About a year ago, my husband introduced me to an interesting drink that had recently gained popularity in the United States: yerba mate. At first, I thought it was another tea made from the Camellia sinensis bush, but after tasting it, I realized that it had distinctive differences in flavor from the teas that I had tasted in the past. My first glass of yerba mate was more pungent than the teas I was used to and had a decidedly earthy taste. A little research revealed that I was drinking leaves and twigs that originated from a tree native to the rainforests of South America. I also discovered that it had a higher caffeine content than tea, but lower than coffee. Intrigued by this new beverage, I decided to do further research into its health benefits.
Is yerba mate healthy?
Yerba mate contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, such as the B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Proponents of yerba mate believe drinking this beverage can promote weight loss, reduce fatigue, decrease depression, reduce headaches, decrease pain, improve energy and focus. However, there is no scientific evidence to back these health claims.
On the other hand, some preliminary studies indicate that prolonged heavy consumption of yerba mate may not be good for you. Yerba mate contains some polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are also found in grilled meats and tobacco smoke and are known to be carcinogenic. Therefore, drinking an excessive amount of yerba mate has the potential to increase your risk of mouth, esophagus and lung cancer. However, more research still needs to be done to assess the long term safety of yerba mate.
The bottom line:
In moderation, yerba mate appears to be healthy because it contains a lot of beneficial vitamins and minerals. So, if you enjoy the taste, keep on drinking it, but don’t overdo it. As always, moderation is the key.