Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 May

Yerba Mate: Miracle Tea or Just Another Caffeine Kick?

yerbamateYerba mate (YERB-ah mah-TAY). Ever heard of it? It is an herb with a storied history as an alternative to traditional teas for the inhabitants of its native South America. I’ve received numerous emails recently asking about its properties and its role in the Primal Blueprint eating plan. Let’s dive straight in.

Yerba mate tea is prepared by steeping the dried leaves and twigs of the mate plant in hot water (not boiling water, which can make the tea bitter). It has an herbal, almost grassy, taste, with some varieties somewhat reminiscent of certain types of green tea. Traditionally, yerba mate is drunk communally from a hollow gourd with a metal straw, but a coffee mug works just as well (you know, for when your gourd is in the dishwasher). Like many teas and coffees, yerba mate is imbued with an impressive amount of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and vitamin C. Minerals include manganese, potassium, and zinc, and the antioxidants include quercetin, theobromine, and theophylline.

But the big draw for most yerba mate enthusiasts is the promise of a “clean” caffeine-like buzz, free of jitters and unpleasantness, which yerba mate is said to provide. Drinkers report being in control of their wakefulness; they can stay up for hours, alert and on their game, but sleep is always right around the corner – if they want it. Basically, yerba mate is supposed to give you energy without the negative side effects. A common claim is that yerba mate is actually completely free of caffeine and that its stimulating effects come from a mysterious compound called mateine. Mateine, they say, is a stereoisomer of caffeine, thus giving it the stimulating qualities with none of the downfalls.

Mateine is actually caffeine. It’s just a synonym, possibly derived from the word “mate” itself. In fact, the caffeine content of dry mate leaves is similar to that of dried coffee beans and tea leaves (though brewed yerba mate tends to have lower levels). How do we then explain away all the anecdotal evidence of jitter-free wakefulness?

Well, there’s more to yerba mate than just caffeine/mateine. Take theobromine, for example. Theobromine, best known for being the primary alkaloid in cacao and highly toxic to dogs, exerts a smoother, longer-lasting stimulatory effect. Whereas caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, theobromine is an effective vasodilator, relaxing the smooth muscle in blood vessels and allowing better blood flow. It’s present in varying amounts in each variety of yerba mate, some with caffeine/theobromine ratios of 10:1 and others with ratios of 2:1, and can actually lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. Pure caffeine has the tendency to increase blood pressure. It’s plausible, then, that various ratios of theobromine and caffeine have different effects paired together than either do alone.

Still, as Jamie over at That Paleo Guy points out, the effect of caffeine on glucose tolerance and blood sugar control is somewhat troublesome. It can impair insulin sensitivity, even in healthy individuals. But is this actually a problem for healthy Primal eaters? Probably not, as long as you’re reasonable about your caffeine intake. Don’t live on a pot a day and avoid eating sugary baked goods with your coffee, and you’ll be fine. And remember – yerba mate is not coffee, and it’s not just caffeine. In fact, yerba mate extract has been shown to restore insulin sensitivity in obese rats. Even without that study, the yerba mate we drink has less caffeine than coffee, and about the same amount as most teas, which are linked with improved insulin sensitivity despite the caffeine content. The caffeine in yerba mate most likely isn’t an issue.

There’s also been some mildly troubling research into a possible link between yerba mate and certain cancers. Although this is purely epidemiological, researchers studying hot yerba mate drinkers in South America have noticed a positive correlation between hot mate intake and oral cancer in several studies. Similar correlations exist with other hot drinks too, though, so it could be a temperature issue. Yerba mate intake has also been associated – however weakly – with increased incidence of bladder, head and neck, and esophageal cancers. Hot temperatures probably can’t explain all of this (if there is any causation going on), but this study might shed some light: researchers found high levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in multiple varieties of yerba mate, perhaps from processing of the raw mate leaves (higher than in cigarette smoke).

I don’t mean to scare you away from yerba mate. I’ve had it, and it’s a very pleasant, mildly stimulating beverage. The antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are nothing to scoff at, and it certainly feels less taxing on the body than the daily pots of coffee most people rely on. Tim Ferriss credits it for helping him write, and there are numerous other anecdotes from those that prefer it to coffee. And so, sneaky caffeine content and troubling cancer studies aside, I think yerba mate can be integrated into a healthy Primal eating strategy. Just don’t drink it scalding hot or by the liter (which appears to be an “excessive” dose). The occasional, even daily cup is probably fine. Grok on!

