Yerba Mate for the Brain – All You Need to Know

yerba mate weight loss

Yerba mate is a tropical herb well known for helping to relax your body and stimulate your brain. It’s wonderful for many different things and can make you feel wonderful and think clearer. It contains caffeine and important compounds like quercetin and ursolic acid.

yerba mate brain fog

Yerba Mate Origin

Hailing from tropical America, this herb is a relative of the holly bush, most commonly seen around Christmas time. Locals use the herb for its analgesic properties, basically, it helped dull pain. It became most well-known recently for helping stimulate thought and reducing depression.

yerba mate origin

It can’t be grown in most of the world because it requires intensely warm weather and dies if the temperature reaches much below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 9 degrees Celsius.

What is Yerba Mate Leaf?

The leaf is an elliptical ovate leaf about 5 inches long and has scalloped edges. If you picture a holly leaf, you’re very close to what this herb looks like. It produces small green-white flowers that are followed up by bunches of small deep red berries. The leaf is generally harvested when fruiting is completed, and before the flowers emerge.

yerba mate leaf infographic

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What Does Yerba Mate Tea Taste Like?

This tea is a bitter and astringent flavor. Many people have likened it to a strong green tea, or even grass. Once you acquire a taste for this tea, you will thoroughly enjoy it.

Yerba Mate Uses

Yerba Mate and Cancer

yerba mate cancer

Minor connections have been made to yerba mate use to cancers of the mouth, esophagus, prostate, bladder and lungs. It may be due to the PAHS - polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Those compounds are known to be carcinogenic. One research found high concentrations of these in yerba mate leaves. The compounds were found in both hot and cold infusions of them.

Tobacco smoke and grilled foods are known to contain PAHS. It may be also why cancer is found most often in tobacco users who use this herb.

It could be that the temperature could damage the mucosa or accelerating metabolic reactions, including those with carcinogenic substances in tobacco and alcohol. However, there is no sound population-based case-control study on consumption as a risk factor for cancer. 

Yerba Mate and Blood Pressure

This herb is a stimulant and is well known for increasing heart rate and blood pressure. The caffeine content is the primary catalyst for this rise. Although, one clinical trial showed yerba mate did not affect blood pressure or heart rate (Phytomedicine, Oct., 1999).

It is contraindicated to use this herb with high blood pressure medication or current high blood pressure problems. However, if you have low blood pressure, this may help increase your blood pressure to normal levels. It’s particularly helpful in the morning when people with low blood pressure are experiencing their lowest lows of the day.

Yerba Mate and Pregnancy

yerba mate pregnancy

Many websites will tell consumers that it is safe to drink this tea while pregnant. Most are also very quick to warn you that you should not exceed your caffeine intake, and this herb contains a lot of caffeine.

The American Pregnancy Association says that moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy is safe. They define a moderate intake as 150 to 300 milligrams daily. One cup of this herb could meet your full intake. We actually recommend that you do not use this herb during pregnancy. People with higher risk pregnancies or anything not typical could experience negative side effects.

Yerba Mate for Weight Loss

yerba mate weight loss

Most of the weight loss benefits are derived from the caffeine intake and the nutritional. This tea can help you get more energy and improve your metabolism. It is the reason why it is added to most weight loss plans.

But don’t think that this to you is going to make you lose weight. The boost you get is minor and will help your current exercise and healthy eating patterns. If you do not make healthy changes in your life, such as getting more exercise and eating more vegetables, using the herb will not give you any weight loss results.

Yerba Mate as a Diuretic

This herb is listed as a diuretic in most herbal manuals. There are several chemical components, including the caffeine, that are well-known diuretics. You will experience increased urine production when you drink this tea.

If you were using the herb on a regular basis, you will want to make sure that you increase your water intake to make sure you do not become dehydrated. The water you drink as part of the tea does not count as part of your daily intake of water.

Yerba Mate for Nausea

can yerba mate cause nausea

This is one side effects that will vary depending on who you talk to. For certain types of nausea, stimulating the digestive system will actually help your body to get rid of nausea. Most of the time, however, the stimulating effects will cause a worsening of symptoms and may produce vomiting. For some people, nausea is caused by this herb. We recommend that if you do experience nausea drinking this tea that you minimize your dosing or eliminate it from your diet altogether.

Yerba Mate for ADHD

While there have been no studies on this herb for ADHD or any kind of attention problems, it is commonly used in supplements that aim to help focus issues. The stimulating effects can help reduce distraction and help people to focus on what tasks they are meant to. However, because of the stimulating effects of this herb on the brain and the body, it is not recommended that you give it to children.

