Yerba Mate extract supplement research, side effects, risks, safety, health benefits by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
March 15 2016

Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is used for the preparation of the most popular tea-like beverage of South America. Hypocholesteremic (lowering cholesterol), antioxidant, hepatoprotective (protecting the liver) and bitter taste properties of mate are attributed to the phenolic constituents of the leaves. Yerba mate tea is popular in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. In these countries, the tea is popularly known as mate or chimarrão.

What's in Yerba Mate herb?
Yerba Mate herb has caffeoyl derivatives (caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid, 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid and 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid) and flavonoids (quercetin, rutin and kaempferol).

Benefit and potential medical uses
Yerba mate herb, just like many herbs, is a good source of antioxidants and certainly deserves a spot in one's kitchen next to other herbal teas. Drinking yerba mate tea a few times a month is a good option, or one could take yerba mate supplements. Yerba mate herb has vasodilating properties. Yerba mate is promoted for weight loss, but there are better herbs for this purpose. One excellent herbal combination for appetite suppression is Diet Rx.

Review of the benefits of the plant
Ilex paraguariensis dried and minced leaves are made into a brewed tea by large populations in South America, having evolved from a tea drunk by the Guarani ethnic group to a beverage that has a social and almost ritualistic role in some South American modern societies. It is used both as a source of caffeine, but also as a therapeutic agent for its alleged pharmacological properties. In the past couple of decades, there was a several-fold increase in the literature studying Ilex paraguariensis properties showing effects such as antioxidant properties in chemical models and ex vivo lipoprotein studies, vaso-dilating, antimutagenic effects, and controversial association with oropharyngeal cancer, anti-glycation effects and weight reduction properties. The aim of this review is to provide a concise summary of the research published in the past several years, with an emphasis on inflammation and lipid metabolism. yerba mate reduces LDL-cholesterol levels in humans and the effect is synergic with that of statins. Plasma antioxidant capacity as well as expression of antioxidant enzymes is positively modulated by intervention in human cohorts. A review on the evidence implicating Ilex paraguariensis heavy consumption with some neoplasias show data that are inconclusive but indicate that contamination with alkylating agents during the drying process of the leaves should be avoided. On the other hand, several new studies confirm the antimutagenic effects in different models, from DNA double breaks in cell culture models to mice studies. Novel interesting work has emerged showing significant effect on weight reduction both in mice and in rat models. Some mechanisms involved are inhibition of pancreatic lipase, activation of AMPK and uncoupling of electron transport. Intervention studies in animals have provided strong evidence of anti-inflammatory effects, notably protecting cigarette-induced lung inflammation acting on macrophage migration and inactivating matrix-metalloproteinase. Research on the effects of yerba mate in health and disease has confirmed its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic and lipid-lowering activities. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010. Recent advances on Ilex paraguariensis research: Minireview.

Antioxidant benefit
Yerba mate tea is full of excellent antioxidants.

Antioxidant activity of a botanical extract preparation of Ilex paraguariensis: prevention of DNA double-strand breaks in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and human low-density lipoprotein oxidation.
J Altern Complement Med. 2003.
Yerba mate is a rich source of polyphenols and has antioxidant properties comparable to those of green tea which merit further in vivo intervention and cross-sectional studies.

Effects of Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis) Ingestion on mRNA Expression of Antioxidant Enzymes, Lipid Peroxidation, and Total Antioxidant Status in Healthy Young Women.
J Agric Food Chem. 2009. Nutrition Department, School of Public Health, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The antioxidant activity of mate tea, the roasted product derived from yerba mate (Ilex paraguarienis), was observed in vitro and in animal models, but studies in humans are lacking. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of mate tea supplementation on plasma susceptibility to oxidation and on antioxidant enzyme gene expression in healthy nonsmoking women, after acute or prolonged ingestion. We evaluated plasma total antioxidant status, the kinetics of diene conjugate generation, and thiobarbituric acid reactive substance contents in plasma, as well as mRNA levels of antioxidant gluthatione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase. After the supplementation period with mate tea, lipid peroxidation was acutely lowered, an effect that was maintained after prolonged administration. Our results suggest that regular consumption of mate tea may increase antioxidant defense of the body by multiple mechanisms.

