Yerba Mate Benefits
More Antioxidants Than Green Tea?

Six yerba mate benefits you should understand. Does yerba mate contain more antioxidants than green tea? Why it is too early to draw certain conclusions.

Yerba mate vendors promote mate as a powerful health drink, but are the benefits real? What is in yerba mate, and how does it really affect your body?

Some of the health benefits of yerba mate are real, but other claims are inflated. To help you tell which is which, here is a rundown of yerba mate benefits and how they are supported by scientific studies.

Yerba Mate Benefits #1:
Improve Energy, Focus and Stamina

In South America, yerba mate is most commonly used to provide energy, focus and stamina. This benefit is mainly due to the caffeine content of mate, which is slightly less than that of coffee.

While some yerba mate promoters claim that mate contains “mateine” instead of caffeine, yerba mate does indeed contain caffeine. “Mateine” is just another word for caffeine. Yerba mate also contains theobromine, the “feel good” chemical in chocolate, as well as theophylline.

Whatever you call the active ingredient, there is some laboratory evidence (in addition to the centuries of anecdotal evidence) that indicates mate can help clear your head and sharpen your focus.

A 2008 study by researchers at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina found that yerba mate improved the short-term memory of rats.

However, no significant effect was noted on the rats' ability to perform tasks from memory after 24 hours had passed. Also, high doses of yerba mate disrupted the rats' ability to perform on one of the tests.

Yerba Mate Benefits #2:
Improve Cardiovascular Health

A 2006 study tested the effect of yerba mate on rabbits being fed a diet extremely high in cholesterol.

Although cholesterol levels remained constant between the rabbits fed yerba mate and the control group, the rabbits fed yerba mate had much less atherosclerosis.

A study published in 2009 found that yerba mate actually reduced LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, while increasing HDL, or “good” cholesterol, in people who had high cholesterol and were being treated with statin drugs.

Yerba Mate Benefits #3:
Contain Antioxidants

Yerba Mate contains chlorogenic acid, a potent source of antioxidants.

Some studies have shown that the antioxidants in yerba mate can have a protective effect on cells by fending off free radicals.

According to a 2007 study conducted by São Paulo University, researchers tested yerba mate's free radical scavenging activity using a test called a DPPH assay. They found that a water-based yerba mate extract had a scavenging ability of greater than 89%, a result they called “excellent.”

A 2008 study conducted by Universidade São Francisco found that in rats, yerba mate “increased the resistance of DNA to H2O2-induced DNA strand breaks and improved the DNA repair after H2O2 challenge in liver cells, irrespective of the dose ingested.”

The damage caused by free radicals may increase your risk of diseases like heart attacks and cancer. A 2005 study by researchers at the University of Illinois found that yerba mate can inhibit cancer cell growth (in this case, cancer of the mouth).

However, other studies have found an association between yerba mate and cancer, so the protective benefits of yerba mate's antioxidants outside laboratories are unclear.

Yerba Mate Benefits #3:
Have More Antioxidant Than Green Tea?

Yerba mate doesn't contain any EGCG, the star antioxidant in green tea. Instead, it contains mostly chlorogenic acid. The amount of chlorogenic acid varies depending on the type of mate tea consumed.

A 2005 study performed by Touro University-California found that yerba mate was better than green tea and red wine at protecting cells from the effects of peroxynitrite.

Another 2010 study by Dr. Elvira de Mejia of University of Illinois is widely quoted as proof that yerba mate contains more antioxidants than green tea. The researchers tested 16 non-tea-based and 15 tea-based energy drinks to analyzed their antioxidant contents.

They found that tea-based energy drinks had much higher antioxidant capacities and polyphenol concentrations than non tea-based energy drinks.

Yerba mate drinks contained up to 100-fold higher amounts of antioxidants and polyphenols compared to the mainstream non-tea-based drinks, and Guayakí Yerba Mate had the largest antioxidant and polyphenol content among the tea-based drinks.

However, it will be wrong to draw any broad conclusion from this study, as the study is only limited to energy drinks, which I wouldn't recommend anyone to drink. Please read Green Tea Energy Drink for why this is the case.

How much antioxidants do yerba mate tea contain? Here's some indications from a 2005 study conducted by University of São Paulo:

  • One cup (182 milliliters) of mate tea made from roasted leaves contains 6 milligrams of chlorogenic acid.

  • One "cuia" (500 milliliters) of Tererê contained an average of 20 milligrams of chlorogenic acid. This is a cold-brewed beverage made from dried green mate leaves.

  • One "cuia" (500 milliliters) of Chimarrão contained an average of 27 milligrams of chlorogenic acid. This is the hot mate made from dried green mate leaves.

While it is nice to have some antioxidants in the beverage, this is not a lot compared to green tea.

A 2007 report published by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) analyzes nearly 400 foods for their EGCG content. According to them, one cup of green tea could contain as much as 180 milligrams of antioxidants.

EGCG Content USDA Study Reveals Healthiest Green Tea

Yerba Mate Benefits #4:
May Promote Weight Loss?

Yerba mate is often touted as an elixir for weight loss.

There is some evidence that yerba mate can help support weight loss, but it is not the miracle fat reducer that many vendors would have you believe it is.

