Yerba Mate Tea: Benefits, Potential Risks and How To Brew It Properly

Yerba Mate tea

Why Yerba Mate tea is good for you and what are the potential side effects if you drink too much

Yerba mate tea is a great alternative to coffee in the morning. If you haven’t tried this caffeine-rich drink that is mostly consumed in South America, now it’s the time to do that.

Now, when scientists confirmed the benefits of yerba mate tea this drink is becoming popular in every corner of the globe. There is a specific method of preparation and how this tea is prepared is so different from anything else.

This article finds out what are yerba mate tea benefits, potential side effects, and how to prepare properly at home.

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What is Yerba Mate tea?

Yerba Mate tea is a widely popular beverage in South America, made from the leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant.

The most interesting part about yerba mate tea is that is steeped in hot water and then sipped with a metal straw from a container called a “gourd“(mate cup). The reusable straw is called “bombilla” and it has a filter in it, so don’t worry about any of the leaves get stuck between your teeth.

We will explain this part down here when we will talk about how to make and drink yerba mate tea.

In countries where this tea is popular like Argentina 11 pounds per capita are consumed every year or in Uruguay where this amount is doubled, drinking yerba mate tea is often a social event.

These social meetups usually take place outdoors, like in a park where people sit in a circle, passing around the “gourd” (mate cup) as each person takes a single sip from the same cup, before passing it on.

Of course, this is just an example of a ritual or social drinking, yerba mate is so popular in South America that many people use this drink as a coffee substitute in the morning.

One teaspoon of yerba mate, the amount in a single tea bag, contains about a third of the amount of caffeine that you get from a cup of coffee.

Good To Know:

Yerba mate tea contains 85 mg of caffeine per cup, which is less than a cup of coffee – 72 to 130 mg of caffeine, depending on the type of coffee and how it is brewed.

If you haven’t tried yet the best way to describe the taste is grassy and similar to green tea. If you weren’t raised on it, you might find it an acquired taste (remember your first time trying coffee!?).

Yerba mate consumption is increasing in many parts of the world, but not because of the way it tastes. Like most herbs, this tea is loaded with different benefits that make yerba mate tea worth adding to your diet!

Yerba mate tea benefits

Yerba mate tea is a nutritional powerhouse loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and this is the reason why yerba mate tea is good for you. All benefits of yerba mate are as a result of these healthy compounds.

Yerba mate contains several beneficial plant nutrients:

  • Caffeoyl derivates: The main health-promoting antioxidants in the tea.
  • Xanthines: They include caffeine, and theobromine, these compounds act as stimulants. They are also found in coffee and chocolate.
  • Polyphenols: Large group of antioxidants, linked to a reduced risk of many diseases.
  • Saponins: Bitter-compounds that have anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.

It also contains other beneficial phytonutrients such as tannins, trace minerals, chlorophyll, flavonoids, quercetin, seven out of nine essential amino acids, vitamin A, B, C, and E.

Interesting Fact

Yerba mate contains 11 polyphenols and the antioxidant power of yerba mate tea seems to be slightly higher than that of green tea.

Provides an energy boost and improve mental focus

Yerba mate tea provides a smooth increase in energy that’s been described as calm, gentle, and clean. Compared to other commonly used stimulants in the world like coffee, cocoa, or guarana yerba mate delivers the most balanced energy boost.

If you drink yerba mate instead of coffee you will experience a state of alert wakefulness similar to that of coffee but without coffee’s side effects.

According to several studies, the reputed benefits of moderate caffeine consumption include improvements of physical endurance, cognitive function, particularly alertness, mood, and perception of fatigue.

Of the 41 human studies, the majority reported benefits with low to moderate caffeine intakes (37.5 to 450 mg per day).

Additionally, those who consumed yerba mate regularly rave that it enhances alertness like coffee – but without the jittery side effects.

Yerba mate tea can help you lose weight and belly fat

When it comes to the benefits of yerba mate tea for weight loss we will look at some studies that confirm that drinking yerba mate tea can help you to shed pounds.

The results from a study where 47 healthy overweight adults were taking an herbal preparation containing yerba mate, guarana, and damiana three times a day for 45 days, showed significant weight loss and also helped people feel full more quickly while eating.

Further, animal studies show that yerba mate may reduce appetite and boost metabolism, which helps with weight loss.

In a 12-week study, obese man and women took 3 grams of yerba mate capsules per day saw a decrease in body fat mass, losing on average 1.5 pounds. They also reduced their waist-to-hip ratio by 2% which indicates lost belly fat.

Boosts the immune system

Yerba mate contains natural compounds with anti-inflammatory properties called saponins. It’s confirmed that yerba mate contains 19 saponins.

What are saponins? Saponins are chemical compounds that occur in a wide range of herbs, seeds, and vegetables. These chemicals may help reduce cholesterol levels, kill-disease causing bacteria, scavenge oxidative stress.

Saponins are mostly known for their soap-like characteristics, and this is what gives the tea those foamy-bubbles when you combine it with water. You also find saponins in beans and lentils.

Saponins have antioxidant properties and they can promote building a healthy immune system and also have an anti-aging effect.

In addition, yerba mate tea provides small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc. These antioxidants have a positive effect and can also strengthen your immune system.

May prevent and regulate diabetes

One cup of mate tea in the morning may help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the complications of diabetes.

These positive effects of yerba mate are proven by an animal study from 2011, and results from this study show that it may improve insulin signaling.

These health benefits are largely due to the high concentration of polyphenols, which work to regulate glucose in the body. Chlorogenic acid has shown the ability to modulate glucose, preventing dangerous blood sugar spikes.

