The yerba mate plant comprises the ingredients of a trendy drink in South America, especially in those regions where the diet is meat-based. Its aroma, and its chemical composition, and its effects, resemble those of coffee. South Americans drink mate after slightly toasting its leaves, putting them into a calabash or cocoa bark, and pouring hot water over them, and adding a significant amount of sugar. Traditionally, it is sipped through a tube or straw that ends in a sphere with tiny holes that serve as a filter, called a bombilla.
Yerba Mate Plant Scientific Facts
- Scientific synonyms: IIex paragenesis D. Don.
- Other names: Paraguayan tea.
- French: Mate.
- Spanish: Yerba mate, mate.
- Environment: It grows wild in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Brazil and is farmed mainly in Paraguay. Little known outside South America.
- Description: Shrub of the Aristolochiaceae family, growing up to five meters high. Oval, perennial, coriaceous, and ochre-greenish leaves.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: Leaves.
Yerba Mate Plant Benefits and Healing Properties
Its leaves contain caffeine (1-1.5 percent, while coffee contains up to 2 percent), theobromine (another excitant xanthine which is also found in cocoa), tannins, and chlorogenic acid.
It is a muscular and nervous system excitant, though its effects are not as marked as those of coffee. Habitual consumption causes addiction (urge to keep on consuming it), as well as toxic effects on the nervous system (irritation), the heart (palpitations, tachycardia), and a predisposition to gastric and duodenal ulcers).
As a medicinal herb, it may be administered whenever there is no other less toxic remedy, in cases of headaches, head congestion due to heat (sunstroke), and blackout or fainting. One must never forget that the relief yerba mate offers is symptomatic (it does not heal the cause), and its chronic consumption produces toxic effects. In external use, the yerba mate is applied in compresses because of its antiseptic and wound healing.
How to use Yerba Mate
- Infusion with 20-40 grams of leaves per liter of water. Do not consume more than 3 cups daily.
- Compresses. In popular medicine, soaked in the infusion, compresses are used to wash infected wounds and treat burns.
WARNING! The yerba mate plant must not be used continuously, not even as a medicine, because its caffeine content will produce addiction (urge to keep on taking it) and tolerance (urge to boost the dose), as with any other drug that is addictive. The use of the yerba mate is contraindicated in the following cases: gastric and duodenal ulcer, gastritis, pyrosis (stomach acidity), nervousness, hypertension, heart dysfunctions, arrhythmia, gout, pregnancy (diminishes the fetal growth), and breastfeeding (the caffeine passes to the mother’s milk).
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. Vols. 1 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 182. Print.[yerba mate plant]