What is Yerba Mate?

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What is Yerba Mate?

Yerba mate is a caffeinated beverage that is gaining popularity, thanks to its numerous health benefits. Nowadays, people from all corners of the globe are embracing yerba mate infusions. Let's take a closer look at this remarkable beverage.

What is the Yerba Mate Plant?

The yerba mate plant - which comes from the Ilex paraguariensis tree – has been consumed for centuries by the indigenous peoples of South America. It is typically served as a tea in gourds and drunk from a straw called a bombilla. At this point you're probably asking yourself, what does a yerba mate tea taste like? The flavor can be described as earthy, grassy, or woodsy with hints of fruit like apple or citrus flavors. While it is most commonly prepared as a hot tea, some people use this plant to prepare cold teas, and some people just chew the leaves to reap Yerba Mate’s numerous benefits. So, what is yerba mate good for? In addition to caffeine, yerba mate contains antioxidants, which provide a wide range of health-related benefits when consumed – including potential anti-cancer properties. These antioxidants include valuable polyphenols such as flavonoids and tannins, among other valuable compounds.

These antioxidants are not only thought to have anti-cancer properties, but they have also been shown to reduce inflammation as well. Indeed, there are many reasons to drink yerba mate. Yerba mate tea is different from other herbal tea in that yerba mate contains both caffeine and antioxidants, and therefore many people drink yerba for its many health benefits and for the energy and focus that the drink provides. It's clear to see why this plant has such a long history, and why it's gaining popularity around the globe.

Yerba Mate origins

Yerba Mate is a stimulant beverage that has been consumed in South America and beyond for a very, very long time. Before Spanish colonization, natives of South America consumed mate by chewing the plants leaves. Over time, a type of herbal tea made from the plants leaves became popular with gauchos or cowboys in South America. The drink was first consumed during periods of drought and famine when there wasn't enough food available to eat. Gauchos would sip on the tea while they were out tending their cattle drives or on long harvest days. The tea was said to not only give the Gauchos energy, but it was also said to keep them healthy and nourished. When Europeans first discovered yerba mate, it took quite a long time for them to figure out how to properly grow the plant. Interestingly, the secret to growing the yerba mate plant that they were unaware of was regarding the way the seeds of the plant were to be germinated - by passing through native birds' digestive tracts! Nowadays, a similar effect can be achieved by washing seeds a number of times, then letting them soak in warm water before planting them in rich, humid soil. I don't know about you, but I'm thankful that we moved past birds' digestive tracts for processing yerba mate!

Yerba mate also has a long history with Indigenous peoples of South America and beyond. Various groups have taken advantage of the many properties of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, using it to make tea, chewing the leaves, but also using the plant to make alcoholic drinks, medicines, and more. Other groups over time used the drink as a social event, where a group of people came together to share the drink, symbolizing unity and connection. Similarly, the drink was often shared by groups as an experience of bonding while meals were being prepared. More fantastically, folklore about yerba mate refers to the plant as an herb from the gods. The plant was a key part of warrior-based lifestyles among various Indigenous groups in South America, both for enhancing physical stamina and for various medicinal properties. Folklore aside, yerba mate has been used by many groups throughout history as a key ingredient in many healing and remedy mixtures.

For centuries the Yerba Mate plant was also used for worship and often used in religious or important tribal ceremonies. As the Spanish colonized South America they took up the habit of drinking it and quickly spread their love of herbal plants to Europeans, who were eager to adopt new food- and drink-related traditions. Nowadays, yerba mate is consumed all over the world. Even celebrities like Madonna, Beyoncé, and George Clooney are talking about how awesome yerba mate is! And while many people continue to consume yerba mate in somewhat of a traditional way (i.e., making a hot tea from the plants leaves and drinking the tea from a calabash), there are many new takes on this famous tea, including Mate Libre's range of delicious yerba mate products

How does Yerba Mate work?

This plant produces a natural stimulant called Mateine, which is made up of three compounds: caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. Since yerba mate contains caffeine, and caffeine decreases fatigue and drowsiness, we know that yerba mate drinking is a great way to stay energized throughout the day. But more than just that, yerba mate provides you with long-lasting energy and also helps you relax at the same time. This is due to the theobromine and theophylline, which act as vasodilators, in turn making it easier to breathe, increasing blood flow, and reducing overall blood pressure. This results in a balanced, smooth boost of energy that is unlike the energy you get from drinking coffee, tea, or store-bought energy drinks and pre-workout supplements. Learn more about why Yerba Mate is Better than energy drinks here.  

Is yerba mate as strong as coffee? Yes, it's possible that yerba tea can have a similar amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, but rather than feeling jittery and anxious – like you might feel from a big energy drink or that large cup of coffee – drinking yerba mate leaves you energized, focused, and, most importantly, calm. This makes yerba mate the perfect drink to start the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or as a pre-workout boost. Yerba mate also contains antioxidants, which are known to contribute to many positive health benefits – which are discussed more in-depth later on in the article. But, in general, antioxidants are known to reduce inflammation and are thought to have anti-cancer properties. This synergistic effect of caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline, and the number of other incredible natural compounds found in yerba mate make this an undeniably healthy drink. Taken together, this points to yerba mate being an ideal drink for students, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers, athletes, and more! The next time you're interested in giving your health, energy/focus, and physical performance a boost, give yerba mate a try!

