What Is Yerba Mate?

Food
on May 16, 2012

If you’re familiar with island breezes and exotic tropical locale, you already know what yerba mate is all about. For those stuck in lesser balmy climates, the words "yerba mate" sound like gibberish and almost alien. Uncover what yerba mate truly is, and what it can do for you.

Yerba mate defined. You may have guessed already that yerba mate is of tropical origin. Yerba mate is related to the holly plant and grows in subtropical South America. Indigenous peoples to the South American region first cultivated the plant, which has a shrub-like height that can tower up to 50 feet.

How is yerba mate used? Yerba mate is a plant that has been used in beverages, as a tea and even in a supplement form for many years but was only scientifically classified in about 1895. The word yerba actually means “herb” in Spanish, according to Merriam-Webster. Herbs were common medicinal and culinary ingredients. Yerba mate was one such useful plant.

How is yerba mate useful? The Mayo Clinic reports that yerba mate contains caffeine, a widely understood chemical that is in the coffee and tea and is commonly consumed today. Yerba mate’s properties were not lost on the early people of South America. It was consumed widely and is still a popular drink in South America today. The leaves, twigs and prepared teas of yerba mate can be readily found in health food stores. Of course, you must check with your doctor if you’re considering trying yerba mate. Yerba mate was and still is used to:

  • Fight fatigue
  • Aid in weight loss
  • Cure a headache
  • Ease depression

Is yerba mate safe? The Mayo Clinic also states that studies have suggested that consuming large amounts of yerba mate over a long period of time can increase the risk of some kinds of cancer — typically lung, esophageal and mouth cancers. Smoking in combination with ingesting yerba mate compounds that increased cancer risk. However, if taken occasionally by a healthy adult, yerba mate is likely to pose no threat or increased risk of cancer developing.

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