Yerba mate is a hugely popular caffeinated herbal drink from South America. Yerba mate (pronounced yer-buh mar-tee) is enjoyed as a tea type beverage and is famous for its health benefits and energy boost. Yerba mate contains caffeine, but how much caffeine is in yerba mate? Is it healthier than coffee? and how about energy drinks too? Let’s discuss the caffeine content of yerba mate and what it does to the body.
What is Yerba Mate?
Yerba mate is a super duper popular herb grown in South America that’s made from the Ilex paraguariensis plant. Yerba mate is traditionally enjoyed as a tea or herbal infusion. Yerba mate is native to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. As yerba mate is not from the Camellia sinensis plant (aka the tea plant) it is not technically a tea, but rather a tisane or herbal infusion. Traditionally, yerba mate leaves are hand harvested and hand dried over a fire. The dried herb is steeped in freshly boiled water, just like tea and herbal infusions.
Read more: What is yerba mate and why is it so popular?
Is There Caffeine in Yerba Mate?
Yes! There is caffeine found naturally in the yerba mate plant. Many foods contain caffeine naturally such as chocolate, coffee, tea and lots of other herbs too.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a compound found naturally in plants. Caffeine is used by plants as a natural insect repellent which helps protect the plant from pests. The recommended maximum daily allowance of caffeine is 400mg, however, this amount can be much less for those highly sensitive to the effects of caffeine or for pregnant women.
Caffeine in Yerba Mate vs Coffee
The most common ways to take caffeine are from tea, coffee and chocolate. Around 60 plants naturally contain caffeine including the South American yerba mate plant. Coffee contains around 95mg of caffeine per cup however the actual amount can vary depending on the type of coffee used, the brewed strength and serving size. A large strongly brewed coffee can contain as much as 500mg of caffeine! A regular cup of yerba mate contains around 70-180mg of caffeine depending on whether the leaves are left in the drinking vessel or removed.
Caffeine in Yerba Mate vs Tea
Tea, from the Camellia sinensis plant, has been used for it’s ability to boost alertness and energy for thousands of years. Buddhist monks used tea to help them meditate for longer periods of time. Just like coffee and yerba mate, the caffeine in tea can vary depending on different factors such as steeping time, brewing temperature and amount of tea leaves used. A cup of green tea will contain around 25mg of caffeine and a regular cup of black tea (such as English breakfast) will contain around 40mg of caffeine.
Read more: Caffeine in tea vs caffeine in coffee
Positive vs Negative Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine can have some benefits and some not so nice side effects too. Caffeine is known to help give us an energy boost, improve cognitive function, boost alertness and can even aid in motor skill ability. Some studies even show that caffeine maybe anti aging. However, taking too much caffeine can have some negative effects such as getting the jitters, increased anxiety and disrupted sleep. Some people experience panic attacks when taking too much caffeine. Taking too much caffeine can even increase the risk of heart disease.
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Does Yerba Mate Make you Poop?
Yes, apparently yerba mate can actually help you poop! Reports show that yerba mate has laxative properties that can help reduce bloating, soften stools and help eliminate the bowels. Yerba mate is also high in caffeine, which is known to help with stimulating bowel movements. Yerba mate also contains lots of health boosting benefits including; caffeoyl derivatives, polyphenols, saponins and xanthines, all of which work in keeping the body younger, healthier and more energised.
Read more: Does Matcha Green Tea Make you Poop More?
Caffeine in Yerba Mate vs Red Bull Energy Drinks
A regular 8.4fl oz can of Red Bull Energy Drink contains 80mg of caffeine. A cup of yerba mate contains between 70-180mg of caffeine (dependent on how it is brewed). The caffeine found in yerba mate is naturally occurring. Research shows that both natural and synthetic caffeine has that same effects on the body.
There are many other energy drinks on the market and some even contain yerba mate extracts. The very first energy drink made with caffeine and vitamins was created in 1949 and was called Dr Enuf.
Is Yerba Mate Healthy?
Yerba mate contains lots of health boosting goodness. Yerba mate contains properties such as caffeoyl derivatives, polyphenols, saponins and xanthines. The caffeoyl derivatives and polyphenols are the healthy youth boosting antioxidants that can help to eliminate free radicals from the body. The saponins have have anti inflammatory, antibacterial and immune boosting properties and may also aid in lowering cholesterol. Xanthines are the stimulants, this includes the caffeine found in the leaf. Caffeine can help boost energy levels and mental alertness too.
Read more: How to make a bulletproof yerba mate
Can Yerba Mate get you High?
Yerba mate cannot get you ‘high’. Yerba mate could be considered ‘psychoactive’ rather than ‘psychedelic’. Psychoactive means to affect the mind, whereas psychedelic means to hallucinate and expand consciousness. Yerba mate can help boost mental alertness and improve the mood. Caffeine is the psychoactive stimulant/drug found in the herb. Caffeine works as a stimulant for the central nervous system and helps keeps the mind alert while keeping drowsiness at bay. Caffeine does have a similar chemical make up as some illicit drugs including cocaine! The chemicals in caffeine and the chemicals in cocaine contain the same biochemical mechanisms that can stimulate brain function. So whilst yerba mate cannot provide a ‘trip’ that certain other drugs can, it can indeed stimulate brain function.
Read more: Is it safe to smoke tea and other herbs?
Is There Less Caffeine in Cold Brewed Yerba Mate?
Yes! Cold brewing tea and yerba mate greatly reduces the amount of caffeine present in the drink. The hotter the water, the more caffeine will be extracted from the leaves. Also, cold brewing tea creates a much sweeter and more delicate tasting tea. To make a cup or pitcher of cold brewed tea simply take one teaspoon per one cup of cold water and allow to infuse in the fridge for 4-12 hours. You can even steep tea in sparkling water to create cold brewed sparkling tea. Add sweetener and sliced fruit to taste.
Read more: How to make sun iced tea
Do you Need a Gourd and Bombilla for Yerba Mate?
You do not need a gourd and bombilla to make a great cup of yerba mate. You can easily make a cup of mate tea using a regular tea cup or tea pot. Lots of brands sell tea bag mate and so you may not even need a tea pot or any special steeping equipment at all. Traditionally, yerba mate is served in a special cup known as a ‘gourd’. A gourd can also be known as a cabaça, calabaza, cuia or a porongo. This cup contains a special straw that filters out the leaves, this straw is known as a ‘bombilla’ (pronounced bawm-bee-yah). Gourds are usually made with wood or locally grown vine fruit. The straw is usually metal, however, many gourds and bombillas these days are made with an array of materials.
Read more: How to make a yerba mate sour cocktail
How to Make Yerba Mate
If you are making loose leaf mate, you will need either a tea pot and strainer, a cup infuser or you can even use a French press. Alternatively, use a traditional gourd with bombilla, however note that some gourds will need to be seasoned/cured and may crack with higher water temperatures. Allow the leaves to infuse according to the package instructions, usually 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of freshly boiled water for 3-5 minutes. If you are using tea bag mate, any tea cup will work, following the package instructions, usually 1 tea bag per 1 cup of freshly boiled water for 3-5 minutes. You can add sweetener such as honey or sugar, slices of lemon, you can even add milk. To make iced yerba mate, strongly brew half a cup of yerba mate, add your sweetener to dissolve and pour over a large glass of ice.
Read more: How tea is made around the world
Do you have a favourite way to enjoy yerba mate? Leave a comment below!
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