The Collison Newsletter September 2013



Yerba maté, known as ‘South America's green tea’, is a unique, delicious and nutritious tea grown solely in sub-tropical South America.


Yerba maté, Ilex paraguaruensis, is a species of holly (family Aquifoliaceae) native to sub-tropical South America, a shrub or small tree with evergreen leaves.


Yerba is a variant spelling of the word hierba, Spanish for grass or herb. Mate is from the Quechua mati, meaning 'cup'. 'Yerba mate’ is therefore literally the 'cup herb'. Both the spellings 'mate' and 'maté' are used in English. The acute accent on the final letter serves to indicate that the word and its pronunciation are distinct from the common English word 'mate'. It is, however, suggested that the second syllable should not be accented in certain countries, since doing so may confuse the word with an unrelated Spanish word for killing (Maté literally means "[I] killed" in Spanish). In Australia, maté with emphasis on the é, is correct.


The leaves are picked when they are mature, then directly exposed to heat from fire, which slows the process of fermentation and oxidation. Then, for three hours, they are exposed to temperatures of 100°C (212° F). Once dried, the leaves can be crushed, or used to make an infusion.


Once the leaves are dried, they can be crushed. This is called toasted Yerba maté. It is then put through an ageing process which gives flavour, colour and aroma.


The infusion, called maté, is prepared by steeping the dried leaves (with or without stems) of Yerba maté in near boiling water. The flavour is strongly vegetal, herbal and reminiscent of varieties of green tea. It is generally bitter if steeped in boiling water. Prolonged boiling eliminates the oxygen dissolved in the water, thus affecting the quality and natural benefits of the infusion.


Maté is said to contribute to health and vitality. It "boosts energy, fights fatigue, is rich in antioxidants and minerals, reduces appetite, balances the body in all its functions and contains less caffeine than coffee" (


Maté contains three xanthines: caffeine, theobromine and theophylline, the main xanthine being caffeine. The caffeine content varies between 0.7% and 2.0% of dry weight, the theobromine content varies from 0.3-0.9%, and theophylline is present in only small quantities.


Caffeine Content Comparison of Common Beverages (

Plant BeverageCaffeine content Average caffeine in
  180ml beverage
Yerba maté leaves 0.7-2.0%50-100mg
Coffee beans1.0-2.5%100-250mg
Black tea2.5-4.5%10-60mg
Chocolate (cacao seed)0.25%13mg

Studies of maté, though limited in number, have shown preliminary evidence that the maté xanthine cocktail is different from other plants containing caffeine most significantly in its effects on muscle tissue, as opposed to those on the central nervous system (CNS), which are similar to those of  other natural stimulants. The three xanthines present in maté have been shown to have a relaxing effect on smooth muscle tissue, and a stimulating effect on myocardial (heart) tissue. This latter effect is due to the theophylline content which stimulates heart muscle. Fatigue is relieved due to the CNS stimulation. All three xanthines have a diuretic effect.


The mineral content of maté contains elements such as potassium, manganese and magnesium.


In mouse studies, ilex paraguensis tea (refer to paragraph 2 of this article) has been shown to lessen the tendency towards obesity induced by high-fat diet. In healthy dyslipidemic (abnormal blood fats) subjects, the consumption of Yerba maté improves serum lipid parameters, lowering cholesterol.


Yerba maté also has significant antioxidant properties.


The main uses of Yerba mate are:

  • As a stimulant (from the caffeine content) 
  • As an overall tonic (tones, balances and strengthens the body and the immune system) 
  • To relieve fatigue 
  • As a general nervine (A nervine is a plant remedy that has a beneficial effect upon the nervous system) 
  • To help in the management of mild depression 
  • As an appetite suppressant in the management of obesity. 

Yerba maté can be obtained from Yerba Maté Australia: for example tea bags (25 pack - A$4) or loose leaf, with or without stems (1kg - A$9). 

Caution: Yerba maté contains caffeine.




*Copyright 2013: The Huntly Centre.

Disclaimer: All material in the website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.  

Back to the list  Print friendly version