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In the search for
a natural stimulant without side effects and toxicity, Yerba Maté
currently holds the most hope. Yerba Maté is an invigorator
of the mind and body, a natural source of nutrition, and a health
promoter. Yerba Maté deserves the attention of every person
interested in optimum health.
What is Yerba Maté:
Maté (pronounced: yer ba mä tA) comes from yerba
meaning herb + maté, the hollow gourd
used as a bowl or container for brewing yerba maté.
Yerba Maté is a beverage similar to tea, very
popular in South America, brewed from the dried leaves and stemlets
of a member of the holly family known botanically as Ilex Paraguayensis.
The drink has a taste similar to a cross between green tea and coffee.
Like other teas, it is dried, chopped, and ground into a powderous
mixture. Unlike other teas, mate is traditionally sipped from of
a hollow gourd, through a special metal straw (traditionally silver)
called a bombilla (bom-BEE-ya or bom-BEE-zha in Argentinean pronunciation).
"Bombilla" means, literally, "little pump" or
"straw" in Spanish.
Mate is also toasted and prepared in a similar manner to tea. You
can easily find "tea bags", prepacked "iced tea"
packages and bottles. (LatinMerchant.com carries a complete
selection of Yerba Mate.)
How to Prepare and Drink Yerba Mate:
There are many ways to drink Yerba Mate. You can drink it with
hot water, which is called, in Brazil, chimarrão,
with cold water, called tereré or as an
iced tea. Each one of these drinks require a different preparation
of the plant.
For traditional preparation you will need:
- A Gourd - Natural gourds are used (usually
the hard shell from a local fruit), traditionally, though
gourd-shaped vessels made of metal or ceramic are also common.
Gourds are commonly decorated with silver, sporting decorative
or heraldic designs with floral motifs.The gourd must be
cured before the first use, see below for instructions on
curing the gourd. (Available
in our Non-Food Items Section)
- A Bombilla - A metal pipe, which has
a strainer at its lower end to prevent the minced leaves
from reaching the mouth. The bombilla acts as both a straw
and sieve.The submerged end is flared with small holes or
slots to allow the tea in, but block the chunky matter that
makes up much of the mixture. (Available
in our Non-Food Items Section)
To prepare the mate infusion, the dried minced leaves
of the yerba mate are placed inside the gourd and hot water (approx.
70° C, 158° F) is added (this is called "cebar el mate").
The infusion is then sucked through the bombilla.
After placing an abundant amount of mate in the gourd (1/2 of gourd
or more), water is added.
Some people add sugar and/or other herbs (such as mint). Some replace
the water with milk, especially for the children. You drink and
replenish the mate with hot water many times until the liquid comes
out with almost no taste.
How to Cure the Gourd Before Using:
The mate infusion must be prepared using a cured gourd.
The curing process adapts the gourd to the kind of infusion for
which it is going to be used. The curing process is divided in two
steps: initial curing before the first use and the curing that results
from the everyday use of the gourd with only one kind of infusion
(for example pure mate with no additives).
The initial curing has two purposes: the removal of soft tissues
if using a natural gourd and the adaptation of the gourd to the
particular kind of yerba mate infusion.
For the removal of soft tissues, wash your gourd with boiling water
and scrap away any loose tissue with a spoon.
To cure the gourd:
- For pure yerba mate (with no additives like
sugar), fill the gourd with fresh yerba mate and add boiling water.
Let stand for a day. Rinse the gourd and repeat for two or three
- For "sweet" mate, wet the gourd with boiling water,
add two or three teaspoons of sugar and a small piece of burning
coal. Cover the gourd mouth and shake vigorously to burn (caramelize)
the sugar on the sides of the gourd. Empty the gourd and proceed
as instructed above.
Gourds are divided in two categories: curable and incurable. Incurable
mates are those made of non-porous materials (glass, metal, china,
etc.). Incurable mates lose all "memory" of the taste
when they are washed. For best flavor a curable Gourd should be
Cleaning the Gourds:
The gourd should be hand washed only using hot or boiling water
and NO soap or detergent. Do not put the gourd in the dishwasher.
Keep the gourd dry between uses, placing a paper towel or napkin
in the gourd after use will help absorb excess moisture.
Ingredients/Composition of Yerba Maté:
Despite claims to the contrary, Yerba maté does contain
caffeine although the level is relatively low compared to coffee
or tea. Yerba maté also contains significant amounts of vitamins
and minerals and other chemicals of note such as theobromine and
Mate contains xanthines, which are alkaloids in the same family
as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, well-known stimulants
also found in coffee and chocolate. Sellers of mate products often
claim that the primary active xanthine in mate is "mateine",
which they say is similar to caffeine but with fewer of its negative
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
Studies show that the Yerba Maté has the following components:
water, cellulose, gums, dextrin, mucilage, glucose, pentose, fat
substances, aromatic resin, legumin, albumin, xanthine, theophylline,
caffearin, folic acid, caffeic acid, viridic acid, chlorophyll,
cholesterin and essence oil.