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. As an argentinian, I drink mate EVERY DAY, and i really mean every day. I have been primal for almost 6 months, lost 25kgs, and could not live without it. I should add to all the things you said, that it is also a social drink, you drink it with friends and usually outside as well, so is very good for picnics. I Love mate, and i love the fact is so very south american

    F wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Hi F,

      I’m also from Argentina, and I also drink mate once a day, I love it, I take it on roadtrips and you can be sure that if I’m somewhere there is some mate in the vicinity…
      I’ve been primal for about 4 months and I love it!!

      carolina wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • Is mate best grown in Argentina? There has to be a reason why all of you Argentines drink Mate.

        I will have to make a visit there soon. Can I enjoy a cup of Mate with both of you if I do?

        Primal Toad wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • Hey Primal Toad,

          Any time! If you find yourself in El Paso, Tx, let me know and I’ll hook you up with some authentic mate :-)

          carolina wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • Hi Corolina,
          I am also in El Paso, TX. Where can I find authentic mate?
          Thank you,
          Carlos

          Carlos wrote on May 28th, 2014
      • Hey guys,

        I’m also argentinean. I’ve been following Paleo/Primal for more than 4 months now and It’s been one of the wisest decisions I’ve made so far.
        It’s good to know there’s people who share this lifestyle.
        Yerba Mate is one of my favorites, and it is specially good for socializing and drinking during long work hours.

        Fernando Parra wrote on May 18th, 2011
        • I agree! I live in Lis Angeles and to my oworkers drinking mate! Our break tie is now centered around mate!

          Caroline wrote on July 9th, 2012
        • I have begun to drink the mate however, Canarias Has so much powder I have to separate it from the leaves!!!

          What do I do with the powder ??? any ideas

          e O wrote on March 28th, 2014
      • F,

        I live in El Paso, where can I get some authentic mate?

        Chris wrote on April 8th, 2013
        • is yerba mate the same as yerba en cruz. i live in albuquerque New mexico can you tell me where i could buy it here thank you

          rosa wrote on April 17th, 2013
    • Hey Ian,

      You would be pleasantly surprised. I bet there are at least a dozen (maybe a few dozen) primal enthusiasts living in your area.

      It is my focus to bring us all together. There are millions of us out there and millions more on the fence that are about to jump over. An argentine meetup is coming soon!

      Primal Toad wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • I have cousins in Argentina. Very distant cousins. My French immigrant ancestor on my dad’s side had two brothers, and one of them emigrated to Brazil, married, and moved to Argentina. I was pleasantly surprised to get an email one day from one of his descendants. :)

      Dana wrote on May 13th, 2011
    • I drink Mate daily as well. I spent 6 months in Uruguay, but before that my High School Spanish teacher (from Argentina) introduced me to Mate.

      Wonderful stuff! I have a nice Mate and Bombilla from Montevideo.

      I believe that the cancer concerns come largely if not entirely from repeated consumption of a hot liquid. The water is supposed to be taken off from heat just shy of boiling, but I know some of the people I worked with/drank mate with let it go longer. It was sometimes very hot.

      Brings back a lot of great memories… But Mate has become an everyday fixture in my life. Although if I don’t have Mate or any caffeinated beverage for a day I don’t notice any withdrawal symptoms like I know many daily coffee drinkers report. I’m not bashing coffee; I really enjoy a good Sumatran Mandehling.

      One last anecdote and then I will quit rambling. My dad is able to drink Mate every day despite being caffeine intolerant. Chocolate or coffee gives him hear palpitations, blurred vision, and dizziness. He is 100% fine with Mate though.

      Fideo wrote on May 16th, 2011
  2. Thanks for the research, Mark!

    I have always wondered about the anecdotal evidence of yerba mate. I am super sensitive to caffeine and always noticed that yerba mate affects me similarly to coffee and tea.

    Now that you’ve cleared that up, I can stop trying it, thinking I’m imagining the caffeinated feeling, over and over again.

    Peggy wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Interesting… tea does not affect me. However, coffee kills me. I get extremely jittery over any type of coffee. I used to love mochas but always had to think twice about consuming one.

      So you are saying tea effects you too? Just as much as coffee? After reading this post and knowing that Tim likes it too I may buy some on Amazon.

      Primal Toad wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • Look for Cruz de Malta, Taragui, or Rosamonte. Check a latin market in your town, if you have one, first; it might be cheaper than on Amazon.

        Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • I have been enjoying mate for some time now after being introduced to it by some research we were doing for a client. You can find a large selection of yerba mate as well as all of the traditional tools here http://www.amigofoods.com/yerbamate10.html

          Jeff wrote on August 21st, 2012
      • Coffee absolutely freaks me out. I have to go running or something if I drink coffee, and I can’t think for anything. My brain and body are totally wired. I love the taste of coffee, though, so sometimes I drink a black cup of decaf but even that gets me going.

