by Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac.
There’s nothing like waking up early in the morning and enjoying a hot drink to start the day. And all the better if that hot drink can help you wake up and give you more clarity and focus.
Over the years I’ve grown increasingly sensitive to coffee and even just half a cup is enough to give me heart palpitations and heartburn. Plus, I’m well aware that driving up my cortisol with too much caffeine can have some painstaking long term effects. That’s why I’m grateful for having discovered (and recently rediscovered) the magical Yerba Mate.
Yerba mate is a tea made from the dried leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, and is an excellent substitute for coffee, black tea and other high caffeine drinks. Plus its slightly bitter, smoky flavor makes it less of a compromise than most coffee substitutes.
It’s traditionally consumed in South America from a container called a gourd and sipped with a metal straw with an attached filter at its lower end to strain out the leaf fragments.
The health benefits of Yerba Mate are extraordinary, and its ability to give you a kick of energy without compromising longevity are one-of-a-kind. Here are five key benefits of switching to Mate in the morning.
5 Reasons to Drink Yerba Mate
Strengthens Your Body & Boosts Your Immunity
Yerba mate is rich in nutrients and antioxidants. It contains high concentrations of vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, C, and E, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur and zinc.
Unlike coffee, which can interfere with the body’s absorption of minerals, the high mineral content of Yerba Mate protects against bone density loss.
Plus, its metabolic boosters increase energy, and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties provide excellent immune boosters.
Gives You Energy without Caffeine Jitters
There is currently a debate about the chemical nature of the stimulant in Yerba Mate. While North American chemists say it contains caffeine, South Americans claim it contains a unique molecule known as mateine, which has the same chemical formula but a different molecular shape from caffeine.
Because of this difference, mateine is absorbed and processed differently by the body, providing an adaptogenic effect, which means it increases the body's ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.
As an adaptogen, Yerba Mate produces no toxins, creates a non-specific response in the body and works in a bidirectional manner.
Yerba Mate is also a great substitute for coffee and most tea since its adaptogenic properties prevent it from elevating your cortisol levels and creating the ‘fight or flight’ stress response that can lead to adrenal fatigue.
My personal experience with Mate has convinced me that the South Americans are onto something—I’m very sensitive to caffeine in coffee and tea, but I can easily have a restful night of sleep just an hour or two after drinking a cup of Yerba Mate. With that said, I suggest drinking the hot tea rather than canned Yerba Mate because of alterations and loss of benefits that can result from excessive steeping of this tea.
Clears Toxins from Your Body
Yerba Mate contains saponins, which are phytochemicals found in plants and nearly all adaptogenic herbs. Saponins have a unique chemical structure that produces foam when mixed with water, and can bind with water as well as fats and oils. In the digestive tract, saponins bind to bile acids and help eliminate them from the body, preventing cholesterol from being reabsorbed.
In other words, saponins work like a detergent to clear toxins from your body.
Helps Improve Digestion & Elimination
Yerba Mate contains compounds such as xanthines that are known to relax the muscles to aid digestion, especially with cramping, constipation or bloating.
While coffee and tea can cause stomach upset while potentially damaging your stomach lining, Yerba mate aids digestion by stimulating increased production of bile and other gastric acids.
It also helps to effectively and efficiently eliminate waste from your colon by clearing heat in the Stomach, which in excess can cause constipation, bad breath and even ulcers.
Can Help You Get Rid of Stubborn Belly Fat
Research suggests that Yerba Mate can increase the amount of stored fat that's burned for energy .
Furthermore, in a 12-week study in overweight people, those given 3 grams of yerba mate powder per day lost an average of 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg) and reduced their waist-to-hip ratio by 2%, while the participants given a placebo gained an average of 6.2 pounds (2.8 kg) and increased their waist-to-hip ratio by 1% over the same 12-week period .
So if you’re looking for a healthy alternative to coffee or caffeinated tea without compromising the energy and focus, try a fresh brewed cup of Yerba Mate to start your day.
Cornell University. Department of Animal Science - Plants Poisonous to Livestock. Updated 09/10/2015 14:58:48.
Setareh Moafi, Ph.D., L.Ac. is Co-Owner and Director of A Center for Natural Healing in Santa Clara, California, a health and wellness clinic that specializes in Classical Chinese Medicine and Traditional Japanese Acupuncture. Setareh offers clinical services and transformational workshops that blend the ancient practices of Classical Chinese Medicine and Yoga.