How Yerba Mate is prepared

Nowadays, there are many ways to prepare yerba mate. You can have hot tea, or you can have cold tea. Plus, you can combine your yerba mate leaves or your yerba mate tea with a bunch of other ingredients to make a variety of delicious mixtures. Traditionally, yerba mate is prepared in a dried container called “mate.” The modern-day version of the gourd may be made from ceramic, metal, or wood and has no solid walls but rather just one opening at the bottom to let water out when it's completely full with leaves and hot liquid that is steeped for 10 minutes before pouring into another cup. Hot water is then poured over the herbs producing a tea-like beverage. While some people continue to chew the yerba mate leaves, steeping yerba mate leaf is what unlocks this fantastic plant's full potential. While making your own yerba mate tea is relatively easy – and all you need is to get some yerba mate tea leaves and boil some water – another option is to go with a pre-made yerba mate tea, such as the Mate Libre yerba mate natural energy drinks. This way, you can ensure you're getting the same amount of caffeine in each drink, which can at times be difficult to control when you're making tea at home. Plus, when you get a Mate Libre drink, you don't have to worry about the messy cleanup that can accompany making your own tea at home.

The Process of preparing yerba mate tea

In order to make yerba mate herbal tea, leaves from the plant must be dried and roasted first. From there, individuals can take the mate tea leaves and make a variety of hot or cold teas, just like they would for any other herbal tea. Importantly, there are various ways to dry and roast the leaves, some of which are healthier than others.

Smoke-drying is one popular way by which yerba mate leaves are prepared for consumption. Smoke-dried leaves possess a stronger flavour, but come with the unwanted negative effects of having smoke coming into contact with your future tea. With smoke-dried yerba, the negative health effects of the smoke may cancel out the positive health effects of the compounds within the yerba mate. Still, some people swear by smoke-dried yerba mate, since this is in fact the traditional way that yerba has been processed over time.

Another way of processing yerba mate leaves involves air-drying. Air-drying yerba mate leaves takes longer and produces a tea that has a milder taste, but this method is far healthier than smoke-drying. Some people prefer a smoke-dried yerba product, but the negative health effects of this type of yerba are hard to ignore. Namely, smoke-dried yerba mate may contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been associated with several forms of cancer. When possible, it's best, safest, and healthiest to go with air-dried yerba.

You'll be delighted to know that Mate Libre uses nothing but air-dried yerba mate in the making of our range of delicious mate beverages. It's important to reap the benefits of yerba mate tea, but it's also important to ensure we keep our bodies healthy by knowing about the products we're consuming. Read more about air dired versus smoke dried Yerba Mate

How yerba mate grows

Yerba mate trees – a species of the holly family – are usually grown in Argentina, Southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay. They have also been introduced into Hawaii where they grow under the rich rainforest canopy away from direct sunlight which allows leaves to retain more nutrients and minerals for you to enjoy!

The yerba plant enjoys hot and humid climates with plenty of rainfall. Wild yerba mate trees can be harvested once every two years, depending on their shape and growth. Cultivated yerba mate trees, on the other hand, can be cultivated once every year, as they experience more efficient growth due to more attention from growers. Yerba mate can be grown indoors and outdoors, but the plantations in South America tend to be outdoors. Did you know that yerba plants can grow up to ten metres (about 32 feet) – and sometimes they can every grow taller than that?!

Smaller ilex paraguariensis plants can be grown in indoor gardens before they are transferred to soil outdoors after about one year of indoor growing. These smaller plants can only be harvested several years into the plants' lives, and it will not be until at least the seventh or eighth year that these plants will provide sufficient leaves to be able to make a decent amount of yerba tea. In sum, there are many ways to grow yerba mate plants. Thankfully, with all the yerba products on the market today – including the delicious Mate Libre drinks – you don't have to worry about growing your own yerba mate!

Learn more about how the Yerba Mate Plant grows here.

What are the benefits of drinking Yerba Mate?

Yerba Mate was used as a medicinal drink by the Incas and Aztecs who drank it to help with digestion, and other ailments. Nowadays, we've come to learn about the many benefits associated with drinking yerba too! Yerba Mate is high in antioxidants which can fight free radicals in the body that are linked to premature aging, inflammation, and even potential cancer. Yerba mate also contains a blend of natural stimulants, such as caffeine and theobromine, which can promote alertness, improve mental performance, and enhance focus – all without the anxiety that accompanies many popular store-bought energy drinks. Woohoo!

