaves in hot water for a few minutes before filtering and drinking. Its taste is slightly bitter but traditionally it is not sweetened. Then there is another method, which is used in South America and which was invented by the Guaraní Indians: it is a sort of ritual that involves the use of a particular container, the mate or matero, and of a sort of straw called bombilla, objects that you can find in herbalist’s shops or in fair trade shops. Here's how to prepare yerba mate with this method:
– heat up the water in a small saucepan;
– in the meantime put the dried leaves in the matero (two teaspoons) and place also the bombilla;
– add hot water (not boiling), otherwise the leaves may burn and, after a few minutes, start drinking without moving the leaves with the bombilla, which should be left in its position;
– you can then add more hot water, always leaving the same leaves, to prepare a new drink.
The recommended dose is 2 or 3 cups of mate a day. Just consult with your herbalist for the doses, anyway.
Yerba mate is usually well tolerated by healthy people but, like all caffeinated drinks, excessive use of mate can have side effects: nervousness, insomnia, tachycardia, diarrhea and dizziness. People who suffer from heart problems and pregnant women must limit its consumption. Thanks to some researches, it has been noted a link between consumption of yerba mate and stomach cancer, even if this would seem due to the consumption of the boiling drink which would sensitize the stomach walls making them more easily attacked by tumors. For this reason, usually, even when it comes to other drinks such as teas or herbal teas, it is always better to drink them hot or lukewarm but never boiling. In any case, always consult your doctor before making constant use of the drink, especially if you suffer from any disease or take some medications.