Yerba Mate for Energy

yerba mate for energy

This herb will give you energy. It gives you a good dose of caffeine and other nutritional components that will increase your energy. It is not like energy shots or energy pills, so you will not feel an instantaneous surge of energy, but you will feel a more gentle increase. Because of this, it is not recommended you use the tea more than 8 – 10 hours before you want to sleep. There is some anecdotal evidence that it may interfere with melatonin * production.

Yerba Mate Tea for Allergies

yerba mate for allergies

This herb helps stimulate the production of corticosteroids. The steroids help reduce the symptoms of an overactive immune system, open airways, and reduce asthma symptoms.

There have been no studies conducted using this herb to help reduce allergies. However, the traditional usage of this herb has been to reduce allergies and reduce inflammation. We feel that using this tea will help reduce the symptoms of allergies, but will not remove the allergy.

Yerba Mate for Migraines and Headaches

yerba mate for headaches

Many headaches and migraines are helped with the consumption of caffeine, like what is found in this herb. The caffeine is able to dilate the blood vessels allowing more blood to reach the brain. Commonly, migraines and headaches are caused by a reduction in oxygen, fluids, or blood supply.

However, taking this for too long can cause headaches and migraines from the reduction of caffeine. While becoming addicted to this herb is highly uncommon, your body can become used to the amount of caffeine it is receiving and any change can cause minor side effects, such as a headache or a migraine.

Yerba Mate for Depression and Anxiety

yerba mate for depression and anxiety

Since the herb is a stimulant, it can help reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, many of the compounds that are found in the herb are used in many prescription medications for anxiety. One of those compounds is theobromine, which is the ingredient in chocolate that contributes to the feeling of euphoria.

One of the ways this tea may help depression is to help increase the absorption and conversion of dietary vitamin D to a usable form. The tea does this by providing a highly usable form of calcium which is necessary for both the absorption of vitamin D and production within our bodies.

Yerba Mate for Focus and Fatigue

yerba mate for focus

The mildly stimulating herb is well known for helping increase focus and reduce fatigue. Since this is a mild increase, unlike energy drinks, it is easier for the body to use and helps us retain information better.

However, if you are taking substances that suppress your thoughts (drug or alcohol) or you have a poor diet, it will not help overcome these difficulties. Substances like alcohol or drugs, or a diet that’s rich in processed foods will increase your fatigue and lower your ability to focus. This tea will not overcome those negatives.

Yerba Mate for Constipation

yerba mate for constipation

Traditionally, this herb was used to help reduce constipation. Many people have experienced better regularity with using it. In fact, one of those side effects of consuming too much of this herb is diarrhea.

We do recommend using caution when starting to take this as a supplement or a tea. Start slowly using no more than one dosage per day. This way you avoid negative digestive side effects.

Yerba Mate for Exercise

yerba mate for exercise

This is one thing we really do recommend. Having a cup of this tea before exercise is a great way to get a small boost of energy, help your metabolism increase and stay increased, and increase your hydration. The slight boost of caffeine will help give you the energy to get through your exercise. The other compounds that increase your metabolism will help you reduce fat quicker, and the high nutrient intake will help you build muscle. Plus, by drinking the tea you are increasing your water level, which is necessary when you exercise. We highly recommend one cup of tea before you exercise.

Yerba Mate Nutrition Data

It contains Vitamins A, B1, B2, riboflavin, various carotenoids, colin, pantothenic acid, inositol and 15 types of amino acids, plus significant quantities of potassium, sodium, and magnesium * in the leaves and tea. This herb is one of the most nutritious teas you can make.

yerba mate health benefits infographic

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Yerba Mate Antioxidants

According to Kang Young-Rye (et al. Anti-obesity and anti-diabetic effects of Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) in C57BL/6J mice fed a high-fat diet. LAR (2012)):

"Numerous active phytochemicals have been identified in Yerba Mate, including polyphenols (chlorogenic acid), xanthines (caffeine and theobromine), purine alkaloids (caffeic acid, 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid, and 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid), flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol, and rutin), amino acids, minerals (phosphorous, iron, and calcium), and vitamins (C, B1, and B2)."

Turns out, the herb is packed with antioxidants as well.

yerba mate antioxidants infographic

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Yerba Mate Side Effects

Yerba Mate Dangers

The herb is definitely not for everybody. There are certain conditions that requiring you not use the herb. If you have anything wrong with your kidneys, heart, or are pregnant you should not take this herb at all. People who have mental conditions such as depression, psychological disorders, or hormonal deficiencies, should consult their physician before taking this herb.