Mate contains numerous vitamins and minerals. There is the usual
array of resins, fiber, volatile oil, and tannins that characterize
many plant substances. And there is also carotene; vitamins A. C,
E, B-1, B-2 and B-complex; riboflavin; nicotinic acid; pantothenic
acid; biotin; magnesium; calcium; iron; sodium; potassium; manganese;
silicon; phosphates; sulfur; hydrochloric acid; chlorophyll; choline;
and inositol. In 1964 one group of investigators from the Pasteur
Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded that Mate contains
practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.
In addition to the regular nutrients, Mate contains a substance
belonging to a specialized class of chemical compounds called xanthines.
Though only small amounts of these substances occur in Mate, their
presence has generated a huge amount of attention. The primary xanthine
in Yerba Mate is called Mateine. Mateine appears to possess the
best combination of xanthine properties possible. For example, like
other xanthines, it stimulates the central nervous system; but unlike
most, it is not habituating or addicting. Likewise, unlike caffeine,
it induces better, not worse, attributes of sleep. It is a mild,
not a strong, diuretic, as are many xanthines. It relaxes peripheral
blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure, without the strong
effects on the medulla oblongata (end part of the brain connecting
to the spine) and heart exhibited by some xanthines. We also know
that it improves psychomotor performance without the typical xanthine-induced
depressant after effects.
Researchers at the Free Hygienic Institute of Hamburg, Germany,
concluded that even if there were caffeine in Mate, the amount would
be so tiny that it would take 100 tea bags of Mate in a 6-ounce
cup of water to equal the caffeine in a 6-ounce serving of regular
coffee. Consequently, the active principle in Yerba Mate
is not caffeine!
Dr. Jose Martin, Director of the National Institute of Technology
in Paraguay, writes, "New research and better technology have
shown that while Mateine has a chemical constituency similar to
caffeine, the molecular binding is different. Mateine has none of
the ill effects of caffeine." And Horacio Conesa, professor
at the University of Buenos Aires Medical School, states, "There
is not a single medical contraindication" for ingesting Mate.
Clinical studies show, in fact, that even individuals with caffeine
sensitivities can ingest Mate without adverse reactions.
Yerba Maté is used in popular medicine and employed in commercial
herbal preparations as a stimulant to the central nervous system,
a diuretic, and an antirheumatic.
It has seemingly always been the most common ingredient in household
cures of the Guarani. 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, control
the appetite, reduce the effects of debilitating disease, reduce
stress, and eliminate insomnia.
Yerba Maté is basically a stimulant drink, eliminates fatigue,
stimulating mental and physical activity. It has a beneficial effect
on nerves and muscles; it also enhances intellectual work.
Perhaps the main area to benefit from Mate is the gastrointestinal
tract. Reported effects range from immediate improvement in digestion
to the ability to repair damaged and diseased gastrointestinal tissues.
Constipation, acute or chronic, can easily be overcome through the
use of Mate. Mate appears to work mainly by softening the fecal
mass, but it also appears to stimulate normal movement of the intestines
to some degree.
Mate has the ability to increase mental alertness and acuity and
to do it without any side effects such as nervousness and jitters.
It seems to act like a tonic, stimulating a weakened and depressed
nervous system and sedating an overexcited one. Our knowledge of
Mate's effects is currently limited to observations of behavior
changes such as more energy and vitality; better ability to concentrate;
less nervousness, agitation, and anxiety; and increased resistance
to both physical and mental fatigue. Improvement in mood, especially
in cases of depression, often follows drinking the tea. This may
be a direct or indirect result of increased energy. One of the remarkable
aspects of Mate is that it does not interfere with sleep cycles;
in fact, it has a tendency to balance the cycles.
Yerba Mate supplies many of the nutrients required by the heart
for growth and repair. In addition, it increases the supply of oxygen
to the heart, especially during periods of stress or exercise. Mate
has become a favorite of body builders and anyone interested in
the health benefits of exercise. The metabolic effects of Mate appear
to include the ability to maintain aerobic glycolysis (breakdown
of carbohydrates) during exercise for longer periods of time. This
results in burning more calories, increasing cardiac efficiency,
and delaying anaerobic glycolysis and the resulting buildup of lactic
acid during exercise. Reports of Mate reducing blood pressure are
A consistent observation in most South American literature on Mate
is that it increases the immune response of the body, stimulating
natural resistance to disease. This results in a nourishing and
strengthening effect on the ill person, both during the course of
the illness and during convalescence, sometimes dramatically accelerating
recovery times. Exact mechanisms of Mate's action have not been
worked out, but they involve both a direct action against infectious
organisms, and an effect on overall resistance to disease. The nutritional
content of the plant probably plays a major role here, but it is
also probable that other constituents contribute to the action by
stimulating the activity of white blood cells.
This article uses material from:
Disclaimer: This article is for information only. It is not intended
to imply or encourage the use of Yerba Mate for any use other than
as a beverage.