Just about everyone has felt the jittery side effects of stimulants at one time or another. The herbal stimulant yerba mate, in contrast, gives your brain a boost without making you nervous. You feel alert and sharp. Interestingly, it actually works as a tonic for the central nervous system, calming the body and mind. It has been shown to improve mood and concentration, reduce anxiety, and prevent mental fatigue.
Ilex paraguayensis, mate, chimarrao
Yerba mate is a perennial (a plant that doesn’t die at the end of the year) and member of the holly family, evident by its leathery leaves. It grows wild in the rainforests of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil, and Paraguay (where it is cultivated). The best yerba mate is organically shade grown in rainforests, picked at the right time, flash dried (keeping it bright green), and milled only at the last minute right before encapsulation.
It’s usually sold in 500-gram bags of loose tea and has a smoky, slightly bitter wet grass flavor. Currently, there is no standardization for the active, caffeine-like compound mateine in mate, but you probably don’t have to worry about getting enough of that. A typical cup contains up to 10 times more of this stimulant than there is caffeine in a cup of coffee. You’ll feel the effects!
Some time back, native people used to just chew the leaves of yerba mate for a quick boost of energy and eat it in foods for a true “power lunch.” Later, people ground up the leaves and added them to hot or sometimes cold water. More recently, hot water has been used to more quickly extract the active compounds. However, cold-water extraction preserves more nutrients.
Active people looking for added endurance and energy, alertness, improved sleep, and enhanced immunity, all in a safe package, are beginning to discover this “secret” stimulant to boost physical and mental performance, without some of the unwanted side effects found with most of the more popular stimulants.
No deficiency conditions are known to exist.
Research indicates that Yerba Mate may be useful in the treatment of:
Just about everyone has felt the jittery side effects of stimulants at one time or another. Yerba mate, in contrast, appears to give your brain a boost without making you nervous. You feel alert and sharp. Interestingly, it actually works as a tonic for the central nervous system, calming the body and the mind. It has also been shown to improve mood and concentration, reduce anxiety, and prevent mental fatigue.
There are 196 chemicals in yerba mate that are active in the body — including B vitamins; Vitamins A, C, and E; and the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and selenium. And mate has 11 polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. Plus, it’s high in chlorophyll, which gives it its rich green color and may offer additional antioxidant benefits.
But the most important chemical in mate is one by the name of “mateine.” Mateine is a xanthine alkaloid. You might have heard of other xanthines, such as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine. Mateine appears to possess the best combination of xanthine properties. Like other xanthines, it stimulates the central nervous system, but unlike others, it doesn’t appear to be addicting. Unlike caffeine, it isn’t a strong diuretic, so it’s much less likely to dehydrate the body.
Mistakenly, many people think of all xanthines in herbal supplements as caffeine. But whether you call it mateine or mistake it for caffeine, a cup of mate will likely give you quite a lift. For a quick comparison, 50 grams of yerba mate (a typical cup of the tea) with a typical mateine content of 1 to 1.5% by weight contains the equivalent of 500 to 750 mg of caffeine. But a typical cup of coffee contains only 80 to 175 mg of caffeine, and a cup of tea has about half that amount. Thus, we’re looking at over twice the “active” ingredient. You might achieve lift off with mate, without the side effects associated with other popular stimulants.
The result of the chemical combination in mate may, obviously, be a BIG increase in energy and fat burning. One of the most remarkable abilities of mate appears to be that it gives users energy without the muscle tension associated with caffeine. In fact, all xanthines, with the exception of caffeine, cause smooth muscle relaxation.
Mate may help support long-term energy by maintaining energy production with oxygen for longer periods of time, which burns more calories, improves heart efficiency, and delays buildup of endurance, robbing waste products, such as lactic acid that are created by anaerobic glycolysis (energy production without oxygen). One indicator that it is working to burn more fat is a drop in something called the respiratory quotient (RQ), which indicates a rise in the proportion of fat being oxidized or burned in the body. Science is revealing that it also helps stabilize blood sugar to potentially reduce the risk of diabetes and hypoglycemia.
Dr. Torben Andersen at Charlottenlund Medical Centre in Denmark very recently studied 44 healthy overweight patients using an herbal combination of guarana and another two herbs, yerba mate and damiana. Dr. Andersen’s results were quite positive: those taking the herbal combination for 45 days lost an average of 5 kg (or about 11 lbs) compared to the placebo group who lost an average of only 0.45 kg (or about 1 lb) — a significantly different result. What was also noteworthy was that the herbal combination also delayed gastric emptying by 20 minutes, which would lead to a feeling of fullness longer after eating a meal.
Improved sleep: Incredibly, mate does not interfere with sleep. In fact, it improves sleep and increases rapid eye movement (REM) sleep as well as the time spent in deep sleep (delta sleep). Many people report that they require less sleep when using mate because they sleep deeper.
Digestive function and detoxification: Mate has been shown to improve digestion and repair damaged gastrointestinal tissues. It may control constipation by softening stools and stimulating intestinal contractions. Mate also may help detoxify the body by increasing water loss thru urination, digestive movements, and evacuation.
Safe for the heart: While other stimulants, like caffeine and ephedra, are feared to potentially have harmful effects on the heart, mate has been shown to actually be good for the heart. It may increase the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the heart during stress or exercise and may lower blood pressure and improve circulation in some people by relaxing blood vessels.
Immune support: Mate appears to boost immunity both by fighting infectious organisms and supporting immune cells, particularly white blood cells, in the body. Vitamins C and E, found in mate, are important for immune support. Unlike other herbs that may continuously stimulate the immune system, mate acts to balance immunity as a tonic. Saponins are also important chemicals in mate, which may be partially responsible for its immune-supporting effects.
Improve lung function Yerba mate also helps relieve allergies by stimulating the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids, which suppress inflammation and overactive immune responses. It also opens the respiratory passages. This is good news for athletes since these benefits aid optimal breathing and get more oxygen into the body. Mate’s potential to relax muscles may make it useful for asthma since it appears to dilate the bronchi (gas absorbers in your lungs).
While yerba mate may seem like the secret stimulant, it is now becoming a rising star on the performance-nutrition market. It not only may help you feel good, it may ultimately improve your health and help promote safe, effective fat loss.
Most research concludes the use of 500 to 1,500 mg daily of yerba mate is most effective.
Liquid forms (such as tea) appear to be most easily absorbed but may not provide the necessary amounts for optimum results.
Mate, as a supplement, should ideally be used evenly throughout the day before meals and/or exercise. For optimal thermogenic effects, one serving should be taken first thing in the morning, upon rising.
Tea can be used two to three times per day in between meals.
Mate is used as the base for specific herbal mixtures centered on energy production and thermogenic activities. It’s used to help increase circulation and thus the uptake of other herbs in the body.
Mate has been shown in one study to work synergistically with guarana to increase the rate the body burns calories.
If you are pregnant or nursing, yerba mate is not recommended.
No known toxicity.