        Tea speeds me up a bit but it’s tolerable if I just have one cup early in the morning. The time of day affects me differently too. But I am so sensitive to the changes in my body, it’s almost ridiculous. I wish I could just stop paying attention sometimes!

        Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • Haha thats too awesome. If I ever meet you I want you to drink a cup of Joe ;)

          I enjoy green tea but not black tea so much. I LOVE herbal tea – especially Mint!

          Primal Toad wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • Coffee helped me kick my Mountain Dew habit, full-sugar *or* diet. I’m not sure whether I should be pleased or frightened by that admission. Although I get more nutrition from the coffee, and far fewer questionable chemicals.

          But I tend to need it to get going when I wake up. Bad juju, B’wana. Probably got some cortisol imbalance going on there, and it doesn’t help that I can’t sleep in a dark room right now.

          I want to get off the stims entirely, not exchange one for another, so I probably won’t get into mate, but this is still an interesting article.

          Dana wrote on May 13th, 2011
        • Hey Peggy,

          Have you ever tried drinking matcha? It has slow release caffeine and only a fraction that coffee has.

          Typically Tibetan monks would drink this before meditation because it relaxes the body but still gives them wakefulness. Also since matcha is the whole tea leaf, it has the anti-oxidant content of 12 cups of regular green tea.

          It’s also delicious when mixing with some organic honey and almond milk. :)

          Nick wrote on September 26th, 2013
      • You can buy some Yerba online, yerbamate.us

        Daniel wrote on January 27th, 2013
      • I buy my yerba at http://www.circleofdrink.com shipped from long island NY great stuff!!

        melissa passalacqua wrote on December 13th, 2013
    • I am also super sensitive to caffine; and took to drinking yerba mate as a healthful coffee substitute. Preparing it in the traditional way though (3/4 filling a gourd) left me feeling like I was going to die. Heart palpitations, head spinning, nausea, and sweats have put me off mate. Believe me, your symptoms were not imagined.

      Afterwards I learned of the correlations to increased cancer risk Mark spoke of…. I see no need to give it another go! I think I’ll just stick to my green and herbal teas.

      Dan W wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • Thanks for submitting your comment, Dan W! I found this blog post by specifically searching for other people who have had bad reactions to Yerba Mate and it is amazingly difficult to find any reference to bad reactions. Given my experiences with mate, I cannot understand at all how it got its reputation as being so gentle. I tried it because coffee messes me up too, but I find despite repeated attempts that mate is even worse for me. Your account that preparing it the traditional way leaves you “wanting to die” hits the nail on the head, I am not exaggerating. When I drink mate in the morning, I am having palpitations by 3:00pm, feeling like I am about to have a heart attack. I get severe shakes, and on a few occasions have had full-on panic attacks.

        I just wanted you to know that you’re not alone. Other people do have severe reactions to mate.

        I guess different people have different body chemistry or something. That’s the only way I can account for yerba mate’s reputation as being gentler.

        Dan N wrote on October 27th, 2013
  3. I think it’d be cool for you to take a look at the coca tea they drink down in the Andes. It’s very much a cultural thing, and they’ve been drinking it for hundreds if not thousands of years. Of course you can’t get it here in the US, so maybe it’s a moot point.

    Hal wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Actually, you can get coca tea here, through Amazon.

      Lynna wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • You’re right! I had no idea coca leaves were legal in the U.S. Apparently you need lots and lots and lots of the leaves to make cocaine.

        Which, incidentally, cocaine is not completely illegal. It’s just really strictly scheduled. But they still use it in medical and dental applications (it’s an anesthetic, ironically enough), so they haven’t outlawed it completely like they’ve done with, say, cannabis.

        Dana wrote on May 13th, 2011
        • Bastards! Keeping cannabis at schedule 1 while Cocaine and Heroin hang out in Schedule 2 is criminal!

          Bruno wrote on December 13th, 2011
  4. Love this post! I am always thrilled when I read posts about it because yerba mate is dear to my heart, and I’m tired of people calling me weird for drinking it. ;)

    Ever since spending a year and a half in Paraguay, I’ve consumed yerba mate almost on a daily basis. It’s a communal thing down there: a very social activity. So much so that when I came back to the US, drinking it by myself was almost depressing.

    They’ve been drinking it for hundreds (at least) of years, and the Paraguayans will tell you that it’s what keeps them alive so long. Especially in the “country” parts of Paraguay, I’ve never seen so many old people in such great shape. Sure, it’s probably the fact that they’re more active and eat way better, but they’ll say it’s the yerba!

    It’s really good cold as well. In the summer my wife and I like to sit outside and drink it, sip by sip (you only get a mouthful before you pass it to the next person), and talk about whatever’s on our minds.

