Published: 07/31/2018 - Updated: 03/08/2020
Author: Prof. Dr. Luis Ruiz-Garcia, PhD
Mate (mah-tay) is a plant native to South America which has been ritually used for hundreds of years in South America, especially in Uruguay. However, in the past few years this drink has been growing in popularity in Europe.
According to Wikipedia “This herb was named by extension from the Quechua term mati, which means glass or drinking bowl, which was then generalized into a slang term for the gourd used for this infusion. It has also been called “tea of Paraguay” or green gold”.
The ritual of drinking Yerba Mate
One is said to be drinking mate when they observe a certain ceremonial practice, which consists of making an infusion with mate leave previously dried and cut, crushed or ground. Mate produces a stimulating effect due to its caffeine content. It also possesses cleansing and antioxidant properties. In some rituals, certain digestive herbs, or herbs that regulate hepatic function are added to the mixture.
According to tradition, place the beverage in a small gourd (called porongo), in which you also place a metal straw, or bombilla. It is drank warm.
Where can I find Yerba Mate?
This herb was first used by the Guarani natives, and if developed from the leaves of the plant Ilex paraguarensis. You can also buy Yerba Mate on-line
A little bit of history…
Yerba mate was a staple food for Guarani Indians, which called it caá-mate. The Indians drank mate through bombillas made from small reeds, or chewed the herb on long marches.
The discovery of these properties and the herb’s use was attributed to Hernande Arias de Saavedra, in 1592. Story has it that he found small leather sacks that the Indians carried their most prized possessions in. In it was a powder wrapped in skins that was finally called “caá”.
The herb’s virtues caused its consumption to spread to the point of creating a very intensely and regularly trafficked product, from its native lands to all of Rio de la Plata. Later, the Jesuits who had settled in Paraguay towards the beginning of the 17th century, began cultivating it.
Half a century later, Aime Goujaud, a celebrated French doctor and naturalist, began the first scientific studies of the plant, its uses, and its properties.
What does Yerba Mate taste like?
Mate is bitter due to the tannins it contains, and has a fair amount of caffeine. Because of its composition, drinking mate carries some good health benefits along with it.
Some properties of Yerba Mate
- Provides energy
- Stimulates mental agility
- Is a diuretic
- Strengthens the immune system
- Is an antioxidant (said to prolong life).
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- Vera Garcia R, Basualdo I, Peralta I, de Herebia M, Caballero S. Minerals content of Paraguayan yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis, S.H.). Arch Latinoam Nutr., 47 (1):77-80, 1997.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 03/08/2020
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