Know the yerba mate… and its benefits


The word hierba is Spanish for grass or herb. Yerba is a variant spelling of it which is quite common in Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico. Mate is from the Quechua mati, meaning "cup". Yerba mate is therefore literally the "cup herb". Incidentally, the Rioplatense dialect turns the first sound in yerba into a voiced postalveolar fricative. Erva mate is the (Brazilian) Portuguese name, and Ilex paraguariensis is the scientific Latin one.
The plant is grown mainly in South America, more specifically in Paraguay, Argentina, and Southern Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná). The Guarani are reputed to be the first people who cultivated the plant and have use it as a common ingredient in household cures. The first Europeans to do this were Jesuit missionaries, who spread the drinking habit as far as Ecuador. Nowadays, it has won many admirers in wide-ranging parts of the world.
In the search for a natural stimulant devoid of side effects and toxicity, Mate currently holds the most hope. An invigorator of the mind and body, a natural source of nutrition, and a health promoter par excellence, Mate deserves the attention of every person interested in optimum health.

In modern Argentina and Paraguay, however, Mate tea has become almost pathologically ritualized in a manner reminiscent of coffee and tea abuse in Western and Eastern countries. Among the native Guarani, on the other hand, the natural use of Mate for healthful purposes has persisted. They use it to boost immunity, cleanse and detoxify the blood, tone the nervous system, restore youthful hair color, retard aging, combat fatigue, stimulate the mind, calm allergies, accelerate healing process, control the appetite, reduce the effects of debilitating disease, reduce stress, and eliminate insomnia.
Mate (flex paraguariensis) is an evergreen member of the holly family. It grows wild in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Brazil, but is most abundant in Paraguay where it is also cultivated. The plant is classified vaguely, according to Western herbal medicine, as aromatic, stimulant, bitter, aperient (laxative), astringent, diuretic, purgative, sudorific (sweat inducing), and febrifuge (fever reducing). Mate contains numerous vitamins and minerals.
The Maté contains numerous vitamins and minerals. There is a group of resins, fiber, volatile oils, and tannins that normally characterize many vegetable substances. And there are also carotene, vitamins TO, C, AND, AND-1, B-2 and B complex, riboflavin, sour nicotinic, Pantothenic Acid, biotin, magnesium, calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, manganese, silicone, phosphates, sulfur, hydrochloric acid, chlorophyll, hill, and inositol. In 1964, a group of investigators of the Pasteur Institute and of the Scientific Society of Paris has reached to the conclusion that the Maté contains practically all the necessary vitamins to sustain life.

Besides the average nutrients, the Maté contains a substance belonging to a special class of chemical compounds called xanthenes. Although only small quantities of these substances appear in the Maté, their presence has generated a lot of attention. The primary xanthenes in the Yerba Mate, calls itself Mateína.
The substance Mateina probably contributes little, or anything, to the global activity of the plant, but it has attracted an extraordinary interest. Xanthenes, such as caffeine, are obviously less desirable. By the other hand, xanthenes, such as the teofilin and the teobromin, possess specialized action and a singular game of collateral effects. Although xanthenes possess similar chemical compositions, each one has unique properties. The investigators of the Free Hygiene Institute of Hamburg, Germany, have concluded that although caffeine existed in the Maté, the quantity would be so tiny that it would take 100 bags of the Maté in a cup of 170 grams of water to be compared with the caffeine in a common, prepared cup, of 170 grams of coffee. In consequence, the active principle in the yerba mate cannot be the caffeine!

In fact, there is only one effect that seems to be shared by all the xanthenes: the flat muscles relaxation. This activity turns xanthenes (with the exception of the caffeine, in which the soft effects of the flat muscles relaxation are diminished by other collateral effects) into good clinical dilators of the bronchuses and, therefore, useful for the treatment of asthma. At the end, The Mateína seems to possess the best possible combination of the xanthenes properties. For example, as the other xanthenes, it seems to stimulate the central nervous system; but contrary to most, it doesn't form habit neither addiction. Also, contrary to the caffeine, it induces one to a better dream instead of worsening it.

Note that the mate is a soft diuretic, not strong as many xanthenes. It relaxes the sanguine glasses outlying, and in consequence, it reduces the sanguine pressure without the strong effects on the marrow oblongata (final part of the brain that is connected to the spinal marrow) and on the heart. We also know that it improves the psychomotor acting without suffering the typical later depressing effects induced by the xanthenes.
Dr. José Martin, Director of the National Institute of Technology of the Paraguay, writes, "New investigations and better technology have demonstrated that while the Mateína possesses a similar chemical composition to the caffeine, the molecular bond is different. The Mateína present none of the harmful effects of the caffeine." And Horacio Conesa, professor in the Medicine Faculty of the University of Buenos Aires, affirms, "there is not a single contraindication to the ingestion of the mate". The clinical studies demonstrate, indeed, that sensitive individuals to the caffeine can ingest the Maté without adverse reactions.

The main system to be benefited with the Maté is probably the gastrointestinal system. The registered effects in the reports go from the immediate improvement of the digestion to the ability to repair the damaged or sick gastrointestinal fabrics. The constipation, so much sharp as chronic, can easily be overcome by means of the use of the Maté. The Maté mainly works on softening the fecal mass and on stimulating, in a certain measure, the normal movement of the intestines.

