Yerba Mate Health and Chemistry

Studies indicate that yerba mate tea may be beneficial to your health in several ways.

Antioxidant capacity - Studies indicate that consuming yerba mate tea can significantly contribute to antioxidant intake. Evidence indicates that the antioxidant capacity of yerba mate is higher than that of green tea, which is known as having a very high antioxidant capacity. Several caffeoyl derivatives seem to account for the antioxidant capacity.

Anti cancer effects - Scientifically backed reports reveal that yerba mate has anti cancer effects. It has been shown to be highly toxic to cancer cells, even more so than green tea.

Energizing effects - Yerba mate energizes and promotes a feeling of well being. No doubt due to the presence of xanthine compounds, one of which is caffeine. The caffeine content of 1 cup of mate tea is comparable to the caffeine content of 1 cup of coffee. Another xanthine present which may help with the energizing is theobromine, which also naturally occurs in chocolate.

Mineral content - Yerba mate contains a high concentration of several minerals important in human metabolism and development. Such as aluminum, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, potassium, and zinc.

Anti-inflammatory – Saponin compounds have been attributed with anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering properties. Several of these compounds have been isolated from the leaves of yerba mate.

Cardiovascular system – There appears to be benefits to the cardiovascular system. Experiments with rabbits reveals that mate tea can inhibit atherosclerosis in them. Extracts of mate given to rabbits with high cholesterol has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.

Weight management and obesity – Mate tea has been shown to have possible positive effects for weight loss and weight management. Research has shown some support for this. In our experience with selling yerba mate we have found that most users will loose 5-10 lbs due improved digestion.

The Chemistry of Yerba Mate

Polyphenols - An important class of compounds found in yerba mate are polyphenols. These have been analyzed by several different methods. The polyphenol concentration correlates highly to its antioxidant capacity and is largely due to the polyphenol compound, chlorogenic acid. Yerba mate has been shown to have a slightly higher chlorogenic acid concentration than does green tea, (7.73 ± 0.15 mg)/mL compared to (7.15 ± 0.14 mg)/mL. Chlorogenic acid also slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal and could be of benefit in that way also.

Xanthines – These compounds are found in several different plants including tea, coffee, and cacao(chocolate). Caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline are the xanthines found in yerba mate. Caffeine is by far the most prominent xanthine in yerba mate, 1% - 2% of dry weight. This has been found to translate into approximately 78 mg per 1 cup of tea. This approaches the amount in coffee, approximately 85 mg per cup. Theobromine, an important constituent of chocolate is present in yerba mate, 0.3% - 0.9% of dry weight. Theophylline is present in yerba mate in only very small quantities. No doubt the xanthines, especially caffeine, are responsible for the boost in energy and feeling of well being associated with drinking yerba mate

Saponins – These are compounds which are thought to influence the unique flavor of yerba mate tea. It is also thought that they are responsible for the anti-inflammatory and hypcholesterolemic (cholesterol lowering) properties of the tea. Several saponins have been isolated from mate leaves. The primary ones, matesaponins 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, contain ursolic acid as an important part. This is a substance with known antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Two minor saponins in yerba mate have been identified as containing oleanolic acid, another substance of known anti-inflammatory and other medical benefits. Some of the saponins found in yerba mate have also been found to be antiparasitic, specifically antitrypanosomal. Ursolic and oleanolic acids contribute to that.

Minerals and Vitamins – Beneficial minerals present in yerba mate are aluminum, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, potassium, and zinc. These are important in human metabolism and development. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is abundant in the fresh leaves, but less so in the finished product after processing. It can decrease up to 58% of the original levels. Present also are vitamins A, B1 and B2. Lead is also present in an average concentration in tea samples of 8.1 µg/L. However, this is well below the allowable limit for lead allowed by the EPA in drinking water of 15 µg/L.