A 2009 study in mice found that yerba mate helped reduce weight gain in mice fed a high calorie diet.

Another 2001 study in people showed that a combination of yerba mate in conjunction with guarana and damiana helped delay gastric emptying, and therefore hunger.

However, studies that show the effect of yerba mate by itself on weight loss in people are lacking.

For further discussion, read:

Yerba Mate Weight Loss - Does It Work?

Yerba Mate Benefits #5: :
May Help With Diabetes?

Researchers at Touro University-California studied both yerba mate and green tea to see if they could inhibit a process called glycation, which is the underlying molecular process responsible for many of the complications from diabetes. They found a “significant, dose-dependent effect of water extracts” of yerba mate against glycation, while green tea had no effect.

However, there has been little study to date of how yerba mate affects diabetes in living people. Also, most doctors recommend that people with diabetes limit their caffeine intake, and yerba mate does contain caffeine.

If you have diabetes, moderate consumption of yerba mate may benefit you - but ask your doctor first.

Yerba Mate Benefits #6:
May Reduce Inflammation?

The saponins found in yerba mate have been shown to reduce inflammation.

One study found that although yerba mate extract did not have an anti-inflammatory effect, compounds in yerba mate, especially quercetin, did.

The authors concluded that consumption of the whole yerba mate herb “still has a promising anti-inflammatory outcome mainly through the PGE(2)/COX-2 pathway.'

While yerba mate extract itself may not be beneficial for inflammation, some of the compounds contained in it could spur the development of new anti-inflammatory medications in the future.

If you are trying to get the anti-inflammatory benefits of yerba mate, your best bet is to take powdered capsules rather than drinking mate.


Bastos DH, Saldanha LA, Catharino RR, Sawaya AC, Cunha IB, Carvalho PO, Eberlin MN (2007). “Phenolic antioxidants identified by ESI-MS from Yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) and green tea (Camelia sinensis) extracts.” Molecules. 2007 Mar 12;12(3):423-32.

Miranda DD, Arçari DP, Pedrazzoli J Jr, Carvalho Pde O, Cerutti SM, Bastos DH, Ribeiro ML (2008). Protective effects of mate tea (Ilex paraguariensis) on H2O2-induced DNA damage and DNA repair in mice. Mutagenesis. 2008 Jul;23(4):261-5. Epub 2008 Feb 27.

Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, Young Soo Song,, Marco Vinicio Ramirez-Mares, and, Hideka Kobayashi (2005). “Effect of Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) Tea on Topoisomerase Inhibition and Oral Carcinoma Cell Proliferation.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2005 53 (6), 1966-1973.

Bixby M, Spieler L, Menini T, Gugliucci A (2005). “Ilex paraguariensis extracts are potent inhibitors of nitrosative stress: a comparative study with green tea and wines using a protein nitration model and mammalian cell cytotoxicity.” Life Sci. 2005 Jun 3;77(3):345-58. Epub 2005 Feb 9.

M.A. Heckman, K. Sherry, and E. Gonzalez de Mejia (2010). Energy Drinks: An Assessment of Their Market Size, Consumer Demographics, Ingredient Profile, Functionality, and Regulations in the United States. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.

Deborah H. Markowicz Bastos, Ana Claudia Fornari, Yara S. de Queiroz, Rosana Aparecida Manolio Soares & Elizabeth A.F.S. Torres (2005). “The Chlorogenic Acid and Caffeine Content of Yerba Maté (Ilex paraguariensis) Beverages” Acta Farm. Bonaerense 24 (1): 91-5 (2005).

Lunceford N, Gugliucci A (2005). “Ilex paraguariensis extracts inhibit AGE formation more efficiently than green tea.” Fitoterapia. 2005 Jul;76(5):419-27.

Puangpraphant S, de Mejia EG (2009). “Saponins in yerba mate tea ( Ilex paraguariensis A. St.-Hil) and quercetin synergistically inhibit iNOS and COX-2 in lipopolysaccharide-induced macrophages through NFkappaB pathways.”:J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Oct 14;57(19):8873-83.

Mosimann AL, Wilhelm-Filho D, da Silva EL (2006). “Aqueous extract of Ilex paraguariensis attenuates the progression of atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rabbits.” Biofactors. 2006;26(1):59-70.

de Morais EC, Stefanuto A, Klein GA, Boaventura BC, de Andrade F, Wazlawik E, Di Pietro PF, Maraschin M, da Silva EL (2009). “Consumption of yerba mate ( Ilex paraguariensis ) improves serum lipid parameters in healthy dyslipidemic subjects and provides an additional LDL-cholesterol reduction in individuals on statin therapy. “ J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Sep 23;57(18):8316-24.

Rui D.S. Prediger, Marcelo S. Fernandes, Daniel Rial, Sandro Wopereis, Vitor S. Pereira, Tamara S. Bosse, Camila B. Da Silva, Renata S. Carradore, Marina S. Machado, Valdir Cechinel-Filho and Luciane Costa-Campos (2008). “Effects of acute administration of the hydroalcoholic extract of mate tea leaves (Ilex paraguariensis) in animal models of learning and memory.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 120, Issue 3, 8 December 2008, Pages 465-473.

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