Better than any other xanthenes alkaloid, the Maté possesses the ability to increase the alert and the mental sharpness in a certain way that it is carried out without any collateral effect, such as the nervousness and the fears. It seems to work as a tonic because it stimulates a depressed and weakened nervous system by tranquilizing an overexcited system.
At the moment, our knowledge about the effects of the Maté is delineated according to the observations of the behavior changes, such as, the increase of energy and vitality; better ability to concentrate; less nervousness, agitation, and anxiety; increase of the physical resistance and the reduction of mental fatigue. The improvement of the temperament, especially in depression cases, usually continues when having drunk the tea. This can be a direct or indirect result of the increase of the energy. One of the remarkable aspects of the Maté is that it doesn't interfere with the dream cycles, indeed, it presents the tendency of balancing the cycles, inducing more dream of quick ocular movement (REM) when necessary, or increasing the quantity of last time in the states delta ( a deep dream).

Heart diseases of all the types have been treated or forewarned with the yerba mate. The yerba mate contains many of the nutrients required by the heart for its growth and recovery. Besides, it increases oxygen supply to the heart, especially during the periods of stress or exercise.
The Maté has become the favorite beverage among those who are fond of the body-building and of any person interested in the healthy benefits of the exercise. The metabolic effects of the Maté seem to include the ability to maintain the aerobic glycolisys (decomposition of the hydrates of carbon) during the exercise for longer periods of time. This results in burning more calories, increasing the heart efficiency, slowing the anaerobic glycolisys and accumulating lactic acid during the exercise. The reports on the reduction of the sanguine pressure exercised by the Maté don't have anything than the usual.

A consistent observation in most of the South American literature that refers to the Maté affirms that it helps the immunologic answer of the body to increase, stimulating the natural resistance toward the illnesses. This results in a nutritious effect that fortifies a sick person, during the course of the illness as during the convalescence, sometimes dramatically accelerating the recovery. The exact assets mechanisms of the Maté have not been clarified, but they involve a direct action against the infectious organisms and also an effect on the global resistance to the illnesses. The nutritious content of the plant probably plays an important role in this acting, but it is also probable that other components contribute to the stimulation of the activity of the white cells of the blood.

The interaction between many nutrients in the Maté has never been studied systematically. However, many stories that surround the nutritious applications of the yerba mate are not very far from an astonishing accomplishment. Many times, the Maté was used as a basic food, including by substituting important foods as bread and vegetables. Easily it can eliminate the sensation of hunger and also provide as much vigor as a complete meal according to the renowned Chilean herbalists J. Zin and R. Wiss. Volunteers of Peace Corp have informed cases in which big groups of aboriginal remained in good state of health during lingering periods of dry and of famine, in spite of hardly eating a small meal per day. How is that possible? That's only by ingesting plentiful quantities of yerba mate. Some aboriginal spend all their lives with a similar diet and they reach very advanced ages, sometimes overcoming the 100 years. The South American governments have adopted the practice of encouraging the mothers, especially in the poorest regions, to include the yerba mate in the diet of their children in school age.

From the chemical point of view, the Ilex paraguariensis (yerba mate) can be evaluated under their nutritious chemical aspect or as a raw material of several by-products.
The studies show that the Yerba Mate possesses the following components: it dilutes, cellulose, rubbers, dextrin, mucilage, glucose, pentose, fatty substances, aromatic resin, leguminous, albumin, xanthenes, teofilina, cafearina, folic acid, virídic acid, chlorophyll, colesterina, carbon, chloric and citric acids, besides the magnesium, manganese, iron, aluminum, and arsenic rakes.

The xanthenes, teofilina and teobromina are three strongly linked alkaloids found in the yerba mate, and they are the most interesting compounds from the therapeutic point of view. The xanthenes rate in the yerba mate is in average 1,60%, while it reaches to 1,10% in the infusions.

The yerba mate is basically a stimulating drink that eliminates the fatigue and promotes mental activity and physics. It exercises a beneficent effect on nerves and muscles, and it also enhances the intellectual work.
Due to the central stimulating effects of the xanthenes in relation with the activation of the reservation substances, the cardiovascular activity strengthens the organism. The xanthenes have a very well-known effect on the central nervous system that stimulates the mental energy.
Thanks to their complex of vitamin B, the yerba mate collaborates with the input of the sugar in the muscles, nerves and cerebral activity. The vitamins C and AND act as an organic defense on the fabrics of the organism; the mineral salts jointly with the xanthenes attend the cardiovascular task and the circulation from the blood when diminishing the sanguine pressure, as the xanthenes acts as dilative glass. In such circumstances, the hunger feels satisfied.
The yerba mate is very useful in the uneasiness of the bladder. The yerba mate also acts on the alimentary canal when activating the peristaltic movements; moreover, it facilitates the digestion because it attenuates the gastric problems and it facilitates the evacuation and the micturition. The stimulating action of the yerba mate is more durable than that of the brown one and it doesn't possess collateral effects, such as, the insomnia and the irritability.
The investigators of the Pasteur Institute of Paris confer the yerba mate a very important role in the process of regeneration of the cells.

Yerba mate - The drink that revitalizes. Misiones province government.
Secretary of external trade and integration. Argentina
Valduga, Eunice. Chemical and anatomical characterization of the Ilex paraguariensis leaf Saint Hilaire and some species used to adulterate the yerba mate. Thesis of Post-graduation presented in the University of Paraná, Curitiba, in 1995.