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Ilex paraguariensis


Ilex paraguariensis 


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Yerba Mate, Mate, Yerbamate, Paraguay Tea, South American Holly, Jesuit’s Tea, St. Bartholemew’s Tea, Caminu, Erva mate


I. paraguariensis tea has been used for hundreds of years as a general medicinal tonic by various South American cultures and is now taken as a tea or dietary supplement for applications such as weight management[1] and fatigue worldwide.  Its discovery in Paraguay (and subsequent cultivation) by the Guarani was considered to be a gift from the gods and it was thought to have spiritual as well as medicinal properties.  Upon harvesting, the leaves and stems are dried by quickly with a wood fire.[2]

I. paraguariensis plant is a shrub-like tree that can grow up to 16 meters tall in its natural habitat and 6 to 8 meters in cultivated settings. It has evergreen leaves, very light green or whitish flowers which produce a red fruit in the fall.

Origin / Habitat

As noted, this plant was originally found in Paraguay, then in various places throughout South America.  During the past 100 years, the availability of the plant as found in native habitats has decreased significantly.  I. paraguariensis is found both growing in the wild and cultivated on plantations in South America where it has become a strong export.  It is primarily cultivated in full sun, but can also thrive in shaded areas.[3]

Chemical Constituents

Alkaloids including caffeine, theophylline theobromine





Chlorogenic acid

Cinnamate esters[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10]

Plant Part Used

Leaves and sometimes stems

Medicinal Uses


Weight management


General tonic

Appetite suppressant

General fatigue

Cardiovascular health

Laxative and digestive complaints

Most Frequently Reported Uses

Weight management


General tonic

Appetite suppressant

General fatigue


Dosage Range


1-4g crude powdered herb per day

Most Common Dosage

Infusion: 1g twice per day


Standardized to

The most commonly used standardization of I. paraguariensis would contain a minimum of 20% caffeoylquinic acid, with 5% chlorogenic acids.



I. paraguariensis demonstrates antioxidant activity [11],[12] that is comparable that of green tea[13] when prepared in a water extract of either the green or roasted plant material.[14] In an animal model, researchers were able to demonstrate that mate tea is not genotoxic in liver, kidney and bladder cells and that the antioxidant activity may exhibit a protective effect on DNA.[15] In addition, an animal model demonstrated a reduction in lung inflammation of animals subjected to cigarette smoke.[16]

Additional investigations into the antioxidant activity and drug potential of I. paraguariensis include pre-clinical work in Parkinson’s disease,[17] atherosclerosis,[18] nitrostrative stress,[19] myocardial dysfunction,[20] diabetic complications,[21] and inhibitioin of low density lipoprotein oxidation.[22],[23] The traditional use of mate teas for cognitive improvement has also been verified in animal studies.[24]

Constituents of I. paraguariensis have demonstrated proteasome inhibiting activity in laboratory settings.  This activity which may have a role in the treatment of neoplastic disease, has been attributed to the cinnamate esters.[25]

I. paraguariensis has been the subject of study as having a potential role in treating obesity and managing weight which is one of the traditional uses of the beverage.  In an animal model, mice fed a high fat diet were administered either 1g/kg or 2g/kg of the herb for sixteen weeks.  Results after eight weeks indicated a decrease in tryglicerides, low density lipoprotein and weight.[26]  In addition to these findings, additional animal models have found that I. paraguariensis modulated the expression of genes related to obesity.[27],[28] Despite these findings, review studies of the available literature have not found enough evidence to support Yerbe Mate as an anti-obesity agent for use in humans.[29],[30]

As noted earlier, I. paraguariensis has been found to be cytotoxic and mutagenic and prolonged use can lead to an increased incident of head and neck cancers.[31],[32],[33]


I. paraguariensis was included as one of three botanicals in a formula (including Guarana and Damiana) in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 47 healthy, overweight individuals.  Treatment of the test group using the herbal preparation resulted in delayed gastric emptying time, perceived fullness and subsequent weight loss.  Continued use, resulted in overall weight management for the participants.[34]  In a separate clinical study of a smaller number of volunteers, I. paraguariensis demonstrated a small drop in respiratory quotient, but none of the herbs tested including the Mate demonstrated properties that would result in weight loss.[35]

A human clinical study of over 500 individuals evaluated the relationship between several non-alcoholic beverages and bladder cancer.  I. paraguariensis was included as one of the beverages reviewed and a correlation was seen between consumption of mate tea and risk of bladder cancer.[36] These findings were repeated in a study that examined the risk of bladder cancer and use of I. paraguariensis tea in smokers and non-smokers.  The risk was higher in smokers who also used I. paraguariensis tea on a regular basis.[37]

Antioxidant properties identified in pre-clinical models have been also demonstrated in a human clinical model of healthy non-smoking women.  Following supplementation with the tea, lipid peroxidation was lowered and total antioxidant status improved and was maintained.[38]

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs


Interaction with Drugs

Due to the caffeine and theobromine content which are central nervous system stimulants, concurrent use of I. paraguariensis may increase the side effects of drugs and dietary supplements such as asthma medications,[43] amphetamines, guarana, ephedra, cold medications, bitter orange, coffee, tea and colas.

