Llex paraguariensis the botanical name for yerba mate (pronounced yer-buh mah-tay), has a long history of use in South America. Yerba mate is credited with many physical and cultural benefits. With its distinguished history and contemporary popularity, yerba mate is worth scrutiny for its many benefits.
The Yerba Mate Association of the Americas (YMAA) details yerba mate's ancient and distinguished origins and history. The indigenous people of Paraguay, the Guarani, included yerba mate as a cultural, medicinal and stimulating part of daily life. With the Spanish conquest of South America, yerba mate was grown on plantations. Yerba mate tea is widely popular across South America, especially in Paraguay, its accepted native soil. According to YMMA, yerba mate is gaining popularity in North America.
Yerba mate is the product of dried evergreen leaves of an indigenous South American holly tree. Yerba mate's chemistry is the source of its many health benefits. Its phytochemicals include, but are not limited to, caffeine, chlorogenic acid, chlorophyll and tannin. Yerba mate has nutrients, which include choline, B vitamins, trace minerals and pyridoxine.
YMAA attributes many health claims to yerba mate. These health claims include yerba mate's nutrition profile; its antioxidants and immune-boosting properties, and its ability to improve certain brain function such as mental clarity. Phyllis Balch, author of "Prescription for Nutritional Healing," attributes yerba mate with an ability to fight free radicals, which can cause cancer, blood detoxifying properties and the ability to tone the nervous system.
YMAA provides a long list of yerba mate health benefits studies. Some of the research includes, but is not limited to, research by the University of Buenos Aires, which found, "Vascular responses to extractable fractions of Ilex paraguariensis in rats fed standard and high-cholesterol diets." A study by the Federal University of Santa
Catarina, Brazil found that mate could reduce the progression of atherosclerosis (fatty deposits on the artery walls) in rabbits. Studies have looked at yerba mate's potential cardiovascular benefits, cancer-prevention, weight-loss and stimulant properties.
For a sense of balance, Dr. Andrew Weil comments that he prefers green tea for its "proven health benefits." Brew yerba mate as any other tea or try the traditional method. For a standard cup of yerba mate tea, steep 1 tbsp. of yerba mate in a cup of boiling steam-distilled water. Allow it to steep for five to eight minutes. Sweeten with raw honey, if desired. To brew according to tradition, use a mate gourd. Place finely chopped, dried yerba mate leaves in the gourd, adding about 8 to 10 oz. of boiling steam-distilled water. This procedure is called "cebar el Maté." Once infused, drink through a "bombilla," a metal straw with a strainer at the bottom.
Buy organic, fair trade yerba mate for its benefits to the environment and the yerba mate farmers.