Long history as a digestive and elimination tonic

One of the traditional yerba mate tea’s benefits is for treating constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion. Its natural antibacterial properties combat E. coli, one of the most common causes of food poisoning.

Results of one study show that a high dose of yerba mate extract deactivates E. coli, a bacteria that causes food poisoning symptoms like stomach cramps and diarrhea.

Also, another benefit of yerba mate is that prevents the growth of Malassezia furfur. This is a fungus responsible for dandruff, skin rashes, and scaly skin.

Research suggests that some compounds in yerba mate like saponins destroy intestinal parasites. It’s also useful for preventing and treating urinary tract infections and kidney stones.

Yerba mate tea side effects

The list of benefits of yerba mate is long and we’ve mentioned just a few of those. When it comes to side effects of this tea there aren’t many, if you drink yerba mate in moderation if you drink too much for a long period there are some downsides of yerba mate tea, especially connected with caffeine content.

Side effects caused by caffeine

This tea as we mentioned contains caffeine and drinking a lot may cause headaches, migraines, and high blood pressure in some individuals. So if you are caffeine sensitive you should avoid this drink or consume it in small amounts.

Pregnant women should also limit their consumption to a maximum of three cups a day. High levels of caffeine can increase the risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.

Medication interactions

Yerba mate tea can have adverse interactions with certain medications. These include drugs used to treat heart disease, asthma, diabetes.

Some studies show that yerba mate contains compounds that have monoamine oxidase inhibitor activity (MAOI). MAOIs are often prescribed as medications for depression and Parkinson’s disease. So, individuals that are taking MAOI’s drugs should use yerba mate with caution.

In almost every case the problem with yerba mate and medication interactions is not unique to yerba mate but it is due to ingesting moderate amounts of caffeine.

It’s not just a matter of overstimulation, in some cases caffeine can alter a drug’s effectiveness.

If you have problems with caffeinated drinks before consuming yerba mate tea it is better to consult your doctor first.

Contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

This herb contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are cancerogenic, typically found in tobacco and grilled meats. This is the reason why you shouldn’t eat any food that is burnt!

It’s important to note that for this to have any effect you have to drink a lot, so much yerba mate for a long period of time. So, like everything else in life, moderation is the key.

How to make yerba mate tea

Traditionally yerba mate tea is brewed and consumed using a mate cup called gourd or calabash. It’s commonly sipped through a metal straw called bombilla that has a filter on its lower end to strain out the leaf fragments.

We will present both methods of preparing yerba mate tea with a gourd or without a gourd.

Preparing yerba mate tea with a gourd

Fill your gourd 2/3 with yerba mate loose leaf tea. Cover the top of the mate cup and shake it around, this will bring up the smaller piece of the tea so they won’t stick in your straw when you drink it.

Tilt the gourd until the tea covers the side and almost reaches the top. Pour some lukewarm water over your tea, this will protect and get the leaves ready for the hot water.

Pour hot water onto the bottom half of the drink. The temperature of the water should be 60-70oC (140-158oF).

Leave the yerba mate leaves to absorb the water for a couple of minutes.

Put the filtered end of the mate straw into the tea, at an angle and pour hot, not boiling water best at 90oC into the yerba mate tea.

Now you’re ready to drink and enjoy your yerba mate’s tea!

Preparing yerba mate tea without a gourd

Heat water just until you start to see little bubbles form. You don’t need boiling hot water, The best is simmered water between 160 and 180oF. To get the best taste and quality of any tea it is recommended to use filtered water.

Warm up the teapot by pouring some of the hot water into a teapot, and swirl the water around. Throw this water out. This is important so the temperature of the hot water doesn’t drop while the tea is brewing.

Put yerba mate loose leaf tea into a teapot and add the hot water. Cover the teapot and steep for 5 minutes.

Strain yerba mate leaves and the hot tea into a teacup.

Your yerba mate tea is now ready, and you can also add some honey or other sweetener. Enjoy!

Frequently asked questions and answers

What does yerba mate tea taste like?

Yerba mate has a strong, earthy flavor. It’s slightly bitter and the unusual flavor is something that you have to get used to.

Is it safe to drink yerba mate every day?

When taken in large amounts for a long period of time (more than 12 cups a day), due to the presence of caffeine some side effects may appear like headache, anxiety, irregular heartbeat.

How much yerba mate tea should I drink?

South Americans drink a lot of yerba mate per day (12-16 cups), this is too much. If you are not a regular consumer of yerba mate tea it is recommended to drink 2-3 cups daily.

Loose tea or tea bags?

For the best quality use yerba mate loose leaf tea. Tea bags are of the lowest quality.

How much caffeine does yerba mate tea actually have?

The caffeine levels of yerba mate tea can range between 20 to 180 mg per cup (8 ounce or 0.24 liters). The average caffeine content is around 85 mg per cup. Yerba mate tea brewed with tea bags has the lowest level of caffeine, while mate brewed with the traditional method (gourd) has much higher caffeine content.

Yerba mate tea

Final thoughts about benefits of yerba mate tea and potential side effects

Drinking yerba mate tea is good for you because it may help with energy increase, the better focus may help you lose weight and boost the immune system.

It’s is a great alternative to coffee in the morning and when we know now the benefits of yerba mate tea there is no reason to add it to our favorite drinks.

But remember if you are sensitive to caffeine it is better to consult with your doctor before start consuming yerba mate tea.

The best way to prepare it is traditional, using gourd and bombilla. When you first try it, maybe you won’t like the taste, but remember the taste of coffee when you tried for the first time!

Try this tea, we are sure that you will like it. Enjoy!

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