Maté (Ilex paraguariensis)
Also known as Yerba maté, the tree is a type of holly native to South America. This small tree is evergreen with a small greenish-white flower. It produces a red berry like other hollies. Although this plant is heavily cultivated in South America now, connoisseurs say that the cultivated herb does not have the distinctive aroma and taste that wild trees have. The word 'mate' is Spanish for 'gourd' and refers to the traditional cup used to drink the beverage in South America. Mate has a long history all over the world as an herb for weight loss and to increase energy.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Maté is taken to increase energy, lose weight, suppress the appetite, cleanse the blood and the bowels, stimulate the digestive system and heart, enhance memory, fight free radicals, relieve pain and headaches, and increase bile flow. It promotes perspiration and is a mild laxative. It also enhances the immune system. Some herbalists recommend it for hayfever, hemorrhoids, stress and arthritis.
Externally Mate can be applied as a poultice for anthrax lesions.
Other Uses Mate is a very popular drink in Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. In some of these countries it is considered the national drink. It is used as a social drink like coffee.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Maté may be blended with other herbs that have the same effects, such as herbs that encourage weight loss for example.
Leaves The leaf is the plant part used medicinally. The leaves are harvested between May and October, while the tree is fully leaved. Each tree is harvested every third year to avoid overharvesting.
Excessive use can increase the risk of cancers of the upper respiratory and digestive tracts. Maté contains caffeine, so if you are sensitive or allergic to caffeine, avoid this herb. Consumption should be limited in people with high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcers and other diseases. Mate has MAO-inhibitor activity, so if you take MAO-inhibitor drugs you should avoid taking this herb. Be cautious that you don't get adulterated products. Some products are mixed with less expensive herbs. Pregnant and nursing women should not use this herb. Side effects may include insomnia, anxiety, tremors, agitation, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, headache and palpitations.
Preparation and Dosage
Maté is most frequently taken as an herbal tea in many countries. To make a typical dose, add 3 to 10 grams of dried herb to a cup of hot, but not boiling, water. Extracts of mate are also available.