People who are taking medications to adjust their metabolism or hormone levels, should not take this herb. It could cause a dangerous increase in a number of fats metabolized and could cause kidney or liver failure.

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Yerba Mate Addiction

It is possible to become addicted to this herb. However, you will find the addiction similar to that of coffee, mild and easily broken. We do recommend that to avoid any kind of addiction, that you should moderate your intake of this herb and take a break every so often. That way, your system can reassert itself and you get all the effects without any diminishing.

When and Why is Yerba Mate Bad for You?

This could be bad for you if you enjoy sodas. Combining little as 12 ounces of a soda can result in severe headaches and elevation blood pressures. Combining this herb and excessive amounts of caffeine, the equivalent of 2 cups of coffee or two sodas, has caused severe hypertension reactions.

In addition, there are 32 recorded case studies and empirical studies that show mixing caffeine and yerba mate causes dangerous increases in many metabolic and hormonal effects. No caffeine should be consumed with this herb.

Yerba Mate Dosage

General dosages 1-3 cups per day. It’s about the same as what you would do for a regular cup of coffee or tea. You should also refrain from drinking this tea in the afternoons or evenings. Because of the caffeine content of could disrupt your sleep.

Yerba Mate Overdose

While possible, it is unlikely that you would be able to overdose on this herb. The greatest danger comes from consuming the excess amounts of caffeine. In all of the studies we have looked at and our drug-herb interactions references, there have been no recorded incidences of an overdose of this tea that was caused by anything other than caffeine toxicity.

The greatest danger of overdose comes from using supplements. Because this is an herbal supplement, it is not highly regulated. Dosing might not be accurate and take more than the recommended quantity could lead to severe problems.

How to Take Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate Tea

The easiest and most cost-effective way to get this herb is to make tea. Several companies sell loose leaf tea and give you instructions on how much to use to make a proper cup. This is the way that this herb has been used for centuries. Many people find the taste unusual and it takes a bit to get used to, but it is not an unpleasant herb.

Yerba mate tea bags:

Yerba Mate Tea Bags vs Loose

Depending on the company you are purchasing your herb from, it may come in bags or it may be loose leaf tea. Generally, loose leaf tea is more flavorful and easier to use. In order to be put into a tea bag, the herb must be ground up fairly fine. This can lead to a dull and old tasting tea. The larger the leaf means the better the taste.

Yerba mate loose leaf:

Yerba Mate Tea Acid or Alkaline

yerba mate acidic

The acid alkaline debate is nothing but a myth. This tea is a healthy tea based on nutrition. If you are searching for pseudoscience to talk about this mess, please go to fake websites. We only deal with the truth here.

Yerba Mate Tea to Water Ratio

Making a cup of tea is different from person to person. Some people like a nice strong cup of tea, but other people prefer something a little weaker. Generally, to make a herbal tea, you use one ounce of the dried herb per cup of water.

You should make your tea with hot water. Then, it doesn’t matter if you like your yerba mate hot or cold. Once the tea is made, it contains the nutrients. Most people do prefer the tea warm to hot.

Yerba Mate Tea with Honey

Honey * is often used with bitter teas, like this one, to make it more palatable. If you enjoy honey with your tea, you are not hurting yourself. Just don’t use a lot of honey. It is pure sugar and it can affect your health. If you are using this herb for weight loss, it can negate any positive effects from the tea.

Yerba Mate Tea with Milk

Similar to honey, milk often sweetens tea. One of the things you must watch out for with milk is the high growth hormone content and low-fat content. Both of these things are detrimental to your health. We recommend using cream or whole milk * if you choose to use milk and make sure you get it from an organic source that is naturally raised. Basically, you don’t want factory-farmed milk.

Yerba Mate Energy Drink

Because of the high caffeine content, this herb is often put in energy drinks. Energy drinks in themselves are not bad. What makes them so dangerous is that many people combine them with other stimulants, like coffee and alcohol. The doubling effect can really hurt people. We don’t recommend using energy drinks that contain this herb.

Yerba Mate Extract, Yerba Mate Nootropic, Yerba Mate Vitamins, Yerba Mate Powder, Yerba Mate Pills

All five of these above supplements concentrate the herb and place it in a form that is easily taken. Unfortunately, many of the antioxidants and phytonutrients that make this herb so safe are destroyed in the processing.

Yerba Mate Tea vs Capsules

For us, the herb in tea form is the best way to go. It allows you to make sure you have the freshest available product and you are able to inspect it to make sure it meets your standards. Plus, you are able to retain the antioxidants and phytonutrients that make this herb so wonderful.