Plus, yerba mate can do so much more than just give you energy! Because yerba mate contains caffeine, many people think that drinking yerba mate tea is similar to drinking coffee, but without the negative side effects that can accompany coffee. But, really, yerba mate is so much more than just a different version of coffee or caffeinated herbal tea. Firstly, caffeine is an incredible compound for a number of reasons. Caffeine can increase memory levels, improve memory, enhance focus, and improve mood. Caffeine, along with the other key compounds in yerba mate, has also been shown to slow blood clotting, decrease blood sugar, and lower the risk of some neurological diseases. Yerba mate can help promote healthy blood pressure response, especially in individuals with very high blood pressure. Similarly, drinking yerba mate has been associated with decreased low-density lipoprotein (LDL - also called bad cholesterol) and with increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL - also called good cholesterol). Also, drinking yerba mate tea inhibits the production of free radicals thanks to the plant's high concentration of antioxidants. In terms of more general health benefits, yerba mate phenolic compounds play an important role in modulating the body's microbiome.

The health benefits of yerba mate depend largely on how much you consume and what your diet consists of already; however, drinking yerba mate regularly can have many positive effects on your body! Interested to learn more about Yerba Mate benefits? Check out our article Yerba Mate Health Benefits.

Health and performance benefits aside, what about the convenience of drinking yerba mate? With yerba mate, you can get the benefits of caffeine without the drawbacks of coffee or store-bought energy drinks. Don't deal with annoying crashes from coffee and energy drinks, which spike your energy temporarily. Instead, enjoy the smooth, sustained energy that comes from yerba mate's synergy of amazing compounds. Plus, skip the stomachaches and the jitters that come from too much coffee. Yerba mate is making its way around the world – hop on board the hype train! With Mate Libre products in particular, you can avoid the hassle of having to make your own tea with our delicious packaged mate beverages. Pop a few Mate Libre cans in your fridge, or in your bag or purse, and enjoy a convenient and delicious pick-me-up at any time of the day. Need to start the day off strong and want to also avoid an early-morning stomach ache from coffee? Crack open a cold Mate Libre tea instead! Need a boost of energy after lunch so that you can end the work day strong? Try a Mate Libre! Find out where to buy yerba mate today!

Is Yerba Mate a drug?

Similar to Coffee, Yerba Mate is considered a drug, in the sense that it contains caffeine, which can be addictive and may have negative side effects, but it does not cause hallucinations like other plant-based drugs. Yerba Mate has become more popular in the United States recently with its availability on mainstream grocery store shelves and its use as a health supplement in fitness communities such as Crossfit or Paleo dieters. There are some concerns about addiction to this stimulant beverage if consumed regularly but these risks are no worse than drinking tea or caffeine. Learn more about why you should ditch coffee for Yerba Mate.

If you drink caffeine regularly, switching to yerba mate isn't a difficult thing to do. Drinking coffee is convenient, but it can cause stomach discomfort, and can cause anxiety and the jitters when consumed in high quantities. Of course, caffeine metabolism is different for everyone, so the caffeine in yerba mate tea may affect each person in a slightly different way. While there are some claims that caffeine can lead to insulin resistance, however there are no concrete findings as of yet pointing to the fact that caffeine impairs glucose metabolism. Alcohol and caffeine interaction can be dangerous because it can make the individual feel more alert, in turn not recognizing the degree to which they are intoxicated from the alcohol. It is thus recommended that caffeinated beverages are consumed with alcohol in moderate quantities. However, it is important to recognize the long history that does exist with various groups mixing alcohol and yerba together.

 Yerba mate tea vs yerba mate extract

Drinking yerba mate tea vs taking yerba mate supplements are two completely different things. It is much easier to consume too much caffeine if you're taking yerba mate in a concentrated extract form. There are many herbal food supplements nowadays that contain yerba mate extract, and it can be difficult to know how this compares to drinking tea or coffee. Just search online for "supplements yerba mate" and see how many products pop up. Are all of these products bad? Absolutely not. Should you proceed with caution when consuming supplements with concentrated forms of yerba, caffeine, and other substances? Yes!

Because yerba mate contains caffeine, it is certainly possible to consume too much caffeine from yerba mate tea. So, who should not drink yerba mate? If you have any adverse reactions to coffee or to yerba mate, it is recommended that you stop consuming yerba mate, stop drinking caffeine, and see a healthcare specialist before continuing to consume caffeinated products. Also, stopping yerba mate consumption is recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as well. Similarly, since yerba mate contains caffeine, individuals with pre-existing heart problems should consume yerba and other caffeinated drinks in moderate quantities.

Where to buy Yerba Mate in stores and online

The benefits of drinking yerba mate are undeniable! Not only can you get a boost of energy with enhanced mental focus, but you can also enjoy a boost in athletic performance. More than that, yerba mate is part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle for people of all ages. Ditch coffee for yerba mate and thank us later!

Mate Libre's Yerba Mate is available across Canada in a huge selection of retailers! Or you can buy the delicious Yerba Mate Products online today!


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