    If I may, I’d like to share this link to a post I wrote on my own blog.
    http://www.findingmyfitness.com/2011/02/drinking-weed-good/

    If you don’t drink mate, give it a shot. You’ll love it!

    -jason

    Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Hi Jason,

      Where in Paraguay did you live?? I just replied to another post, I am originally from Argentina but grew up in Paraguay, my mom and siblings still live there and the cold mate you’re talking about “tereré”, is a staple of the Paraguayan diet,just talking about it brings back memories of growing up in Paraguay and happy times over there.

      Mate and tereré are really good for you, and you can add things to them to flavor them, I don’t add anything to my mate, I drink it bitter, but the tereré, you can add herbs and spices to the water that you’ll pour into the guampa.

      Take care,
      C.

      carolina wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • I also feel depressed if i drink it alone! Saludos!

        F wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • C – mucho gusto! I lived in Lambaré, about 20 mins south of Asuncion. My wife is from there; we were neighbors in PY before she became my wife. ;)

        We’re specifically growing various yuyos for the tereré, especially since it’s about to get hot in Richmond. I’ve got mint growing and already have a sizable lemon balm bush. Nothing – absolutely nothing – beats a few tragos from an ice-cold tereré on a hot day!

        (I know it’s called tereré, but you and I might be the only ones here that know that! That’s why I didn’t refer to it by name before. :) )

        Gah…I could talk about this for hours!

        -j

        Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • Hey Jason,
          nice to meet you too! I actually have friends who live in Lambaré, my mom is in the Fdo. de la Mora Sur area.

          And I know wxactly what you mean, I remember sitting in downtown Asución in some park, drinking tereré al paso…

          Enjoy your tereré!

          C.

          carolina wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • Actual Paraguayan here :)
          Happy to see Mark covering yerba mate. The amount of tereré (cold yerba mate infusion, for the non-guaranies) people consume here is crazy so I’m not convinced by the ‘overdose’ study. Though consuming the cold beverage might be different, since hot water makes the yerba mate taste/steep stronger.
          Also, I’m sure most people here adapt easily to the stimulant effect of caffeine. I mean, you certainly don’t see paraguayans buzzing around all day. They’re pretty much chilling. And most people here are not even aware of such benefits and they will still prefer coffee over mate when looking for some extra energy, not knowing the had been consuming caffeine (mate) all day long.

          Juan wrote on May 16th, 2011
    • Just seeing the name of your blog post makes me laugh… As a girl from Virginia I studied in Chile and traveled to Argentina. While I was in Mendoza, some new acquaintances offered me some mate during our picnic lunch. Of course, with the metal straw and gourd I couldn’t imagine that it was JUST a drink! Also, being that I was new to speaking Spanish, I wasn’t sure if they were messing with me! Nonetheless, I tried it and liked it. It wasn’t until I got home that I learned that there wasn’t anything to fear from their “magic elixir.” :)

      Crunchy Pickle wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • Another Virginian here. ;)

        The first time I had it I was in Brazil on a mission trip. Had no idea what the stuff was, and the words they used to describe it was “herb, weed, grass, makes you excited.” I definitely was concerned! But they said the Christian woman who ran the orphanage drinks it, so I decided it can’t be drugs!

        -j

        Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
  5. I am a longtime mate drinker….I started years ago when coffee just wreaked havoc on my stomach and made my blood sugar start crashing. I still need to limit mate, caffeine is caffeine, but the lower levels work well for me.

    By the way, I wonder if buying the unsmoked versions of mate would lower the carcinogenic concerns.

    Erin wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • I was wondering the same thing about the green mate I drink. I certainly enjoy the flavor more than the smoked. My favorite is one with lemon and ginger.

      Dragonfly wrote on May 12th, 2011
  6. I love yerba mate and drink one cup daily, followed by a cup of green tea. I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I don’t seem to have any dependency issues with it, like I’ve noticed with so many coffee drinkers. If I don’t drink it for a while, it’s no big deal.

    I buy mine at Trader Joe’s.

    AnnieC wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Annie, have you ever tried latin markets? I don’t know how much it costs at Trader Joes, but the brand I’ve seen at other grocery stores (Guayaki or something like that) is terribly overpriced. Maybe I’m just used to the South American prices. :)

      I’ve found it for under $2/lb in a latin market close by, and they’re South American brands like Cruz de Malta and Taragui. I highly recommend checking it out.

      -j

      Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • When i was in London, i used to buy it at Whole Foods, at a reasonable price. Of course, not in bags, which are not useful if you want to have a real mate

        F wrote on May 12th, 2011
  7. I love mate too, and I drink it the traditional way with the gourd/cup and straw/bombilla. This method is a lot more intense than just a brewed cup as you’re referring to. It’s a lot more caffeine buzz (though I agree, not with jitters). so when comparing caffeine levels, one should remember the way they’re drinking it. Unfortunately the caffeine, for me anyway, feels a lot stronger than from a cup of coffee, when I drink it that way.
    But the brewed method as one would drink another tea, is pretty boring, for those of accustomed to the traditional method.