There is some evidence that use of caffeine containing products may be associated with an interference of calcium absorption and subsequent bone loss in post-menopausal women[44],[45] possibly due to the relationship between caffeine and estrogen.[46]

Research has indicated that tannins, when taken in conjunction with meals, may decrease the bioavailability of minerals such as zinc, iron and copper.[47]

I. paraguariensis may interfere with the intended effects of sleep aids and anti-anxiety medications.[43]

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Not to be used by those with hypertension, heart disease, anxiety disorders, thyroid disease, osteoporosis or kidney disease.

The caffeine content of I. paraguariensis, though less than that of coffee, can interfere with sleep, increase nervousness, cause restlessness, lead to irregular heartbeat and increase blood pressure.

There have been numerous investigations into the possible link between consumption of I. paraguariensis and head and neck cancers.[31],[39]  The carcinogenic nature of I. paraguariensis is not fully understood, but reviews have repeatedly found links with development of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus[40] possibly due to the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.[41] Regardless of the nature of this link, studies have indicated that I. paraguariensis is cytotoxic and mutagenic.[31]  In addition, a correlation between bladder cancer risk and I. paraguariensis consumption has been identified.[42]


Not to be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Age limitation

Not to be used with children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1) South Central America Herbs


  1. Dickel ML, Rates SM, Ritter MR.Plants popularly used for losing weight purposes in Porto Alleger, South Brazil. J Ethnopharmacol. 3Jan2007;109(1):60-71.
  2. Pan American Union.Yerba Mate: The Tea Of South America (1916). PAU Literary Collection, 2009.5-20. American Geographical Society. Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Volume 37.  American Geographical Society of New York.1905.413-415.
  3. Sugimoto S, Nakamura S, Yamamoto S, Yamashita C, Oda Y, Matsuda H, Yoshikawa M.
  4. Brazilian natural medicines. III. structures of triterpene oligoglycosides and lipase inhibitors from mate, leaves of Ilex paraguariensis. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). Mar2009;57(3):257-261.
  5. Heck CI, Schmalko M, Gonzalez de Mejia E.Effect of growing and drying conditions on the phenolic composition of mate teas (Ilex paraguariensis). 1: J Agric Food Chem. 24Sep2008;56(18):8394-8403.
  6. Strassmann BB, Vieira AR, Pedrotti EL, Morais HN, Dias PF, Maraschin M.Quantitation of methylxanthinic alkaloids and phenolic compounds in mate (Ilex paraguariensis) and their effects on blood vessel formation in chick embryos. J Agric Food Chem. 24Sep2008;56(18):8348-8353.
  7. Gnoatto SC, Dassonville-Klimpt A, Da Nascimento S, Galéra P, Boumediene K, Gosmann G, Sonnet P, Moslemi S.Evaluation of ursolic acid isolated from Ilex paraguariensis and derivatives on aromatase inhibition. Eur J Med Chem. Sep2008;43(9):1865-1877.
  8. Heck CI, de Mejia EG.Yerba Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis): a comprehensive review on chemistry, health implications, and technological considerations. J Food Sci. Nov2007;72(9):138-151.
  9. Arbiser JL, Li XC, Hossain CF, Nagle DG, Smith DM, Miller P, Govindarajan B, DiCarlo J, Landis-Piwowar KR, Dou QP.Naturally occurring proteasome inhibitors from mate tea (Ilex paraguayensis) serve as models for topical proteasome inhibitors. J Invest Dermatol. Aug2005;125(2):207-212.
  10. Saldaña MD, Mohamed RS, Baer MG, Mazzafera P.Extraction of purine alkaloids from maté (Ilex paraguariensis) using supercritical CO2. J Agric Food Chem. Sep1999;47(9):3804-3808.