Circulation improvement
Exp Gerontol. 2015 Jan 3.  Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) improves microcirculation of volunteers with high blood viscosity: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Potential uses and benefit of yerba mate
In combination with other herbs and nutrients, yerba mate may benefit weight loss. Other nutrients and herbs that influence appetite or may have thermogenic effects include:

Green tea extract may be effective in some people as a weight loss pill.
Caffeine is often found in weight loss pills but I personally don't like my patients taking extra caffeine since it can cause increased heart rate and anxiety. Most people already consume enough caffeine through coffee, tea, sodas, and chocolate.
Ginger may be helpful in some people but higher doses are required.

Hoodia has become quite popular over the past few years.
Konjac is also known as glucomannan, and it is sold as a supplement
Alpha lipoic acid may also reduce appetite but it is primarily used as an antioxidant.
5-HTP is a nutrient that helps curb appetite in some individuals .
5-HTP, by converting into serotonin, can be used temporarily to improve will power and decrease the urge to eat until more established weight loss habits are in place.
Guarana may work in combination with yerba mate and damiana.
Yohimbe Bark, we do not recommend its use as a thermogenic weight decrease product due to many side effects, although it can be used in smaller amounts of sexual betterment.

Nutrients. 2015. The positive effects of yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) in obesity. Several studies have identified yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) as an excellent candidate. In this review, we evaluated the impact of yerba maté on obesity and obesity-related inflammation. Cellular studies demonstrate that yerba maté suppresses adipocyte differentiation and triglyceride accumulation and reduces inflammation. Animal studies show that yerba maté modulates signaling pathways that regulate adipogenesis, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and insulin signaling responses. In summary, the data presented here showed that the use of yerba maté might be useful against obesity, improving the lipid parameters in humans and animal models. In addition, yerba maté modulates the expression of genes that are changed in the obese state and restores them to more normal levels of expression. In doing so, it addresses several of the abnormal and disease-causing factors associated with obesity. Protective and ameliorative effects on insulin resistance were also observed. Thus, as a general conclusion, it seems that yerba maté beverages and supplements might be helpful in the battle against obesity.

Food Chem. Nov 2013. The in vitro and in vivo effects of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) extract on adipogenesis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of yerba mate extract and its principal bioactive compounds on adipogenesis. The anti-adipogenic effects of yerba mate, chlorogenic acid, quercetin and rutin were evaluated in 3T3-L1 cells using a PCR array. The results obtained in vitro were validated in vivo in a high-fat diet-induced model of obesity. The in vitro and in vivo results demonstrated that yerba mate extract down-regulated the expression of genes that regulate adipogenesis, such as Creb-1and C/EBPα, and the extract up-regulated the expression of genes related to the inhibition of adipogenesis, including Dlk1, Gata2, Gata3, Klf2, Lrp5, Pparγ2, Sfrp1, Tcf7l2, Wnt10b, and Wnt3a. In summary, it was demonstrated that yerba mate and its bioactive compounds regulate the expression of genes related to in vitro adipogenesis. Furthermore, yerba mate might regulate adipogenesis through the Wnt pathway.

Yerba Mate Research
Vascular responses to extractable fractions of Ilex paraguariensis n rats fed standard and high-cholesterol diets.
Biol Res Nurs. 2005.
The authors investigated the vasorelaxant properties of the aqueous and acid n-butanolic extractable fractions from yerba mate leaves. Perfusion pressure was evaluated using isolated and perfused mesenteric arterial beds (MABs) from rats fed hypercholesterolemic and standard diets. Extract-induced vasorelaxation in the presence and absence of various inhibitors was examined. These results suggest that yerba mate induces vasodilation in standard-diet rats in a dose-dependent manner and that the hypercholesterolemic diet substantially reduced the effect of yerba mate.

Naturally occurring proteasome inhibitors from mate tea (Ilex paraguayensis) serve as models for topical proteasome inhibitors.
J Invest Dermatol. 2005
Proteasome inhibitors have emerged as a clinically important therapy for neoplastic disease, with velcade, an organoboron compound used extensively in multiple myeloma. Recently, (-)-epigallocatechin gallate has been found to be a potent inhibitor of the proteasomal chymotrypsin -like activity. Other compounds that inhibit angiogenesis and are active as chemopreventive agents, such as curcumin, also inhibit proteasome activity. We have screened natural product extracts and found that extracts of yerba mate tea (Ilex paraguayensis) inhibit the growth of these endothelial cells. The extract was fractionated and found to have novel cinnamate esters that inhibit proteasome activity. Based upon these findings, preclinical and clinical trials of topical cinnamate esters as proteasome inhibitors are warranted for psoriasis and other inflammatory disorders.