    Carolyn wrote on May 12th, 2011
  8. I worked at a coffee shop that served Yerba Mate. I enjoyed it once in a while, especially Yerba Mate lattes. My mom bought me some Yerba Mate tea bags and I started making it every day at home. But the brew started to stain my teeth so I gave it up. If I’m in a shop that serves it I will treat myself once in a while, the health benefits are nothing to sneeze at. I won’t ever drink it every day again, though.

    Ashley North wrote on May 12th, 2011
  9. I dunno. I mean, if I can get anti-oxidants and other nutrients from Green or Oolong Tea (which are known to help PREVENT some cancers), why would I drink Mate? Find me a store in North America that sells it that doesn’t also have tea right next to it (probably for less $)… I am just unclear on the upside, especially since I can drink as much green tea as I want, and have more control over the amount of caffeine.

    Bob wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • The thing is that it has nothing to do with tea, not the taste (which can be similar to green tea), but the way you drink it, with the gourd and the straw and with friends on your side

      F wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • That might actually be the most addicting part for me. I won’t say I craved the tea itself, but I *always* loved sharing it with friends, talking about life, laughing a lot…it’s like food for your soul. Now I drink it alone at work because I prefer it over other teas. It’s not even more expensive, now that I found a reasonable source.

        -j

        Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • hehehe, there are primals in South America. Green is expensive and never seen Oolong, but yerba mate can be bought even in the gas station. There are even free water heaters to fill up your thermos bottle and carry on drinking!

      Alvaro Coronel wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Lower flouride levels for one reason, and it’s a really BIG reason.

      I stay as far away from flouride as I possibly can. It’s far from the cureall that the ADA/AMA/toothpaste commercials would have you believe.

      Laurel wrote on May 13th, 2011
  10. Argentina represent! People are worrying themselves sick. Drink it and enjoy yourself!

    Evita wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • That’s right!! There’s nothing like a mate break!! Arriba el mate!!

      carolina wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • Essoo!! Uruguaya?

        Alvaro Coronel wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • agentina

          carolina wrote on May 13th, 2011
  11. Hi to you all Groks out there from Uruguay!!

    “mate” is our national tea – almost every uruguayan drinks mate. We carry it to soccer stadiums, parks, etc.

    I drink almost a liter every morning, as part of my paleo diet.

    Jose Zeballos wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Another paleo Uruguayo! Mucho gusto ché!!

      Alvaro Coronel wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • Uds dicen ché también? I thought it was totally Argentinian (and then the Paraguayans borrowed it). Makes sense, though. Y’all are close enough!.

        -j

        Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • Some people say we are Argentinians who live in South Brazil… absolute nonsense ;)

          Alvaro Coronel wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • Hola Alvaro!!!
        Nice to meet you :)

        Any more uruguayan paleo out there?

        (ta lleno de argentinos) abrazo a todos!

        Jose Zeballos wrote on May 13th, 2011
  12. Been using Yerbe-Mate (unsmoked organic) with my pre-workout shake. Add protein and an aspirin and blend.

    Colby wrote on May 12th, 2011
  13. I’m avoiding all forms of caffeine while pregnant, though I do like the taste of Mate. There are so many great herbal teas and combination though, I don’t miss the coffee and caffeinated tea at all.
    Right now, my favorite (preparing for labor!) is a tea made of Raspberry Leaf, Alfalfa, Nettle and Mint. Lots of antioxidants, vitamin K, and strengthens the uterus.

    Katie wrote on May 12th, 2011
  14. Just to let you know how much mate we drink here in Uruguay I include this google translation from:

    http://www.cambadu.com.uy/Informacion/Noticias/Sociedad/mate.html?printable=true

    “The Uruguayans consume approximately 400 million liters of mate (a rate of one liter of water every 80 grams of grass) in a market that imports 32 million kilos a year and bills about $ 90 million. Mate consumption surpasses even that of all soft drink brands together, according to data from consulting firm Retail Id, sold each year about 290 million liters.

    No matter the age or socioeconomic status, nor the time of day or location; mate consumption in Uruguay was able to cut across the company and the product is now chosen by eight out of ten Uruguayans, as the country’s largest consumer of mate in relation to the number of inhabitants.

    Proof of this is the widening has been more in recent years. While in 2004 the target of communication starting from the age of 18, today the barrier contact with the product is brewing at twelve years, driven in most cases the individual’s income to high school.