  11. Actis-Goretta L, Mackenzie GG, Oteiza PI, Fraga CG.Comparative study on the antioxidant capacity of wines and other plant-derived beverages. Ann N Y Acad Sci. May2002;957:279-283.
  12. Colpo G, Trevisol F, Teixeira AM, Fachinetto R, Pereira RP, Athayde ML, Rocha JB, Burger ME.Ilex paraguariensis has antioxidant potential and attenuates haloperidol-induced orofacial dyskinesia and memory dysfunction in rats. Neurotox Res. Oct2007;12(3):171-180.
  13. Lunceford N, Gugliucci A.Ilex paraguariensis extracts inhibit AGE formation.Ilex paraguariensis extracts inhibit AGE formation more efficiently than green tea. Fitoterapia. Jul2005;76(5):419-427.
  14. Bastos DH, Saldanha LA, Catharino RR, Sawaya AC, Cunha IB, Carvalho PO, Eberlin MN. Phenolic antioxidants identified by ESI-MS from Yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) and green tea (Camelia sinensis) extracts. Molecules. 12Mar2007;12(3):423-432.
  15. Miranda DD, Arçari DP, Pedrazzoli J Jr, Carvalho Pde O, Cerutti SM, Bastos DH, Ribeiro ML. Protective effects of mate tea (Ilex paraguariensis) on H2O2-induced DNA damage and DNA repair in mice. Mutagenesis. Jul2008;23(4):261-265.
  16. Lanzetti M, Bezerra FS, Romana-Souza B, Brando-Lima AC, Koatz VL, Porto LC, Valenca SS.Mate tea reduced acute lung inflammation in mice exposed to cigarette smoke. Nutrition. Apr2008;24(4):375-381.
  17. Milioli EM, Cologni P, Santos CC, Marcos TD, Yunes VM, Fernandes MS, Schoenfelder T, Costa-Campos L.Effect of acute administration of hydroalcohol extract of Ilex paraguariensis St Hilaire (Aquifoliaceae) in animal models of Parkinson's disease. Phytother Res. Aug2007;21(8):771-776.
  18. Mosimann AL, Wilhelm-Filho D, da Silva EL.Aqueous extract of Ilex paraguariensis attenuates the progression of atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rabbits. Biofactors. 2006;26(1):59-70.
  19. Bixby M, Spieler L, Menini T, Gugliucci A.Ilex paraguariensis extracts are potent inhibitors of nitrosative stress: a comparative study with green tea and wines using a protein nitration model and mammalian cell cytotoxicity. Life Sci. 3Jun2005;77(3):345-358.
  20. Schinella G, Fantinelli JC, Mosca SM.Cardioprotective effects of Ilex paraguariensis extract: evidence for a nitric oxide-dependent mechanism. Clin Nutr. Jun2005;24(3):360-366.
  21. Gugliucci A, Menini T.The botanical extracts of Achyrocline satureoides and Ilex paraguariensis prevent methylglyoxal-induced inhibition of plasminogen and antithrombin III. Life Sci. 6Dec2002;72(3):279-292.
  22. Gugliucci A.Antioxidant effects of Ilex paraguariensis: induction of decreased oxidability of human LDL in vivo. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 16Jul1996;224(2):338-344.
  23. Gugliucci A, Stahl AJ.Low density lipoprotein oxidation is inhibited by extracts of Ilex paraguariensis. Biochem Mol Biol Int. Jan1995;35(1):47-56.
  24. Prediger RD, Fernandes MS, Rial D, Wopereis S, Pereira VS, Bosse TS, Da Silva CB, Carradore RS, Machado MS, Cechinel-Filho V, Costa-Campos L.Effects of acute administration of the hydroalcoholic extract of mate tea leaves (Ilex paraguariensis) in animal models of learning and memory. J Ethnopharmacol. 8Dec2008;120(3):465-473.
  25. Arbiser JL, Li XC, Hossain CF, Nagle DG, Smith DM, Miller P, Govindarajan B, DiCarlo J, Landis-Piwowar KR, Dou QP.Naturally occurring proteasome inhibitors from mate tea (Ilex paraguayensis) serve as models for topical proteasome inhibitors. J Invest Dermatol. Aug2005;125(2):207-212.
  26. Martins F, Noso TM, Porto VB, Curiel A, Gambero A, Bastos DH, Ribeiro ML, Carvalho PD. Maté Tea Inhibits In Vitro Pancreatic Lipase Activity and Has Hypolipidemic Effect on High-fat Diet-induced Obese Mice. Obesity (Silver Spring). 18Jun2009.
  27. Arçari DP, Bartchewsky W, Dos Santos TW, Oliveira KA, Funck A, Pedrazzoli J, de Souza MF, Saad MJ, Bastos DH, Gambero A, Carvalho PD, Ribeiro ML.Antiobesity Effects of yerba maté Extract (Ilex paraguariensis) in High-fat Diet-induced Obese Mice. Obesity (Silver Spring). 14May2009.
