Traditional South American beverage Yerba mate has become popular over the last few years for it's reputation of being a high caffeine drink that doesn't come with a jittery buzz. It is purported to be health-enhancing, but recent claims that it might be a carcinogen have devotees worried.Photo by Sean Kelly.
A member of the holly plant family, the leaves of the Yerba mate plant are harvested and dried much like that of tea leaves. The beverage is produced by infusing the leaves with hot water, and it is traditionally served in a hollowed-out gourd with a metal straw. The flavour of mate is similar to that of green tea, and was in fact recommended as a wake-up tea in our recent coffee lover's guide to tea.
Health blog LovingFit describes the benefits of Mate.
Yerba Mate has properties similar to caffeine which provides incredibly clear energy levels and mental alertness.
The stimulant this energy comes from, is a unique form of xanthine (a stimulant in coffee ). It's like coffee that's stripped from of the negative effects and only left with a positive. It stimulates the central nervous system without being addictive or give you anxieties. Unlike caffeine, Yerba Mate induces better sleep.
This tea provided enough nutrients to act as a vegetable. Some people refer to it as a ‘drinking a salad.'
Other benefits shown in studies include properties that lessen obesity in a high-starch diet, provides a reduction in LDL cholesterol to those on statin therapy, and may help in treating heart disease. The studies that indicate it as a potential carcinogen mostly point to traditional practices of drinking mate at a very hot temperature as well as the drying process of the leaves, which involves curing with smoke from the burning of wood. Drinking mate in moderation at a reasonable temperature is seen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as "not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans".
Yerba mate, though slightly controversial, seems to most to be a great way to ingest caffeine and increase health. As always you should consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.