Yerba mate is an herb that is used to make a drink called “mate”, a tea-like infusion from chopped and dried yerba mate leaves steeped in hot water. Yerba mate brew is a South American beverage made by steeping dried and ground leaves of the yerba mate plant (llex Paraguariensis). It is believed to have medicinal attributes, being an increasingly common ingredient in beverages such as sports drinks and iced tea.
Yerba mate is a popular drink in South American countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. It is the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Native Indians in South America had been using yerba mate for its benefits long before the arrival of Europeans in the 15th century.
Yerba mate can be brewed into different styles of drinks, but the most traditional is filling a hollowed bottle gourd three-fourths full with dry yerba mate leaves and pouring hot water (not boiling) until the drink turns into a brown liquid. Yerba mate has also shown use in different food items, sparking widespread interest in the drink across the world. Today, yerba mate can be found way outside its traditional South American home, and into grocery stores in Europe, North America, and Asia.
The popularity is largely due to its potential health benefits. It is particularly favorable for those who are caffeine-sensitive, but are in need of a drink that improves the mood and sharpens mental focus and energy. For some, yerba mate has even been known to help promote sleep and good metabolism. Yerba mate is shown to have an effect on the central nervous system that works pretty much like coffee or tea but with far much less undesirable side effects associated with caffeine.
Yerba Mate Benefits
While a few benefits of yerba mate remain anecdotal, research has uncovered a wide variety of proven healthy effects that can come about from yerba mate supplementation. There are some research-backed reasons why you may want to include this herbal plant in your daily diet. Here are ten yerba mate benefits that have made it a popular medicinal beverage.
1. Yerba mate helps with fat loss
There are various types of herbs that can be useful with fat loss, but yerba mate has a different take on the whole fat-control idea. According to studies, yerba mate is capable of inhibiting the genes related to adipogenesis, or the creation of fat. The bioactive compounds of yerba mate helps reduce the formation of fat, instead of letting it accumulate in the body.
Yerba mate also helps manage weight by limiting the metabolism and absorption of fat in the body. It contains flavonoids and phenolic acids that inhibit the activity of pancreatic lipase enzymes in the digestive system resulting in incomplete metabolism of fats.
In addition, drinking yerba mate may result in temporally loss of appetite and increased use of stored energy which limits the body’s ability to store excess energy in the form of fats.
However, it’s advisable to combine healthy lifestyle with yerba mate intake for better weight management results.
2. Yerba mate helps reduce “bad cholesterol”
According to a 2009 study, yerba mate also helps in the reduction of low-density lipoprotein, the so-called bad cholesterol. This was tested on a group of people suffering from high cholesterol levels, who experienced a decrease of around 13% after 40 days of treatment. The herbal tea was taken in tandem with statin, a known anti-cholesterol drug, but the results were an improvement over statin-only treatment.
The antioxidants present in yerba mate also improve the flow of cholesterol and fatty acids in the blood stream limiting their accumulation in the arterial walls. This prevents cases of high or low blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
- Elayne C. de Morais, Aliny Stefanuto, Graziela A. Klein, Brunna C. B. Boaventura, Fernanda de Andrade, Elisabeth Wazlawik, Patrícia F. Di Pietro, Marcelo Maraschin, & Edson L. da Silva (2009). Consumption of Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) Improves Serum Lipid Parameters in Healthy Dyslipidemic Subjects and Provides an Additional LDL-Cholesterol Reduction in Individuals on Statin Therapy.
3. Yerba mate has antimicrobial properties
Yerba mate has a set of bioactive phenolic compounds, which help in reducing bacterial growth. A study was conducted testing yerba mate extracts against E. coli samples, and it was found that the bacterial samples were significantly exhibited. The antibacterial activity was also present at different pH levels, simulating different environments.
- José G.Prado Martin, Ernani Porto, Severino M. de Alencar, Eduardo M. da Glória, Cristina B.Corrêa, & Ingridy S. Ribeiro Cabral (2013). Antimicrobial activity of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis St. Hil.) against food pathogensActividad antimicrobiana de la yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis St. Hil.) contra patógenos alimentarios.
4. Yerba mate helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
According to a 2008 study, supplementation using yerba mate is also responsible for the prevention of plasma oxidation. Plasma is a very important component of the blood, and is also susceptible to oxidative stress — a factor contributory to certain cardiovascular diseases. The effects are drawn even after only a short time (in fact only after a single dose of 500ml of yerba mate infusion).