  28. Pang J, Choi Y, Park T.Ilex paraguariensis extract ameliorates obesity induced by high-fat diet: potential role of AMPK in the visceral adipose tissue. Arch Biochem Biophys. 15 Aug 2008;476(2):178-185.
  29. Dickel ML, Rates SM, Ritter MR.Plants popularly used for losing weight purposes in Porto Alegre, South Brazil. J Ethnopharmacol. 3Jan2007;109(1):60-71.
  30. Pittler MH, Ernst E.Dietary supplements for body-weight reduction: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. Apr2004;79(4):529-536.
  31. Wnuk M, Lewinska A, Oklejewicz B, Bugno M, Slota E, Bartosz G.Evaluation of the cyto- and genotoxic activity of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) in human lymphocytes in vitro. Mutat Res. 4Sep2009.
  32. Loria D, Barrios E, Zanetti R.Cancer and yerba mate consumption: a review of possible associations. Rev Panam Salud Publica. Jun2009;25(6):530-535.
  33. Kamangar F, Schantz MM, Abnet CC, Fagundes RB, Dawsey SM.High levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in mate drinks. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. May2008;17(5):1262-1268.
  34. Andersen T, Fogh J.Weight loss and delayed gastric emptying following a South American herbal preparation in overweight patients. J Hum Nutr Diet. Jun2001;14(3):243-250.
  35. Martinet A, Hostettmann K, Schutz Y.Thermogenic effects of commercially available plant preparations aimed at treating human obesity. Phytomedicine. Oct1999;6(4):231-238.
  36. De Stefani E, Boffetta P, Deneo-Pellegrini H, Correa P, Ronco AL, Brennan P, Ferro G, Acosta G, Mendilaharsu M.Non-alcoholic beverages and risk of bladder cancer in Uruguay. BMC Cancer. 29Mar2007;7:57.
  37. Bates MN, Hopenhayn C, Rey OA, Moore LE.Bladder cancer and mate consumption in Argentina: a case-control study. Cancer Lett. 8Feb2007;246(1-2):268-273.
  38. Matsumoto RL, Bastos DH, Mendonça S, Nunes VS, Bartchewsky W, Ribeiro ML, de Oliveira Carvalho P.Effects of Mate Tea (Ilex paraguariensis) Ingestion on mRNA Expression of Antioxidant Enzymes, Lipid Peroxidation, and Total Antioxidant Status in Healthy Young Women. J Agric Food Chem. 16Feb2009.
  39. Loria D, Barrios E, Zanetti R.Cancer and yerba mate consumption: a review of possible associations. Rev Panam Salud Publica. Jun2009;25(6):530-539.
  40. Goldenberg D, Golz A, Joachims HZ.The beverage maté: a risk factor for cancer of the head and neck. Head Neck. Jul2003;25(7):595-601.
  41. Kamangar F, Schantz MM, Abnet CC, Fagundes RB, Dawsey SM.High levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in mate drinks. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. May2008;17(5):1262-1268.
  42. De Stefani E, Boffetta P, Deneo-Pellegrini H, Correa P, Ronco AL, Brennan P, Ferro G, Acosta G, Mendilaharsu M.Non-alcoholic beverages and risk of bladder cancer in Uruguay. BMC Cancer. 29Mar 2007;7:57.
  43. US Army Center for Health Promotion and Wellness. Available from: . [Accessed on 18 September 2009].
  44. Vondracek SF, Hansen LB, McDermott MT.Osteoporosis risk in premenopausal women. Pharmacotherapy. Mar2009;29(3):305-317.
  45. Rapuri PB, Gallagher JC, Kinyamu HK, Ryschon KL.Caffeine intake increases the rate of bone loss in elderly women and interacts with vitamin D receptor genotypes. Am J Clin Nutr. Nov2001;74(5):694-700.
  46. Zhou Y, Zhu ZL, Guan XX, Hou WW, Yu HY.Reciprocal roles between caffeine and estrogen on bone via differently regulating cAMP/PKA pathway: the possible mechanism for caffeine-induced osteoporosis in women and estrogen's antagonistic effects. Med Hypotheses. Jul2009;73(1):83-85.
  47. Pizarro F, Olivares M, Hertrampf E, Walter T.Factors which modify the nutritional state of iron: tannin content of herbal teas. Arch Latinoam Nutr. Dec1994;44(4):277-280.

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