Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate

Uses of Yerba Mate

Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a plant originally native to Paraguay. Its leaves contain caffeine and make for a popular tea and ingredient in energy drinks. Though a number of health benefits have been claimed for the plant, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database has given these its lowest rating, “insufficient evidence to rate,” as shown below.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for…

  • Athletic performance. Consuming yerba mate before exercising may reduce hunger and elevate mood post-exercise for women. Taking it daily for 5 days may also slightly improve the performance of trained athletes.
  • Memory and cognitive functions (thinking skills). Yerba beverages do not appear to improve memory, mental accuracy, or reaction time in healthy women.
  • Diabetes. Consuming yerba tea three times per day for 60 days many lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Hyperlipidemia [high levels of cholesterol or other lipids (fats) in the blood]. Some research has shown that drinking yerba tea three times per day for 40 days may lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol in those suffering from high cholesterol. Other research has suggested that this is not the case for those who have HIV or who do not have high cholesterol.
  • Obesity. Orally consuming yerba mate may help decrease fat and increase weight loss (either by itself or when taken along with guarana and damiana).
  • Osteoporosis (weak, brittle bones). Competing studies argue that drinking one yerba mate tea per day for 4 years may or may not reduce bone loss in postmenopausal women.
  • Prediabetes. Drinking yerba mate tea three times per day for 60 days may reduce glycated hemoglobin (HbA1C, a measure of average blood sugar) in prediabetics, though it does not appear to reduce fasting blood sugar.

More evidence is also needed to rate the effectiveness of yerba mate in treating the following conditions:

Side Effects Of Yerba Mate

  • When taken orally: Yerba mate is POSSIBLY SAFE if taken for short periods Its caffeine content may cause side effects such as increased heart rate and breathing, insomnia (inability to sleep), nausea, nervousness, restlessness, and vomiting.
  • Yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE if consumed in large quantities and/or for long periods. Drinking more than 12 cups per day may result in anxiety, agitation, headaches, irregular heartbeat, and ringing in the ears. Consuming at least 1 liter per day may also increase risk of bladder, cervical, esophageal, kidney, laryngeal or mouth, lung, prostate, stomach cancers, especially in those who smoke or drink alcohol.

Warnings & Precautions

  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when taken during pregnancy due to its high caffeine content. Consuming over 300 mg of caffeine per day (about 6 cups of yerba tea) may cause caffeine addiction in the fetus, leading to withdrawal symptoms after birth. High caffeine consumption has also been linked to miscarriage, premature delivery, and low birth weight. In addition, it is unknown if the increased risk of cancer associated with yerba mate can be transferred to the developing fetus.
  • Yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE while breast-feeding, as caffeine can cause irritability and increased bowel movements in infants. Furthermore, it is unknown if the beverage’s cancer-causing chemicals can pass into breast milk.
  • Children: Yerba mate is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for children due to its association with increased risk of various cancers.
  • Alcoholism: Heavy alcohol consumption combined with prolonged yerba mate use increases risk of cancer.
  • Anxiety disorders: Caffeine may increase anxiety.
  • Bleeding disorders: Caffeine may slow blood clotting and worsen bleeding disorders.
  • Heart conditions: Caffeine can cause irregular heartbeats.
  • Diabetes: Caffeine can complicate blood sugar control. In folks with type 1 diabetes, it may increase ability to detect low blood sugar, but it may also increase the number of low blood sugar episodes.
  • Diarrhea: Consuming large amounts of caffeine can worsen diarrhea.
  • Glaucoma: Caffeine increases eye pressure.
  • High blood pressure: Drinking caffeine may increase blood pressure, though regular consumption may lessen this effect.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Consuming large amounts of caffeine may worsen the symptoms of IBS, especially diarrhea.
  • Osteoporosis (weak bones): Though the effect of yerba mate tea on bone density in postmenopausal women is under debate, caffeine is known to leach calcium from the body.
  • Smoking: Prolonged use of yerba mate by smokers increases risk of cancer.

Dosage Of Yerba Mate

There is not yet enough scientific evidence regarding yerba mate to determine safe dosages. Be sure to talk to your doctor of pharmacist before using.