Why Maté is Magic: International Health Symposium (Uruguay) May 17 2015, 5 Comments

Pedestrian man drinking mate (right) in Montevideo Uruguay 

At the crack of dawn on a cold Winter's morning my bus arrived at Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, the city with the highest consumption per capita of the magical herb on the planet. I had come to learn more about yerba mate (pronounced, "yer-bah mah-tay"), the tea which makes Uruguay tick, at the 6th quadrennial South American Yerba Mate Conference and 2nd International Yerba Mate & Health Symposium. Having come from spending two months in Brazil, a Portuguese speaking country, to a Spanish speaking nation, I had to focus hard as both languages battled for first place between my cheeks. Nevertheless, at 9am the following day, the show began.

On day 01, I scribbled notes about why yerba mate is a functional food. As I tried to keep up with doctors from as far as Japan who were lined up to present their studies, I asked myself, "is the main reason I love maté, the health benefits?". Going back six years to when I was on my gap-year in Argentina  and learning to drink maté for the first time, the answer, for me, was, "no". My recollection of fond memories and friendships that were made while sharing maté and learning Spanish in Buenos Aires was the attraction. Be this as it may, the question as to why this drink became so widespread in South America over the last three centuries, is an intriguing one: The Guaraní tribe began the famous custom many millennia ago. They celebrated yerba mate because it gave them physiological upliftment like no other food or drink they knew. It put new life into tired muscles, strengthened willpower and cleansed the body of impurities. Today, in South America alone, over 120 million people drink maté every day and we have a better understanding of the science behind the magic of maté. Among many amazing presentations, several focused on this...

Yerba mate, a functional food

A typical selection of yerba mate brands in Uruguayan supermarket

The subject of much interest to nutritionists today, is natural unprocessed substances that provide a complete set of bioactive compounds to the regular diet such as polyphenols ( antioxidants), probiotics, vitamins, minerals and amino-acids. One of over 120 published studies about yerba mate, is a University of São Paulo paper, published in Global Science Books, which concluded that,  "Yerba mate, besides its stimulant activity, long known by the indigenous South American inhabitants seems to fulfill the requirements as a functional food."...

Powerful Natural Antioxidant

The high concentration of polyphenols in yerba reduces cholesterol, attacks free radicals and reduces the risk of cardiac disease significantly by protecting muscle tissue from oxidation, thus, "anti-oxidant". A French study published in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology International by Gugliucci and Stahl concluded that a yerba mate extract was a more potent antioxidant than vitamin C. 

A Natural Source of Xanthines 

Xanthines are central nervous system stimulants. Yerba mate is naturally caffeinated with an amount equivalent to about a half cup of coffee. As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine in moderation, increases blood flow to the muscles. Yerba mate also contains two other stimulants, namely theobromine which endows the drinker to a sense of euphoria and theophylline that helps breathing and relaxing of smooth muscle tissue, which means that it is, " the ideal natural tonic to drink before, during and after exercise."

Essential nutrient supplement

The reason that yerba mate is considered a hunger suppressant is that it contains almost everything the body needs and is especially rich in the vitamin B complex, vitamin C, E, manganese, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium and 15 amino-acids among others. 

Saponin sandwich

Saponins are a highly sought after ingredient in the pharmaceutical industry, and yerba mate has a lot of them. You can test this by putting yerba mate in a bottle with hot water and shaking it. You'll notice the foam it creates. The saponins in yerba mate cause this to happen. Saponins present a wide variety of medical uses such as anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-yeast, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-viral and haemolytic activity among many others. This explains the reason that there are more than 35 international medicinal trade-marks registered from natural medicines made with yerba mate extract. 

Thanks for reading - Jovi


 Jovi at the International Yerba Mate & Health Symposium 2014, Uruguay