For centuries, hunter-gatherer tribes living in Paraguay have benefited from the rejuvenating, invigorating powers of yerba mate—and now we can, too.
Yerba mate (pronounced “yer-bah mah-tay”) is a tea made from the naturally caffeinated and nourishing leaves of a holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis), which is found in the subtropical Atlantic rainforests of South America.
The indigenous Guarani people of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil refer to yerba mate as the “drink of the gods.” It is used as a base for herbal medicine mixtures called “remedios” and consumed as a beverage to promote health, vitality and longevity.
When Europeans explorers first encountered the substance, they dubbed it “the green gold of the Indios.” The habit of sipping yerba mate from a gourd through a filtered straw called a “bombilla” gradually spread from the rainforests to cities, so that by the 20thcentury, yerba mate was favored 6 to 1 over coffee in Southern Brazil and became the national drink of Paraguay.
What makes yerba mate so special? The leaves that are steeped to make the tea naturally contain 24 vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin (B3), B5, and B complex, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
Additionally, yerba mate is a source of 15 amino acids and an abundance of antioxidants, including carotene, fatty acids, chlorophyll, flavonols, polyphenols, inositol, saponins, tannins and pantothenic acid.
In 1964, the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society stated that “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value … containing practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”
The caffeine in yerba mate delivers a kick, like coffee, but without oiliness or acid formation, which makes it less likely to cause stomach acid and jitters.
Proponents of the tea claim that it not only relieves fatigue but also promotes weight loss. Currently, scientists are studying how it may lower lipids—such blood fats as cholesterol and triglycerides—as a way to avoid heart disease, too.
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