    Uruguayans last year consumed 31.5 million kilos of yerba mate. So far in 2009 are already being consumed just over 26 million and is projected to finish the year with a 32 million kilos sold. So, Uruguay has a high per capita consumption at 9.4 kilos of grass per person per year, equivalent to a total of 117.5 liters of mate per person in a year.

    Despite sounding numbers, there is no local production of yerba mate, for lack of suitable soil and climate for growing, and Brazil is the main supplier of this product hogging 95% of sales. The remaining 5% is shared between Argentina (the world’s largest producer) and Paraguay. The grass consumed in Uruguay comes specifically from the areas of Santa Catarina, Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.”

    Jose Zeballos wrote on May 12th, 2011
  15. I’m so glad so many of us are enjoy mate and tereré, hermanos sudamericanos! I totally agree that it’s so much nicer when you can drink it with friends and or family, I have a thrmos in my office with my mate and bombilla and I have another set at home, most people around here have no idea what I’m doind when they see me drinking it and have no interest in drinking it with me :-(
    @ Jason, good combinations, yum! menta y limon, un clasico

    @ Jose, I walk around with my mate all the time, again, I get puzzled looks, especially since I’ve only met one person from Argentina here… and no Uruguayans or Paraguayans…
    @ F, I’m going to try to start a mate drinking club..j/k! People are way to uptight about germs here…

    carolina wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • We should do a meet-up among all of us to enjoy our mate together! ;)

      I used to bring it to work, but they kept calling it my marijuana tea. They thought they were funny, but the jokes get old. And no one would share because of the germs, so I feel you there, Carolina.

      This is how I usually drink it at work now: http://yfrog.com/h4e73mnj

      Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • I couldn’t imagine drinking it at work (I am at home all day)…when someone walks into the house and sees my gourd and straw on the counter they look at me like I have been smoking on a bong all day! :)

      Erin wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • I couldn’t help it and i had to make some mate after reading all this. Is the perfect companion to any student!

        F - el marpla wrote on May 12th, 2011
        • Me too…and immediately my coworkers asked me what the heck I was drinking, as if they’d never seen me drinking it before. ;)

          -j

          Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
  16. Two questions:

    1. Could the vasodilating effect possibly help with Raynaud’s symptoms, or even generally cold hands and feet?

    I avoid caffeine on any regular basis due to mild Raynaud’s, and my episodes are rarer when off caffeine.

    2. Do most people drink this plain like coffee or mixed with other spices, flavors, etc.?

    I like complex tastes like a tea mixture with spices much more than simpler things like regular coffee or tea.

    Rodney wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • I’ve actually made it with chai before! That is to say I brewed the chai and then used THAT as the water that I added to my guampa. It – was – awesome!

      -j

      Jason wrote on May 12th, 2011
      • The company ‘Teavana’ makes a chai mate blend that they call ‘Samurai Chai Mate’ (I think) and it’s pretty phenomenal. But any herbs you like can go along with the mate in the gourd or you can just brew herbs into your water that you use to pour in there!

        David wrote on September 25th, 2011
    • holding it in your hands while you drink certainly helps with cold hands. The gourd heats up nicely – an added bonus :)

      Alvaro Coronel wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Rodney, Thank you for asking this question. I have Raynaud’s also, but have not been to the doctors and thought it was just that my fingers & toes didn’t like the cold. Now (after you mentioning it, and searching internet) I can put a name to it!
      How good is this site? Not only do we get awesome articles from Mark to help us on our Primal journeys, but we get to help each other too!

      Kellie wrote on May 15th, 2011
  17. When I visited Buenos Aires the first time I was fascinated by the drinking of mate. The THOUSANDS of people laying around the park on a Sunday afternoon passing it around was amazing. I wish we Americans knew how to relax so well. I was concerned about the fluoride content since I drink only filtered water and cut down on my green tea consumption to avoid it but according to http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ExecMacro/ecoteas/faq.d2w/report#fluoride it only has about 1/5 that of green tea. Good to hear. Plus, I can only guess some naturally occurring fluoride is a completely different story than the poison we involuntarily subjected to in our drinking water. I am not an alarmist but I am convinced there is no reason to fluoridate water and lots of reasons not to. Does anyone have any thoughts about mate and fluoride levels?

    Dustin Bopp wrote on May 12th, 2011
    • Hey Dustin,

      I feel you on the fluoride in the water thing. It makes me uneasy.

      Fluoride, however, is necessary in your body. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluorine_deficiency)

      Our society is so stupid sometimes that it will undo nature’s work just so that it can redo it in a lab. This is the case with salt, for example. Natural salt has good fluoride. When it’s processed, though, they bleach it (taking away all the fluoride) then they re-add fluoride to the salt before they sell it to you.

