Yerba Mate is a popular new beverage on the trending scene. Personalities like Barak Obama, Viggo Mortenson, and Madonna have all been seen sipping this herbal brew, adding to its popularity and allure.
Grown and harvested in South America, Yerba is famed for its energy-boosting properties. Each cup has roughly 70 mg of caffeine, giving you the effects of coffee without the jittery slowdown when the coffee wears off.
Mate, as it is also called, didn’t make it into the cups of the famous just for that. It has many other health benefits and perks that we will share below.
The Caffeine in Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate is an herbal tea made from the Ilex paraguariensis plant. Traditionally, the leaves and twigs of the plant (Yerba) are poured into a gourd (mate) after seeping. Although it is still enjoyed that way, it now comes in a variety of options.
Teabags are a popular alternative to loose herbs. The smaller quantity of Yerba in the bags gives the beverage a less robust, herbaceous flavor. It also affects the caffeine, going from about 70 mg per cup down to 40 mg per cup.
Canned Yerba is another option. In this case, the herbs are mixed with juice giving it a sweeter taste. Cans allow for a higher concentration of caffeine, as well. Some contain as much as 150 mg per can.
As a rule, Yerba Mate has more caffeine than tea but less caffeine than coffee. Take a look at how it falls on a broader caffeine scale:
|Coca Cola:||40 mg|
|Redbull Energy drink:||80 mg|
|Monster Energy drink:||160 mg|
|Starbucks Triple Shot Energy:||220 mg|
|Bang Energy:||300 mg|
The Type of Caffeine
It is not just the amount of caffeine in Yerba that makes it so special, or its ability to energize the body without side effects.
It is called “the drink of the Gods” because of what it contains. Yerba Mate, like coffee, tea, and chocolate, is one of the few plants that have natural stimulants.
Xanthine alkaloids (natural stimulants) are found in woodsy plants. The most common and well-known xanthine is caffeine which is found in coffee beans. Caffeine is also used as the broad term for xanthines.
The lesser known two are theobromine which comes from chocolate, and theophylline which is found in green tea. The brilliance of Yerba Mate is it contains all three stimulants.
The xanthines, along with many other nutrients, are released into the body separately. This is why it provides a consistent vigor without the side effects of caffeine alone.
Yerba Mate vs Coffee
Due to its higher level of caffeine, Yerba Mate is often compared to coffee. As mentioned above, one of the benefits of the herb brew is its ability to energize without the late afternoon crash coffee often exhibits.
The amount of stimulant in coffee also depends on the type of brew. The average cup of coffee has approximately 90 mg of caffeine per 8 fl oz whereas a single espresso shot has 64 mg per fl oz. Although coffee and Yerba Mata have obvious differences, the effect each beverage has on the body is pretty big.
Many caffeine drinks have made the switch from coffee to Yerba, but tea is where the true competition lies.
Yerba Mate vs Green Tea
The most common comparison is not between Yerba Mate and tea, but Yerba and green tea. Both have many health benefits and promote a healthier living style. As we already know, however, Yerba Mate has more caffeine. Green tea comes in around 35 mg per average cup.
Besides the difference in caffeine, green tea has a much lighter, arid taste, and it has a shorter steep time of one to two minutes (roughly five for Yerba). Green tea is also known for providing a lift in energy, but not to the level of Yerba Mate. It also has tannins where Yerba does not.
The most notable differences are in the health benefits. Both have a strong number of antioxidants. Yerba Mate contains the antioxidant Chlorogenic acid. Green tea, on the other hand, has epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).
Yerba Mate tends to have the edge in this case, but it also has more concentrated life-sustaining nutrients. Below, we will share more on the overall potential health benefits of Yerba Mate.
The Benefits of Yerba Mate
Yerba Mate has many great health benefits that make it a popular pick-me-up. Caffeine, for example, has been linked to improved cognitive function and enhanced physical performance. Other research has shown Yerba Mate could prevent food poisoning and help improve dry skin, though the research is limited.
Yerba also contains anti-inflammatory properties, amino acids, and vitamin C and E.
Research is still in its infancy with this plant, but initial studies have shown additional health benefits based on its nutrients.
Although more research is needed, Yerba Mate is quickly living up to its nickname “the drink of the Gods”.
The Downside To Yerba Mate
Although Mate has been linked to many benefits, it’s wise to take caution.
Can You Drink Yerba Mate Daily?
Like most things, moderation is key. While you can consume Yerba daily, it’s important to limit your intake to avoid unwanted side effects of caffeine. Too much can cause headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, nervousness, heart palpitations, and more if overdone.
Conditions such as anxiety, heart problems, pregnancy, bleeding disorders, high blood pressure, etc., can also worsen when drinking Yerba Mate. Consult your health care provider before drinking Yerba if you have any existing conditions.
Does Yerba Mate Cause Cancer?
This is a common Yerba Mate fear that was introduced in 1991 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) after they published a report indicting Yerba Mate was linked to cases of esophagus, larynx, and oral cavity cancer.
While Yerba Mate was a common denominator, it was found not to be the cause. Further studies indicated the temperature of the Yerba was likely to cause along with the consumption of other hot beverages such as coffee. In 2016, the IARC published a new study that came to the same conclusion.
Does Yerba Have Carcinogens?
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) is a carcinogen in Yerba that comes from the smoking process. PAH has been linked to several different types of cancers, plus it can cause neurological issues, immune deficiencies, and reproductive problems.
PAH is a naturally occurring chemical that is produced when coal, gasoline, or oil is burned. Grilled meats and tobacco are also likely to have evidence of PAH.
That being said, modern drying practices are more controlled. Many Yerba growers air dry their harvest, and it is tested for carcinogen levels before hitting the market. Like coffee, another smoked harvest, PAH levels are extremely low.
Yerba Mate has answered the age-old “tea or coffee” question for many energy seekers. The smooth edge of the caffeine along with the health benefits is enough to make it a staple in many diets. To enjoy those health benefits, it’s best to enjoy the drink in moderation.
Featured Image Credit: wyncel, Pixabay