(Ilex paraguariensis A. St. Hil.)
Yerba mate is made from the leaves of the Argentina holy bush. According to the Pasteur Institute in Paris it contains almost all the vitamins necessary to sustain life.1 Fans say it has the strength of coffee, benefits of tea and the feeling of chocolate,2 so it’s no surprise that mate, as it is sometimes known, is added to some energy drinks.
A review published in 2010 admitted “research on biomedical properties of this herb has had a late start,” but the authors went on to identify a wide range of health-enhancing properties of yerba mate.3
Laboratory tests confirm it is antioxidant and antimutagenic, which suggests it can protect against the cell damage association with cancer. Yerba mate also aids vasodilation, reduces lipids and supports weight loss — which could help protect against cardiovascular disease.4
Trials have confirmed it lowers the dangerous LDL cholesterol associated with heart disease and that yerba mate works synergistically to increase the effectiveness of prescription statins.5
Laboratory studies have “provided strong evidence of anti-inflammatory effects” and has been shown to protect against lung inflammation caused by cigarette smoking.6 The authors conclude: “The evidence seems to provide support for beneficial effects of mate drinking on chronic diseases with inflammatory component and lipid metabolism disorders.”