By Dr Sandy Krafchik
Let’s face it – we all love our morning coffee! This becomes especially evident as the weather cools down during Autumn & Winter. It provides us with that instant “wake up” buzz – whether it’s enjoying a cuppa before work, between meetings, after dropping the kids at school, with brekkie, after exercising or while catching up with friends. Our May box provides a healthier alternative: Yerba Mate tea.
But……how does it compare to coffee?
What is Yerba mate?
Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is an evergreen holly tree. Its leaves are brewed into a tea which is very popular throughout the Middle East and South America. It’s claimed to offer the “strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate”. It sounds very appealing to me!
It tastes similar to green tea – however many flavoured varieties are now available. It is becoming a popular beverage mainly due to the many positive health benefits associated with it.
Yerba leaves contain:
Caffeine and related xanthines (It contains more caffeine than tea but less than coffee)
27+ different saponins
Health Benefits of Yerba mate
Yerba Mate has been shown during clinical trials to offer the following health benefits:
1. Provides a smooth, balanced increase in energy
Yerba mate produces a state of alertness similar to that of coffee, but without the side effects (e.g. insomnia /caffeine jitters). It is used by athletes to enhance physical performance. It is used to manage mental or physical fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome.
2. Boosts mental functioning
Yerba mate enhances productivity, creativeness and focus. This is due to the caffeine it contains, which improves memory, mood, and alertness. Caffeine stimulates the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Besides caffeine, Yerba mate contains theobromine and theophylline. These 3 alkaloids work together to provide mild stimulant effects.
3. A nutritional powerhouse
Yerba mate contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Each serving contains high concentrations of: vitamin A/vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B5/vitamin C/vitamin E/calcium/iron/magnesium/manganese/phosphorus/potassium/selenium/sodium/sulphur/zinc. It also contains other phytonutrients such as: tannins, trace minerals, chlorophyll, flavonoids, and 15 amino acids. Yerba mate contains 11 polyphenols and exhibits more antioxidant power than any other tea-based drink.
4. Boosts the immune system
Yerba mate contains saponins, which are natural emulsifiers that boost the immune system and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains potent antioxidants called polyphenols. These compounds modulate the overactive immune response which contributes to seasonal allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.
5. Assists weight loss
There is evidence that Yerba mate can facilitate weight loss by reducing appetite, increasing energy expenditure, improving insulin sensitivity, and burning stored fat.
6. Acts as a digestive and elimination tonic
Yerba mate may be used for treating constipation, diarrhea, and indigestion. It is naturally antibacterial against E. coli. A saponin found in Yerba mate destroys intestinal parasites. It’s also useful for preventing and treating urinary tract infections and bladder and kidney stones.
7. Builds strong bones
There is clinical evidence that drinking Yerba mate tea increases bone density, even in people who don’t exercise. (This discovery was unexpected, since caffeine is usually associated with bone mineral loss and exercise is deemed critical for building strong bones.)
8. Maintains heart health
Yerba mate is useful in heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and low blood pressure. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties protect the heart and cardiovascular system. The theobromine it contains relaxes blood vessels allowing for better blood flow.
Side effects of Yerba mate
Symptoms of excess caffeine:
Heart palpitations (jitters)
Insomnia (inability to sleep)
Diarrhoea (if too much is consumed)
Contra-indications to using Yerba mate:
Avoid drinking Yerba mate if you are:
An anxiety sufferer
An alcohol drinker
Using medication for heart disease/ asthma/cancer/depression/diabetes
Using any drugs that stimulate the nervous system.
Always consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure.
How to prepare Yerba mate
- Brew it like tea, using tea bags
- Make it from loose leaves using a strainer or infuser
- Use a French press
- The authentic way to drink yerba mate is from a gourd (calabash) with a silver straw (bombilla).
The verdict! Can I swap my coffee?
Yerba mate is one of the healthiest drinks in the world. It provides an energy and productivity boost similar to coffee, but with less caffeine and more nutrients. It is less stimulating than coffee and rarely causes caffeine-related side effects. It offers numerous health benefits.
If you are looking for a healthy replacement for caffeine-laden drinks or just want a change from coffee, Yerba mate is an excellent alternative.
Go on…. give it a try.
Examine.com. 2017. Yerba mate - Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects | Examine.com. [ONLINE] Available at: https://examine.com/supplements/yerba-mate/. [Accessed 27 April 2017].
Be Brain Fit. 2017. 10 Health Benefits of Yerba Mate Tea (Better Than Coffee) | Be Brain Fit. [ONLINE] Available at: https://bebrainfit.com/yerba-mate-benefits/. [Accessed 27 April 2017].