Mate is a delicious gourmet drink; it is a fun and entertaining hobby; it has a great community of like-minded helpful people; but most importantly — it is super healthy! Yerba mate is packed with antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, which makes it good both for your physical health and mental wellbeing.
Despite being relatively unknown worldwide, compared to other herbal infusions, studies and lab test discover more and more health benefits of yerba mate. With more studies published each year, yerba mate quickly becomes one of the healthiest herb in the world, even surpassing green tea in many areas, such as the content of antioxidants and their potency!
How yerba mate benefited my health and wellbeing
Personally, I have not yet had any major issues with my health, however I still noticed a lot of the benefits that mate offered since I started drinking it pretty much daily several years ago. The most notable effects are:
- Improves focus, concentration, attention to details and creativity. I have lots of work that requires creative approach, and I find that drinking mate really boosts my creativity and productivity, allows me to concentrate on things much easier, make less mistakes and generally do my work better.
- Both calms down and energizes. The energy that mate gives me is nothing like, say, energy from coffee. For instance when I’m stressed, mate invigorates me while simultaneously helps with calming down and relieving stress, making me feel energized yet steady and not jittery.
- Improves mood. Every now and then we go through some rough patches in life, experience anxiety, stress and simply bad mood. Yerba mate is my proven cheat code for these occasions — I know that no matter how bad I may feel right now, I can always rely on my mate to cheer me up, comfort me and brighten up my day.
- Boosts my immune system. Since I started drinking mate, I feel like my body battles with cold and other common viral infectious diseases much more efficiently. Though it’s highly subjective, and a lot of factors may influence that, I observe that I get sick much less often than I used to, and if I do get sick, I rally much faster.
Chemical composition of yerba mate
So why yerba mate is considered to be one of the healthiest herbs known to humanity? The answer lies in its rich chemical composition. Yerba mate is packed with vitamins, minerals and myriad of other beneficial components, such as polyphenols, xanthines and saponins.
Polyphenols are a large family of naturally occurring organic compounds that are packed with antioxidants and have multiple health benefits. Yerba mate contains a variety of polyphenols, such as the flavonoids quercetin and rutin, and especially a high concentration of chlorogenic acid that exhibits antioxidant activity, antibacterial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, neuroprotective, anti-obesity, antiviral, anti-microbial and anti-hypertension effects.
Xanthines are a group of alkaloids that work as mild stimulants. Yerba mate contains several xanthines, such as caffeine, theobromine and theophylline.
Saponins are bitter compounds that are believed not only to be one of the factors for the distinct flavor of mate but are also attributed to anti-inflammatory and hypocholesterolemic properties. Yerba mate contains a high concentration of saponins, many of which have been shown to possess antiparasitic properties.
Wide range of minerals were found in yerba mate, such as aluminum, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, potassium, and zinc, which are important in human metabolism and development. Mate could prove to be a good dietary source of manganese due to its high concentration (2223 ± 110 μg/g).
Yerba mate benefits backed by science
Unique chemical composition of yerba mate yields in huge variety of health benefits. Some of these benefits were researched and confirmed by scientific studies and lab tests, however due to the relatively low popularity of mate much more health benefits are bound to be discovered in the nearest future!
Some of these studies only start to scratch the surface of the powers that are hidden in yerba mate. Because of that, not all of them are done in vivo and not all of them have yet been done on humans, so keep that in mind and don’t treat yerba mate as an ultimate cure for any mentioned disease. It’s always better to consult with your doctor if you want to supplement your medication with mate.
Helps with weight loss and obesity
Several studies demonstrated that yerba mate has a positive effect on obesity. After treatment with yerba mate extract, another study observed an attenuation of weight gain in mice and modulatory effect on the expression of several genes related to obesity, concluding that mate has potent antiobesity activity in vivo. One more study observed lower growth rate of body fat tissue, lower body weight gain and higher basal metabolism in yerba mate-treated mice.