5. Yerba mate helps with inflammation
Inflammation is a natural body response to certain imbalances in the body. Obesity is among the many triggers of inflammation, causing a chain of other unwanted illnesses. It has been found that yerba mate helps in reducing the inflammatory effects of obesity, which also helps blunt the overall impact of obesity, making it easier to fight it.
Vitamins are essential in the body’s immune system. The vitamin B content helps the body derive energy from foods and manufacture DNA material. Yerba mate is also a rich source for vitamins A, C, and E.
Yerba mate also contains calcium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, sulphur, sodium, and zinc. These minerals play an important role in nervous system function, body fluid balance, cell growth and development, and immune system responsiveness.
6. Yerba mate helps promote bone density
Post-menopausal women are very prone to brittle bones, due to a lower level of bone mineral density. It has been found in a 2011 study that post-menopausal women who regularly drank yerba mate had a higher level of bone mineral density, as measured through the subjects’ femur (the longest bone in the body). The increase in density was at almost 10%, pointing to a significant improvement.
Regular drinking of yerba mate has also been proven to increase bone density even without engaging in exercise. This is very important particularly for postmenopausal women who don’t get to exercise a lot.
7. Yerba mate helps inhibit colon cancer
Yerba mate tea, like many teas that contain phenolic compounds, has the potential to inhibit the growth and development of colon cancer cells. The high antioxidant capacity of yerba mate has been found to be a potential chemopreventive agent.
A 2012 scientific study in the University of Illinois showed that yerba mate extracts contain bio-active compounds capable of killing colon cancer cells in humans. Yerba mate achieves this by destroying the DNA of cancer cells inducing their death.
Yerba mate also stimulates the release of gastric acids and bile that play an important role in digestion. Moreover, yerba mate is a natural treatment against digestive system parasites that inhibit proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is considered an antimicrobial that can be used against E. coli in the body.
8. Yerba mate helps inhibit oral cancer
The phenolic compounds in yerba mate also helps reduce the chances of growth of oral cancer cells by as much as 50%, depending on the type of cancer cell. The study that found this, done in 2005, also noted that there may be biological compounds yet unknown in yerba mate that could lead to the anti-carcinogenic effects found.
9. Yerba mate helps fight off diabetes
Concurrent with its ability to help fight off obesity, yerba mate helps reduce the effects of diabetes. Yerba mate supplementation helps improve the serum triglycerides and glucose concentration in the blood.
Yerba mate has also been shown to improve base metabolism in the body, which also affects the intake of food and induces an increase in overall energy expenditure. It improves the ability of the body to metabolize fatty acids and carbohydrates efficiently. The process is slow where it supplies consistent energy flow to the muscles for prolonged use.
Unlike caffeine-based stimulants, yerba mate aids for a balanced and gentle release of energy that eliminates the sudden bursts and slumps that results to fatigue.
- Young-Rye Kang, Hak-Yong Lee, Jung-Hoon Kim, Dea-In Moon, Min-Young Seo, Sang-Hoon Park, Kwang-Ho Choi, Chang-Ryong Kim, Sang-Hyun Kim, Ji-Hyun Oh, Seong-Wan Cho, Sun-Young Kim, Min-Gul Kim, Soo-Wan Chae, Okjin Kim, & Hong-Geun Oh (2012). Anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects of Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet.
10. Yerba mate has way above average antioxidant content
For most teas, antioxidant capacity is greatly tied with the plant’s phenolic content. However, a study found that for yerba mate, a high level of antioxidant activity has also been observed even when there are lower phenolic concentrations. This speaks volumes about yerba mate’s ability to reduce the body’s levels of oxidative stress.
Yerba mate contains more antioxidants than green tea or many other herbal tea-based beverage. Antioxidants prevent the release of free radicals in the body that can trigger cell damage.
The unique blend of stimulants, polyphenols, minerals, and antioxidants in yerba mate provide a balanced effect on the brain to enhance good memory, alertness, focus, and mental energy.
Yerba mate contains relatively less caffeine as compared to tea and coffee. The caffeine content has a mild effect due to the presence of the other elements that neutralize its effect.
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