      It’s not bad to get some natural fluoride from your foods – as a matter of fact, it’s good for you. Just try to make sure the fluoride you’re consuming wasn’t added in a lab.

      (I know this isn’t the topic, but I wanted to address your fears). For salt, for example, buy some colored salt, like Himalayan Pink. That way you know it hasn’t been bleached.

      I’m assuming Mate has some natural fluoride, which should be treated the same as natural salt.

      And yes.. I wish the city would quit putting shit in my water.

      Bruno wrote on December 13th, 2011
    • Cannabis vs Cannabinol is another great example of our stupidity.

      Bruno wrote on December 13th, 2011
      • err… Marinol, rather.

        Bruno wrote on December 13th, 2011
  18. I have spent some time in the south of Brazil where yerba mate is drank. My Brazilian friends have warned me about oral cancer.

    We also argued about mate’s caffeine content. One of my friends claimed it doesn’t have caffeine in it. Thanks for clearing this up for me.

    Paleo Josh wrote on May 12th, 2011
  19. Mate is a great drink, and like (most) anything in life, the golden rule of moderation seems to apply.

    I think a lot of it can personally depend on what you are trying to get out of it. Meaning if you like the taste, and the cultural communal feelings mate can evoke for you, then drink it naturally and you are probably not prone to chugging it non stop.

    For people who are looking for some stimulation or a morning pick up there are definitely cleaner alternatives if you are hesitant about possible effects from something like coffee mate etc. For help waking up in the morning a splash of cold water on the face and some stretching to get the blood flowing always works great, and for a pick me up during the day, another round of stretching and even something as simple as jumping jacks to get the lungs moving and ramp up the oxygen intake can go a long way to keeping you up and active.

    Relying on your body’s natural process through motion is always good.

    GymyGym wrote on May 12th, 2011
  20. I love having my mate everyday, so I drink it everyday, at work or at home, my colleagues are for the most part used to it, and my boss still cracks jokes about my “green leafy substance”… whatever, people tolerate it pretty well and I’m not one to really care too much about other people’s opinions, but a big part of the ritual is drinking it with other people, so I have to do without that, but it’s better than not drinking it at all, I even take it into my unit’s meetings, if everybody else is drinking coffee, I should be able to have my mate, right? But even though I work for the federal government, my work envirnment is pretty chill and we all get along, if not, I guess it could be harder.

    Someone was asking about flavoring it, you can add a few drops of stevia, you can use cinnamon, milk, orange or lemon rinds, I drink it plain, which means it’s bitter and oh so yummy…

    carolina wrote on May 12th, 2011
  21. I used to drink a big mug O yerba mate before my Plant identification and Plant Pathology and Irrigation classes which were early in the morning
    and did quit well. I didn’t feel the urge to drink more and more and more like I do with coffee.
    I’m not south american though. Just Canadian.

    alex wrote on May 12th, 2011
  22. Mate made me talk too fast, talk too much, made my heart race. And I couldn’t sit still. I’m already hyperactive. Mate made me feel like I was 8 years old again, and out of control. Not fun! Mate is way stronger than coffee for me, and I can barely tolerate coffee. I drink a cup of black tea daily.

    Janina wrote on May 12th, 2011
  23. Mate had no effect on me, except for it smelling like stale cigarettes.

    Liz wrote on May 12th, 2011
  24. THanks for sharing

    Tom wrote on May 12th, 2011
  25. …you know, in case your gourd is in the dishwasher…LOL.

    Kristina wrote on May 12th, 2011
  26. In my experience, yerba mate doesn’t only work for keeping you awake but also when you have problems with your bowel movements (in Argentina, tipically from eating too much meat and no veggies).

    Gaby wrote on May 12th, 2011
  27. How funny! I was just at Natural Grocers this evening and looking for straws for my son, when a lady showed me a metal straw that she described as being for “drinking yerba mate out of a gourd.” MDA never fails to relate to my daily life (and vice versa)!

    Dawn wrote on May 12th, 2011
  28. I may not love drinking mate but i need to. It’s kinda of a health conscious thing. I hope i can try this one, it looks bitter but good.

    Boblepub wrote on May 13th, 2011
  29. Here’s a great yerba mate overview from the Journal of Food Science: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1750-3841.2007.00535.x/pdf

    Mark Anderson wrote on May 13th, 2011
  30. I’d read a couple reports about the link between Mate and oral cancer, and I always wondered if it was the Mate or the cigarettes. Since a lot of times it’s a social drink, most of the time people are smoking concurrently. And smoking is still a lot more prevalent (in Uruguay at least) than in the states. Although last time I was there I was pleasantly surprised to find out they’ve banned smoking inside restaurants. I’ll continue drinking my Mate a couple times a week without fear.