Ilex paraguariensis extracts inhibit AGE formation more efficiently than green tea.
Fitoterapia. 2005. Glycation, Oxidation and Disease Laboratory, Division of Basic Medical Sciences, Touro University-California, Mare Island, Vallejo, CA
Glycation, the nonenzymatic adduct formation between sugar dicarbonyls and proteins, is one key molecular basis of diabetic complications due to hyperglycemia. Given the link between glycation and oxidation, we hypothesized that herbal extracts with a high concentration of antioxidant phenolics might possess significant in vitro antiglycation activities as well. The aim of the present study was to address the hypothesis that polyphenol-rich yerba mate extracts are capable of inhibiting advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) formation and to compare the potency of these extracts with green tea and with the standard antiglycation agent aminoguanidine. Taken together our results demonstrate a significant, dose-dependent effect of water extracts of yerba mate on AGE adducts formation on a protein model in vitro, whereas green tea displays no significant effect. The inhibition of AGE formation was comparable to that obtained by using millimolar concentrations of the standard antiglycation agent aminoguanidine.

Cardioprotective effects of Ilex paraguariensis extract: evidence for a nitric oxide-dependent mechanism.
Clin Nutr. 2005.
Our data are the first demonstration that yerba mate extract attenuates the myocardial dysfunction provoked by ischemia and reperfusion and that this cardioprotection involves a diminution of oxidative damage through a nitric oxide-dependent mechanism.

Yerba Mate side effects, safety and risks
Excess caffeine-like side effects are possible from drinking too much yerba mate tea or taking too high a dose of yerba mate supplements.

Q. I came across your name when googling side effects of yerba mate. I made a tea I bought from a local herbal store and had one cup around noon. At night I noticed I had night sweats, heart palpitations, I'm 200% sure it was not anxiety. I think I'm still getting over the effects this morning. Have you ever heard of these side effects? I'm a 37 year old Iranian pharmacist. I did recover from a flu bug about a week now but otherwise I'm healthy and can't attribute anything I experienced last night to any existing medical condition. I'm very interested in the properties of this herb and wish to continue taking it. Does genomics have to do with how you'd experience the side effect of this particular herb?
   A. The yerba mate side effects may have been due to the potency. You may consider using a third of the amount you first used.

Q. I recently read an article that said drinking yerba mate tea Increases cancer risk. Can you comment on this article, here is an excerpt, "Yerba mate, the South American tea gaining popularity among the health-conscious and caffeine-shy, may be linked to significantly increased rates of some cancers, according to new studies. Some studies have linked the brew to possible reductions in heart disease and cancer. In lab tests, the herb helped protect heart and liver cells against stress. In rats, it lowered blood pressure and kept fat from accumulating in blood vessels. But scientists warned that tests in labs and on rats don't necessarily translate into the same human results. In fact, a 1994 study found mate drinkers had a 60 percent higher chance of contracting respiratory or digestive cancers than non-mate drinkers. Two years later, another study, of 1,000 Uruguayan men, found those who drank yerba mate regularly had a 60 percent higher chance of developing lung cancer than non-tea drinkers."
   A. It is possible that daily drinking of yerba mate may increase the risk for cancer and I am not about to question the results of these studies without additional information. However, as a practical and reasonable suggestion, people should not drink the same tea daily. I have at least a dozen tea boxes on my kitchen counter and I alternate their use. Some of the ones I use include ginger, chamomile, rooibos, mint, Earl Grey, licorice, green tea, and a few others. By drinking different teas, you will get a variety of beneficial polyphenols and other substances, and avoid repetitive exposure to substances that are harmful to the body if ingested in excess.

I have been drinking mate for years but it appears in the Summer 2011 issue of "Caring 4 Health", focusing on hepatitis, in a list if "Potential products to avoid". I have always thought that as an anti-oxidant, it would be beneficial to the liver - so why do you think it is included in a list of potentially harmful products for people with hepatitis?
   A search on Medline in 2012 using the term "yerba mate hepatitis" did not reveal any studies published on this topic.

I drink yerba mate tea now, off and on, for two years and enjoy its flavor. But it can make me feel strung out and edgy from time to time. 

I have been using stevia since 1988. I'm a 55 year old female. There are no ill effects from this product. I use stevia in yerba mate tea daily. I drink at least 12 cups, every day for all these years. I was recently in a very bad accident and had my back fractured in four places. I'm up, going and getting back my physical strength. I truly believe the yerba mate tea and stevia are responsible for my well being.