Concerning the studies done on humans, a Korean study revealed that yerba mate supplementation decreased body fat mass, percent body fat and waist–hip ratio in men and women.
Prevents Parkinson’s and improves memory
Several studies (1)(2) examined the antiparkinsonian activity of the yerba mate extract in mice. The results obtained suggest that the hydroalcohol extract of Ilex paraguariensis may have an antiparkinsonian profile in animal models, probably through its antioxidant activity, and improves short- and long-term learning and memory.
Another case-controlled study on men and women over the age of 40 with 1 or more year of diagnosed Parkinson’s disease found inverse association between yerba mate consumption and idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, suggesting a possible protective role of yerba mate in the development of PD.
Slows down aging
A study that took place in 2005 demonstrated that yerba mate extracts inhibit advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) formation more efficiently than green tea. Despite both having a high concentration of antioxidants, results demonstrated a significant, dose-dependent effect of water extracts of Ilex paraguensis on AGE adducts formation on a protein model in vitro, whereas green tea displays no significant effect. AGEs are a bio-marker implicated in aging and the development, or worsening, of many degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Prevents certain types of cancer
A very recent study published in November 2021 observed the reduction of tumor metastasis and increased survival of mice suffering from breast cancer. No such studies has been done yet on humans, but the results suggest that yerba mate extract could modulate tumor progression and metastasis in breast cancer.
Another study, however, found that dicaffeoylquinic acids (diCQAs) found in yerba mate inhibited human colon cancer cells, and suggested that diCQAs in yerba mate could be potential anti-cancer agents and could mitigate other diseases also associated with inflammation.
Also, yerba mate has been shown to be cytotoxic to human cancer hepatoma cells (HepG2), and has been associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases including cancer.
Helps with depression and anxiety
Several studies (1, 2) observed an antidepressant-like effect, similar to that of ketamine, of yerba mate extract on mice and rats. No studies have been done on humans though.
Prevents cardiovascular diseases
A single-blind controlled trial with 102 participants took place in 2009. These normolipidemic, dyslipidemic and hypercholesterolemic subjects ingested yerba mate infusions for 40 days. It was concluded that yerba mate infusion improved the lipid parameters in normolipidemic and dyslipidemic subjects and provided an additional LDL-cholesterol reduction in hypercholesterolemic subjects on statin treatment, which may reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Protects against infections
Several studies(1, 2) concluded that aqueous extracts from commercial yerba mate have potential to be used as antimicrobials in foods and beverages against pathogenic Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Staphylococcus aureus. E. coli O157:H7 infection often causes severe, acute hemorrhagic diarrhea (although nonhemorrhagic diarrhea is also possible) and abdominal cramps. Staphylococcus aureus is responsible for skin infections, food poisoning, bone and joint infections, medical implant infections, and is a leading cause of bacteremia.
Another study suggested the topical use of Ilex paraguariensis extract as alternative antifungal agent. The results of this study demonstrated that aqueous extract of yerba mate possesses inhibitory activity against Malassezia furfur, which causes a common fungal skin infection called pityriasis versicolor, dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis in humans.
Improves bone density
A study observed 146 postmenopausal women who drank at least 1L of mate daily during 4 or more years, and matched by age and time since menopause with an equal number of women who did not drink mate. Long-term yerba mate consumption turned out to be the only factor, other than body mass index, which showed a positive correlation with bone mineral density at both the lumbar spine and the femoral neck.
Mate is a very healthy drink, and the fun part is that different yerba mate brands not only taste radically different, like a true gourmet beverage, but also have different effects!
Any yerba mate will give you aforementioned benefits, but one yerba mate may make you more energized and invigorating, while another will be more relaxing and calming.
In my yerba mate reviews, I try to pay close attention to how a certain yerba affects my physical and mental state, so make sure to check out the Effects part in reviews and explore different yerbas with me!
Do you care about health benefits of yerba mate? What benefits are you most concerned about? Did you experience any health benefits from yerba mate? Do you notice different effects that different yerba mate brands have on your body and mind? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!