Mate is a traditional South American beverage drink that is brewed from the leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant, a tree that belongs to the holly family. It’s widely consumed in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Brazil, where the mate tree is indigenous. You’ll also find mate as an ingredient in energy drinks or in the herbal tea section of your local health food store.
Fun fact: Technically, the word tea only applies to the leaves of the Camilla Sinensis or tea plant. The beverages popularly known as herbal teas are actually tisanes.
Human beings apparently have a universal appetite for stimulants. Depending on where on the globe your ancestors found themselves, they might have enjoyed beverages made from coffee or cacao beans, guarana berries, kola nuts, or tea or yerba mate leaves. Although each contains a slightly different array of active chemicals, all contain caffeine or a closely related molecule with similar stimulant properties.
Health benefits of yerba mate
There are many impressive health benefits attributed to drinking yerba mate (or mate, for short), including
- Greater energy
- Mental focus
- Reduced fatigue
- Weight loss
- Antioxidant activity
- Enhanced sports performance
But before you get too excited about this new miracle brew, most of the benefits attributed to mate are available from any caffeinated beverage. There’s no question that caffeine stimulates the nervous system, resulting in great alertness and reduced fatigue. The impact of mate on weight and fat loss is likely to be relatively minor—especially compared to the impact of your food and movement choices. Similarly, expect only incremental effects on your athletic performance. It might help you go a little longer or move a little faster, but mate will not turn a weekend jogger into an Olympic runner.