I’m writing a health article for woman’s magazine that includes information about Yerba Mate herb. I found some information about it on your website: Is it okay to paraphrase you as follows? "Yerba mate herb is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to lower cholesterol, protect the liver, and even help with weight loss,” says Ray Sahelian, MD, author of Mind Boosters.
   I would not feel comfortable with the part about yerba mate and weight loss until more studies are done.  Let's try this: "Yerba mate herb is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to have important compounds that could protect the liver, and potentially help with maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Yerba mate herb should certainly be considered as an addition to a healthy diet. The bitter taste of yerba mate tea could be sweetened with stevia.” says Ray Sahelian, M. D. author of Mind Boosters.

I recently started drinking Yerba mate tea. However, on the internet there was one research study that extensive use of yerba Mate tea can contribute to esophagus cancer? Any thoughts on this?
   There has been some association found with yerba mate and esophageal cancer, however this study was done among a population in Brazil that drinks yerba mate on a daily basis. I do not have concerns that occasional use of yerba mate tea or taking a yerba mate supplement would cause any concerns. I suggest alternating the use of various herbal teas. Plus, esophageal cancer is very rare. Also, I don't know if taking a supplement of yerba mate is equivalent to the mate that is used by those living in the region of Brazil where this was investigated.

Higher urine 1-hydroxy pyrene glucuronide (1-OHPG) is associated with tobacco smoke exposure and drinking mate in healthy subjects from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
BMC Cancer. 2006.
The highest rates of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in Brazil occur in Rio Grande do Sul, the most southern state, which has incidence rates of 20.4/100,000 a year for men and 6.5/100,000 a year for women. Exposure to carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) through tobacco smoke and other sources may increase the risk of esophageal cancer. The aims of the current study were to investigate the degree and sources of PAH exposure of the inhabitants of this region of southern Brazil. Tobacco smoke and mate both contribute to high levels of benzopyrene exposure in the people of southern Brazil. This high PAH exposure may contribute to the high rates of esophageal cancer observed in this population. The increased urine 1-OHPG concentrations associated with mate suggest that contaminants, not just thermal injury, may help explain the increased risk of esophageal cancer previously reported for mate consumption.

Bladder cancer and mate consumption in Argentina: a case-control study.
Cancer Lett. 2007.
Mate is a 'tea', made from Ilex paraguariensis, widely consumed in South America, as mate con bombilla and mate cocido. Mate consumption has been associated with esophageal, oral, lung, and bladder cancers. This bladder cancer case-control study involved 114 Argentinean case-control pairs. Mate consumption was recorded for time of interview, and 20 and 40 years previously. Mate con bombilla consumed 20 years ago was associated with bladder cancer in ever-smokers, but not in never-smokers. Mate cocido was not associated with bladder cancer. These results are consistent with a previous study in Uruguay.

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I am an anti-aging doctor now living in Sao Paulo Brazil, but I'm from southern Brazil where yerba mate is drunk like a tea for almost everybody. It's very interesting to observe that in southern Brazil people eat saturated fatty acids in barbecues made with red meat in huge amounts every Sunday and during the week. However, in southern Brazil, heart diseases are not the major killer - why? Because people drink the so called chimarrão 2 x per day or even more. This confirms your web site information that I have visited. As a Brazilian from southern, I can support your research about the yerba mate benefits. It really protects against heart diseases, perhaps many inflammatory process, with its antioxidants. To finish, I'm very glad to make this contact and to say that I read your book about DHEA hormone pill (in Portuguese) and this has opened a new vision in my way to do Medicine and I have become a better than ever doctor in my practice.
   Thank you. Almost every spice or herbal tea has some health benefit and I am not sure if yerba mate tea is much healthier than other forms of tea. As to DHEA, I hope you get a chance to review my latest thoughts on this hormone since the book was written in the mid 1990s.

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Yerba Maté used since ancient times as a tea, is recommended throughout South America for its rejuvenating, nutritional, and energizing effects, particularly for mental and physical fatigue. It can be taken as an effective weight-loss aid, when used in conjunction with the Maximum Metabolism Weight Loss Plan. Scientific research shows it to be a powerful antioxidant and that it can protect DNA from double-strand breaks. It also has the ability to inhibit LDL oxidation. Maté naturally contains a wide range of polyphenols, methylxanthines, and chlorogenic acid, which together are responsible for its many health benefits.

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