What is Yerba Mate Tea?
Yerba Mate (pronounced yerba-mahtay) tea is a South American brew that offers - the caffeine strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea and the euphoria of chocolate – all in one beverage. It was called the ‘the drink of the Gods’ by early South Americans and later ‘green gold of the Indios’ by European settlers.
Yerba Mate tea is made by the dried leaves of an evergreen holly Ilex paraguariensis, a native plant of South America. Commonly found in the wild, these plants are also cultivated very much like the tea plantations found in other parts of the world.
Sharing the yerba mate tea from a traditional gourd is a sign of friendship and bonding. It is usually passed around during a social setting where everyone sips from the same silver straw (definitely not my cup of tea due to obvious hygiene reasons). Its wildly popular in Uruguay where it’s not unusual to see people walking down the street sipping yerba mate – very much like from a Starbucks coffee cup! In Argentina, yerba mate tea is consumed in 92% of households. The very first taste can be described as grassy and similar to green tea.
Though yerba mate tea consumption has not gained popularity because of its acquired taste, it is slowly gaining its foothold worldwide because of its many health benefits.
1) Mental Clarity
The most obvious and immediate benefit is increased energy, enhanced mental clarity, alertness, focus and concentration. Very much like any other mentally stimulating caffeine drink. Keeps you more motivated and productive by stimulating production of neuro transmitters dopamine.
2) Smooth Increase in Energy
Compared to other caffeine drinks – coffee, black tea, cola, cocoa and guarana - yerba mate tea provides a smooth, clean and calm increase in energy. Not a sudden increase. And it rarely interferes with sleep and doesn’t cause caffeine jitters. Even though there has been claims that this tea does not contain caffeine, Yerba mate tea does contain caffeine - more than tea but less than coffee.
3) Nutritional Powerhouse
Yerba Mate tea is so nutritious that it contains practically all the micro nutrients needed to sustain life! Each serving of yerba mate contains high concentration of Vitamins A, C, B, E and calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and many other minerals. It also contains 11 polyphenols and has more antioxidants than any other tea based drinks.
4) Boosts Immunity
Yerba mate tea is high in certain compounds called saponins which are natural emulsifiers that boost the immune system and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been to be useful in treating bladder infections.
5) Weight Loss Aid
Dr Oz included yerba mate tea as one of the tea that can help you in losing weight in his TV segment. This introduced yerba mate tea to the world. Not clinically proven but yerba mate teas do help in suppressing appetite, increasing metabolism and burning stored body fat.
6) Digestion and Elimination Tonic
Yerba mate teas are known to be beneficial for treating constipation, diarrhoea and indigestion. Its naturally anti-bacterial against one of the most common causes of food poisoning -E Coli. It also helps to destroy intestinal parasites and is useful in preventing and treating bladder and kidney stones.
7) Build Strong Bones
Drinking yerba mate tea increases bone density even in those who don’t exercise! Since caffeine is associated with bone loss and exercise is critical for building strong bones, yerba mate tea will be a better alternative for those who can’t exercise. Post-menopausal women who are particularly at risk of osteoporosis, had almost 10% increase in their bone density in their spines after drinking yerba mate tea. And get this – they didn’t exercise!
8) Healthy Heart
This miracle tea is useful heart related conditions, including heart failure, irregular heart beat and low blood pressure. Both its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help protect our heart and cardiovascular system.
9) Kills Cancer Cells
Yerba mate tea contains several anti-cancer compounds such as saponins, ursolic acid, rutin, tannin, chlorogenic acid and chlorophyll. It helps to destroy colon cancer cells but conversely yerba mate tea has also found to cause some kinds of cancer like oesophagus, lungs, mouth, pharynx and larynx. This is especially so if this tea is drank scalding hot which is true of all drinks!
How do we drink Yerba Mate tea?
Traditionally, this brew is sipped from a gourd called calabash using a silver straw called a bombilla. Unless you are seeking an authentic experience, this is not necessary. You just need to prepare yerba mate tea like any other tea you would usually prepare. Some children who are introduced to yerba mate tea start using the tea bags which are less potent. If you aren’t sure about yerba mate tea yet, use tea bags first.
Possible Side Effects
Yerba Mate tea is not recommended for those who are pregnant, those suffering from insomnia, anxiety, nervousness and heart palpitations.
It is also not recommended if you smoke or drink heavily since this combination could increase your risk for cancer.
Lastly, do run this tea by your doc before consumption, if you have any serious heart conditions.