Having a hot cup of coffee or tea is a great way to start the day, but in South America, you’ll find people waking up to a cup of special herbal brew called Yerba mate. The Yerba mate is said to be more stimulating than coffee, offering all the health benefits of tea and giving you the euphoric feeling you get when you consume chocolate. Its no wonder that this drink is referred to the “drink of the Gods.” This unusual brew is more popular than coffee or tea in states like Uruguay, Argentina and southern Brazil and is even considered the national drink in some regions.
So What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba Mate is a small tree that is native to South America. Its leaves, which are said to contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and abundant antioxidants are used to prepare the Yerba Mate tea. It is prepared in a gourd shaped container which is filled about three quarters full of dry leaves and warm water. The tea is then sipped through a straw that is fitted with a strainer at the end.
The flavor of the tea is said to be grassy and similar to some varieties of green tea, and is usually pleasant to taste. However, it is an acquired taste, which is why it is not as popular in the rest of the world!
In South America, you’ll find Yerba Mate (or Mate tea) consumed in social gatherings, where friends bond over a mate (gourd in which the tea is brewed) and pass it around after a sip. You can even see people walking on the streets sipping a mate and carrying a flask of hot water to refill their drink.
Yerba mate doesn’t necessarily have to be prepared in a mate. It can be prepared just like you would make normal tea, using a tea bag, or even in an Espresso maker or French Press. It can be taken hot or cold and with milk, honey, lemon, or mint.
7 Health Benefits of Consuming Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate benefits can range from energy boosts to mental alertness, if taken for short periods of time.
1. Energy Booster
One of the instant effects of drinking yerba mate tea is that you get a quick energy boost. It is said to offer a balanced energy boost and doesn’t come with the side effects of tea or coffee. For instance, it doesn’t interfere with sleep or cause the jitters that accompanies most caffeine drinks. Athletes often use it to enhance their performances.
2. Memory Booster
Yerba Mate enhances the memory and stimulates the mind. Best selling author Tim Ferriss (Four Hour Work Week) talks about how Yerba helped him produce his very first book by providing an increased mental performance.
3. Medicinal Uses
Yerba Mate tea has a high antioxidant content. It is also rich in Vitamins A, B and C, manganese, zinc and potassium, in addition to phytonutrients such as tannins, trace minerals, chlorophyll, flavonols, polyphenols and amino acids. The powerful stimulants in the tea is said to act as a blood cleanser. As a medicinal concoction, it is prescribed to treat arthritis, headache, and allergies. You can learn more about how it is used medicinally worldwide here.
4. Boosts Immune System
The nutritional content in the leaves helps stimulate the activity of the while blood cells, boosting the immune system and providing a natural resistance to diseases.
5. Enables Weight Loss
Yerba mate benefits weight loss efforts as it curbs the appetite and encourages you to eat less. It also promotes slow digestion making you feel full longer. Regular exercise combined with a cup of mate tea can boost your metabolism and help you burn calories as well.
6. Improves Digestion
Yerba mate is great for treating constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion. It’s antibacterial properties makes it a powerful deterrent against E. coli, a common food poisoning agent. The brew also kills intestinal parasites and prevents kidney and bladder stones from forming and is used in the treatment of urinary tract infections.
7. Builds Strong Bones
Drinking yerba mate tea has been proven to increase the bone density, particularly in postmenopausal women and those who don’t exercise much.
8. Heart Healthy
Yerba mate is used in treating heart-related conditions such as heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and low blood pressure. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties protects the heart, prevents blood clots and hardening of the arteries. The theobromine found in the tea relaxes the blood vessels allowing for better blood flow.
Side Effects of Yerba Mate Consumption
Yerba Mate benefits are many, but so are the chances of suffering from various yerba mate tea side effects. The caffeine in the drink may cause some side effects such as:
- Increase in anxiety and nervousness
- Sleep loss
- Stomach upsets
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irregular heartbeats
Despite the fact that Yerba mate is rich in nutrients, consumption of this tea on a regular basis or in large amounts is unsafe. It is said that there is an increased risk of esophageal, larynx or oral cavity cancer on account of the damage that it can do to the protective lining of these body parts. That may be due to the fact that it is taken very hot, but it could also be as a result of drinking and smoking.
It is risky for pregnant women to drink the brew as high caffeine content is often linked to miscarriage, premature delivery, and low birth weight. There is also a concern about its effects on breast feeding mothers. If passed on to the baby, it may cause bowel disturbances.
If you have a heart condition, drinking yerba mate for long periods may result in irregular heartbeats. Diabetics are also advised against taking yerba mate as there are chances that it might increase the number of low-sugar episodes.
Yerba mate tea, just like any other stimulant needs to be taken in moderate amounts. It is also advisable to avoid drinking it regularly and to consult with your doctor if you have chronic illnesses or if your are pregnant.
Have your tried Yerba Mate? What do you think?