But, if you are unable to drink the tea, taking a supplement * is your next best option. We recommend making sure you get a quality supplement that meets a high standard. Generally, the German pharmacopeia and the US pharmacopeia will make sure what is listed as the supplement is truly what is in the capsules.

Yerba Mate Beer

One of the hottest new ways to drink this herb is to make beer. Herbal beers have a very long tradition in many communities. They tend to be low alcohol content and very flavorful. The brewing of yerba mate beer is a complex process. We recommend if you are interested in this type of beer you seek out a professional who has experience before attempting it on your own.

What is Guayaki Yerba Mate Tea?

The company of Guayaki is one of the foremost producers of yerba mate tea. They are located in Central America and have a vast website where you can learn more about this herb and about the tea. You can order Guayaki quality products:

Guayaki yerba mate:

Yerba Mate Detox

While this herb is included in many detox programs, it is not a herb you want to use on your own for a detox. Because of the numerous interactions with medications and other physiological issues, you should be very careful when using any more of this herb than what you would a normal tea. A detox using yerba mate should only be done under the guidance of a nutritionist.

Yerba Mate & Energy

Yerba Mate vs Caffeine

The active compound in this herb that makes it such a stimulant for the brain and body is caffeine. When compared directly with caffeine, this herb gives lesser effect. However, the herb is healthier and has more nutrients to negate many of the negative side effects of caffeine.

Yerba Mate vs Coffee

yerba mate vs coffee

Both of these drinks have similar amounts of caffeine. Both of them have different nutrients which help the body. What makes this herb superior to coffee is that coffee is highly processed and often incredibly old by the time you get to it. Only freshly ground coffee from quality, organic beans * that have not been sitting around on a shelf for months is equal to the herb. That means just about all the coffee out there is the lower grade.

Yerba Mate vs Black Tea

yerba mate vs black tea

All of the black tea is highly nutritious and contains caffeine, this herb has more caffeine than the black tea.

Yerba Mate vs Green Tea

Green tea is a highly-regarded health drink, with a very low caffeine content. It contains a surprisingly high amount of nutrients, higher than yerba mate. This herb contains more caffeine and will give you a better stimulus than green tea.

We actually recommend drinking them together because they will give you a high amount of nutrition and the energy boost you could use. Both of these are also well regarded for mental clarity and complement each other very well.

yerba mate vs green tea infographic

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Yerba Mate vs Matcha

Matcha is a form of green tea that is highly processed but still contains many of the nutrients of green tea. It tends to be higher in caffeine because of the processing period. Still, the yerba mate herb is higher in caffeine and lower in nutrition than matcha.

yerba mate vs matcha infographic

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Matcha tea:

Yerba Mate vs White Tea

White tea is the very young leaves of the tea plant. It contains only a portion of the nutrition and nearly no caffeine. As a drink, it is tasty and delicate. But, it is not highly nutritious. In this yerba mate definitely, has a higher nutritional profile and caffeine content.

White tea:

Yerba Mate vs Adderall

These two aren’t even close to being compared. Adderall is a prescription medication that changes the brain chemistry in order to help people think clearly and concentrate. It is not a stimulant and does not provide energy.

We do not recommend combining this herb and medication without talking to your doctor. We do not recommend combining this herb and any other alternatives without talking to your doctor.

Yerba Mate and Guarana

This one is a difficult comparison. Both of these are natural stimulants and can both contain caffeine. They are both from similar sources and are used in similar fashion. We actually prefer yerba mate simply because it is easier to get and produces a better tasting product. Guarana generally has to be processed before you can use and tends to be bitter.

Guarana pills:

Yerba Mate vs Energy Drinks

Energy drinks tend to use chemicals and purified substances in order to produce the energy jolt. This is why people get the rush as soon as they drink. Using herbs tend to have a slower and gentler effect. Often times, this herb is placed in different energy drinks and products because it does produce the energy spike.

If you want a very quick and sudden spike in energy, we recommend the energy drinks *. If you want something that is more natural and will work with your body and does not have nearly as many side effects, we will not recommend sticking to this herb.

Yerba Mate vs Weed

yerba mate vs weed

These two are complete opposites. The herb we have been talking about is a stimulant and gives you energy. Marijuana is a depressant and relaxes you. Currently, there are no studies showing it is safe to use both of these together, mostly because marijuana is still illegal in many areas. Based on empirical evidence, we do not recommend you use these together.

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Christina Major

Christina Major is a holistic nutritionist, traditional naturopath, and herbalist. She has a Master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition and an advanced degree in Traditional Naturopathy. Further certifications in herbalism and metabolic typing. She owns and operates Crystal Holistic Health Consulting based in PA, the USA since 2010.