Yerba mate contains antioxidants, caffeine, and several nutrients. Some research suggests it may enhance physical performance, boost energy levels, and support weight management.

Yerba mate is a traditional South American drink that’s gaining worldwide popularity.

It’s said to have the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the joy of chocolate.

Here are the top 7 health benefits of yerba mate.

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What is yerba mate?

Yerba mate is an herbal tea made from the leaves and stems of the Ilex paraguariensis plant (1Trusted Source).

The leaves are typically dried over a fire, then steeped in hot water to make the tea.

Yerba mate is traditionally consumed from a container called a gourd and sipped with a metal straw that has a filter at its lower end to strain out the leaf fragments (2Trusted Source).

Sharing it from this traditional gourd is said to be a sign of friendship and bonding.

SUMMARYYerba mate is a type of tea made from the dried leaves and stems of the Ilex paraguariensis plant.

1. Rich in antioxidants and nutrients

Yerba mate contains several beneficial plant compounds, including (3Trusted Source):

  • Xanthines: These compounds act as stimulants. They include caffeine and theobromine, which are also found in tea, coffee, and chocolate.
  • Caffeoyl derivatives: These compounds are the main health-promoting antioxidants in the tea.
  • Saponins: These bitter compounds have certain anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.
  • Polyphenols: This is a large group of antioxidants, linked to a reduced risk of many diseases.

Interestingly, according to one older study, the antioxidant power of yerba mate tea is similar to that of green tea (4Trusted Source).

Yerba mate also contains several other important micronutrients, including vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B6. Plus, it provides some potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and iron (5Trusted Source).

However, the tea contains very small amounts of these nutrients, so it’s unlikely to make a large contribution to your diet on its own.

SUMMARYYerba mate is an antioxidant powerhouse that contains many beneficial plant compounds and nutrients.

2. Can boost energy and improve mental focus

At 80 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per cup, yerba mate contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee (5Trusted Source).

Therefore, just like any other caffeinated food or beverage, it may increase your energy levels and make you feel less tired.

Caffeine can also affect the levels of certain signaling molecules in your brain, making it particularly beneficial for your mental focus (6Trusted Source).

Some research reports that caffeine can improve alertness, attention, and reaction time in participants who consumed a single dose containing 40–300 mg of caffeine (7Trusted Source).

Additionally, those who regularly consume yerba mate often rave that it enhances alertness like coffee, but without the jittery side effects.

However, these testimonials have not yet been scientifically proven.

SUMMARYThanks to its caffeine content, yerba mate can help increase your energy levels and boost your mental focus.

3. May enhance physical performance

Caffeine is also known to improve muscle contractions, reduce fatigue, and improve sports performance by up to 5%, according to some older studies (8Trusted Source9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

Since yerba mate contains a moderate amount of caffeine, those drinking it can expect similar physical performance benefits.

In fact, in one 2014 study, those given a 1-gram (g) capsule of ground yerba mate leaves right before exercise burned 24% more fat during moderate intensity exercise (11Trusted Source).

A higher reliance on fat for fuel during exercise spares your carb reserves for critical high intensity moments, such as cycling up a hill or sprinting towards the finish line. This could translate into better sports performance.

However, the optimal amount of yerba mate to drink before exercise is currently unknown.

SUMMARYYerba mate increases your body’s reliance on fat for fuel during exercise. It may also improve muscle contractions and reduce fatigue, all of which may contribute to better physical performance.

4. May protect against infections

Yerba mate may help prevent infections from bacteria, parasites, and fungi.

Some older test-tube studies found that a high dose of yerba mate extract deactivated E. coli, a bacteria that causes food poisoning symptoms like stomach cramps and diarrhea (12Trusted Source13Trusted Source).

Compounds in yerba mate may also prevent the growth of Malassezia furfur, a type of fungus responsible for scaly skin, dandruff, and certain skin rashes (14Trusted Source).

Nevertheless, most of these studies were done on isolated cells. It’s currently unclear if these benefits are the same for humans, and more high quality, recent research is needed.

SUMMARYYerba mate may have some anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal properties. However, more recent research in humans is needed.

5. May help you lose weight and belly fat

Some research suggests that yerba mate may help support weight management and could be effective for reducing body weight, belly fat, and body mass index (15).

It seems to decrease the total number of fat cells and reduce the amount of fat they hold (16Trusted Source).

Human research suggests that it can also increase the amount of stored fat that’s burned for energy (11Trusted Source17Trusted Source).

Furthermore, in a 2015 study in people with overweight, those given 3 g of yerba mate powder per day lost an average of 1.5 pounds (lbs), or 0.7 kilograms (kg). They also reduced their waist-to-hip ratio by 2%, which indicates lost belly fat (18Trusted Source).