    Wes wrote on May 13th, 2011
    • I was reading some of these comments to my (Paraguayan) wife yesterday and she said, “If it causes cancer, then all of us in Paraguay would have cancer.” I know it’s a terrible generalization, but if you think about it…MILLIONS of people drink yerba mate every day, most of them drink it all day long. And the vast majority of the people I met are some of the healthiest I’ve ever met.

      I could be wrong, but I think the carcinogenic part is from burned yerba (cocido). They tell you here it’s not good to eat charred meat either. More because of the char than the actual thing that’s charred.

      To be fair, though, one of my Paraguayan friends told me that it can be not good for you if you ingest the actual leaves themselves, but it would have to be copious amounts of it.

      Enjoying a mate now…so tasty!

      -j

      Jason wrote on May 13th, 2011
  31. I drink the guyaki brand yerba mate. I like this brand because guyaki uses only organic yerba mate, supports livable wages and for trade etc. You can take a tour of their facility as well. They make a variety of flavors. Of the ones ive tried, my favorite is Empowermint which in addition to the yerba mate, also contains organic spearmint and peppermint, I believe some stevia and other ingredients. They sell their yerba mate in the traditional form, in tea bags, as well as in cold beverages

    Jeremiah wrote on May 13th, 2011
  32. I have some friends from Uruguay, and I when I went to visit them, almost everybody in the street could be seen with a thermos under one arm and their gourd in hand. They drank their mate _very_ hot; I had to wait for it to cool down before I could drink (nearly boiling water up a metal straw was not pleasant). Also, the brew gets weaker as you refill the gourd, so if you are sensitive and drinking socially, maybe you should wait until the refill to partake and let the others have the first round- I found that helped with the strong taste, although I’m not sensitive to it otherwise.

    Patience wrote on May 13th, 2011
  33. In regard to the study about South Americans and cancer link, I have a hard time believing they found a lot of “never-smokers and never-alcohol drinkers”. Most everybody I met smoked, and a lot of those that didn’t said they used to. Wine was also pretty staple in their diet.

    Patience wrote on May 13th, 2011
  34. I have been drinking mate for at least 15 years. One of the key benefits which every Argentine knows is that it keeps you regular like nothing else. Have your mate when you roll out of bed and you will be taking care of business in 30 minutes like clockwork.

    Also, avoid the US brands sold in health food stores. I pay about $4.50 per kilo (2.2 pounds – or about $2.00 per pound) at an Argentine market called Gaucho Meats. That same amount of the boutique US brand would cost $20 to $40, which is a total ripoff. If you are paying more than about $2.50 per pound you are paying too much. Look for Rosamonte brand.

    Keith wrote on May 13th, 2011
  35. I have never tried Yerba Mate yet, but have thought about it…just never got around to it. After this post, I may go ahead and try it.
    Also, kinda off topic, but has anyone tried or know anything about Crio Bru (www.criobru.com)? It is a roasted/brew-able cacao. I would love to hear Mark’s take on it. I ordered some, but have not received it yet. Hoping to receive it today…

    Frank wrote on May 13th, 2011
  36. I used to drink yerba mate daily until I read about side effects such as oral cancer. That scared me away and it’s been a while since I gave it up. But some of the comments here are easing my concerns…maybe I can dig it out of the pantry and give it another try.

    Shema wrote on May 13th, 2011
  37. If you live in the south of the US, it’s likely that there’s ornamental yaupon planted nearby. It’s a relative of mate’ and people have used the small, toothed leaves to make a similar brew. The Seminole used to boil the leaves in water to make a black liquid heavy in caffeine, used ritually to bring on visions with nausea as a side-effect — hence the scientific name of yaupon, Ilex vomitoria. I’ve drawn stares by chewing the very bitter leaves instead of drinking morning coffee.

    Mark. Gooley wrote on May 14th, 2011
  38. I never had this drink before… I oughta try it sometime. By the way, I love how you cited erowid.org, great site…

    Joel Wilcox wrote on July 13th, 2011
  39. I’ve been Primal for only a few months, and can feel a real difference. I just started drinking Mate a few days ago. As for the Carcinogens in Mate, I’m not concerned. The Primal diet & lifestyle provide plenty of nutrients for combating cancer. As such, I think the benefits of Mate outweigh the risks *if* you eat Primal on a *constantly*. Grok On!

    Joseph wrote on August 15th, 2011
  40. I drink my Mate all day long… tea and coffee give me jitters but not mate. However, I’m curious about the caffeeen levels. How does it decrease after multiple hot water refills?! After two fill ups I notice little cafeen effect…

    Cory wrote on September 14th, 2011

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