1. What is it and where does it come from?
Yerba Mate (pronounced "yerba mahtay") is a medicinal and cultural drink of ancient origins. Introduced to the world by the Guarani Indians of South America, Mate contains ingredients that help keep its drinkers healthy and energetic. Made from the leaves of a small evergreen holly tree, Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is grown in several countries in South America. It is generally used as a source of caffeine considered to be more healthful than that found in coffee.
Along with caffeine, Mate also provides numerous vitamins, minerals and amino acids possibly making it more healthful than green tea. The typical Yerba Mate tree looks something like an orange tree and is ready to harvest after seven years of growth. It is best to buy Yerba Mate that has been shade grown in an environmentally sustainable fashion.
More than a drink, Yerba Mate has become a cultural phenomenon throughout South America. Its benefits are obvious. In Buenos Aires, where people carry their Mate with them throughout the day, the site of an obese person is rare.
2. What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?
Aside from providing a longer lasting and more tolerable energy than other caffeinated beverages like coffee, Mate also provides 196 active compounds, 24 vitamins and minerals, and 15 amino acids. Mate contains in the highest amounts chlorophyll, iron, trace minerals, vitamins A, E, and C as well as B-complex. Studies on PubMed have also shown extractions of Mate to have extremely power antioxidant effects. Furthermore, another study showed an herbal supplement including Mate (as well as guarana and Damiana) to be effective in aiding weight loss. Mate significantly delayed gastric emptying, reduced the time to perceived gastric fullness and induced significant weight loss over 45 days in overweight patients. On top of the few beneficial studies applicable to sports health, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Yerba Mate cleanses the blood, fights aging, stimulates the mind and the production of cortisone, tones the nervous system, and enhances the power of other herbs.
3. Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?
Nobody can be deficient in Yerba Mate. Though, if one were tired and looking for a pick-me-up, then a little Mate tea or a capsule of Mate extract may do the trick. I once heard a Mate fan saying, "Who needs food when you?ve got Mate?"
4. How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?
An average dose of Yerba Mate is usually 3 grams of unstandardized powder. If the mate is standardized, it is usually for caffeine content thus you would want to assess how much caffeine you want from the supplement. The side effects can generally be assumed similar to any caffeine ingestion but may be a bit milder than common caffeine sources such as coffee. Aside from superficial side effects, some studies have shown Yerba Mate to possibly be carcinogenic and to be a risk factor for cancer of the head and neck. Such risk is obviously dose dependent and probably only factor for those drinking Mate as a tea.
5. Where can I get it?
Yerba Mate can usually be found in most grocery stores in the form of a tea but can also be found in numerous weight loss and energy supplements.