In comparison, the participants given a placebo gained an average of 6.2 lbs (2.8 kg) and increased their waist-to-hip ratio by 1% over the same 12-week period (18Trusted Source).

SUMMARYYerba mate may boost metabolism and increase the amount of fat burned for fuel. This could help you lose weight.

6. Lowers blood sugar levels

Yerba mate may help lower blood sugar and reduce complications associated with diabetes.

In fact, one animal study found that it could even improve insulin signaling (19Trusted Source).

It may also reduce the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which are involved in the development and worsening of many conditions, including diabetes (20Trusted Source21Trusted Source22Trusted Source).

In one 2011 study, people with type 2 diabetes consumed 11 ounces (oz), or 330 milliliters (mL), of yerba mate three times daily. After 2 months, they had significantly lower levels of fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, a marker of long-term blood sugar control (23Trusted Source).

Still, more high quality research is needed to understand how yerba mate may affect blood sugar levels in humans.

SUMMARYYerba mate may improve insulin signaling and blood sugar control. However, more human research is needed.

7. May lower your risk of heart disease

Yerba mate contains antioxidant compounds, such as caffeoyl derivatives and polyphenols, which may protect against heart disease (3Trusted Source).

Some animal studies also report that mate extract may provide some protection against heart disease (24Trusted Source25Trusted Source).

In humans, yerba mate seems to reduce cholesterol levels.

One study in 119 females with overweight found that daily consumption of yerba mate led to reductions total and LDL (bad) cholesterol over a 12-week period. What’s more, yerba mate also significantly reduced levels of triglycerides when paired with a low calorie diet (26Trusted Source).

That said, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be reached, as some studies have found that yerba mate has no significant effect on cholesterol levels (27Trusted Source).

SUMMARYYerba mate’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering properties may help protect against heart disease.

How to prepare yerba mate

Yerba mate is traditionally served in a container called a gourd, also known as a calabash (5Trusted Source).

It’s commonly sipped through a metal straw that has a filter on its lower end to strain out the leaf fragments.

To prepare mate, fill the bottom third of the calabash with dried or toasted mate leaves prior to adding hot water.

If you do not own a calabash, you can prepare it in a French press.

The tea is often served with burnt sugar, lemon juice, or milk and can be topped off with hot water several times before using new leaves to make a new batch.

Although traditionally consumed hot, yerba mate may also be served cold, especially in hot climates.

SUMMARYYerba mate can be consumed hot or cold and is prepared similarly to other loose teas. It’s traditionally served in a gourd, or calabash.

Safety and side effects

Yerba mate is unlikely to cause harm to healthy adults who drink it occasionally.

However, those who drink it regularly may be at increased risk of several conditions.


Studies show that drinking large amounts of yerba mate for a long time may increase your risk of upper respiratory and digestive tract cancers (28Trusted Source29Trusted Source30Trusted Source).

One possible explanation is that mate contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known carcinogens also found in tobacco smoke and grilled meat (28Trusted Source).

It’s also often consumed at very hot temperatures. This could damage respiratory and digestive tract lining, increasing your risk of cancerous cell formation (5Trusted Source30Trusted Source).

However, some compounds in it may protect against other types of cancer (31Trusted Source32Trusted Source).

Caffeine-related side effects

Yerba mate contains caffeine. Too much caffeine can cause headaches, migraines, and high blood pressure in some individuals (33Trusted Source).

Pregnant people should limit mate intake to a maximum of 12 oz (355 mL) per day. Too much caffeine may increase your risk of miscarriage and preterm birth (34).

Medication interactions

Studies show that certain compounds in yerba mate have monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) activity. MAOIs are often prescribed as medications for depression and Parkinson’s disease (35Trusted Source).

Therefore, individuals taking MAOI drugs should use yerba mate with caution.

Finally, due to its caffeine content, it may also interact with the muscle relaxant Zanaflex or the antidepressant Luvox. Individuals taking these drugs should avoid yerba mate, as it can increase the effects of the drugs (36Trusted Source).

SUMMARYFrequent consumption of yerba mate may increase your risk of certain cancers. Pregnant people and individuals sensitive to caffeine or taking certain prescribed medications should drink it with caution.

The bottom line

Yerba mate may not be suitable for everyone, and drinking it regularly at very hot temperatures may increase your risk of certain cancers.

However, this beverage also contains various beneficial compounds linked to impressive health benefits.

If you’d like to give yerba mate a try, start slowly and make sure to let it cool a little before drinking it.