Tree of Life

Healthy Home Gardening
Yerba maté
Ilex paraguariensis

Type Categories Useful Parts


Aquifoliaceae Family

Ilex Genus
Other Names for this Plant

maté, erva mate, congonha, erveira, Paraguay cayi, Paraguay tea, South American holly, matéteestrauch, erva-verdadeira, St. Bartholomew’s tea, Jesuit’s tea, hervea, caminú, kkiro, kali chaye


Native to subtropical South America. Argentina, southern Chile, Eastern Paraguay, western Uraguay, and southern Brazil

Physical Description
Yerba mate is a widely cultivated, medium-sized evergreen tree that can grow to 20 m high in the wild. Commonly, when cultivated, it is pruned into a shrubby, 4-8 m tall tree to make harvesting easier. Yerba mate is in the holly family, and bears holly-like leaves that are quite stiff and leathery. In the wild it grows near streams, and thrives at 1,500-2,000 feet above sea level. It has graceful, full-leafed branches, and white flowers that produce small red, black, or yellow berries

Compare Species

Water Leaf Order (Holly)
Euasterids II
Euasterids II
Real Stars Group Two
Class of Stars (Daisies)
Core Eudicots
Core Eudicots
Main, Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Half Capsule Seed Division
Magnolia Division
Seed Plants
Real Land Plants
Multiple Spore Sub-Kingdom
Air Pores Sub-Kingdom
Multicellular Land Plants
Multicellular Plants
Cells with a Nucleus

General Information

Name meaning: The word mate is Spanish for "gourd," and refers to the small gourd cup in which the tea beverage traditionally is served throughout South America.

The word hierba is Spanish for grass or herb; yerba is a variant spelling of it which is quite common in Argentina. Mate is from the Quechua mati, meaning "cup". "Yerba maté" is therefore literally the "cup herb."

Yerba mate was has been used as a beverage since the time of the ancient Indians of Brazil and Paraguay. In the early 16th century, Juan de Solís, a Spanish explorer of South America's famed La Plata River, reported that the Guarani Indians of Paraguay brewed a leaf tea that "produced exhilaration and relief from fatigue." The Spaniards tried the beverage and liked it. Their subsequent demand for the tea led the Jesuits to develop plantations of the wild species in Paraguay and yerba mate became known as "Jesuits' tea" or "Paraguay tea."

Medicinal Uses: In addition to its standing as a popular beverage, yerba mate is used as a tonic, diuretic, and as a stimulant to reduce fatigue, suppress appetite, and aid gastric function in herbal medicine systems throughout South America. It also has been used as a depurative (to promote cleansing and excretion of waste). In Brazil, mate is said to stimulate the nervous and muscular systems and is used for digestive problems, renal colic, nerve pain, depression, fatigue, and obesity. A poultice of the leaves also is applied topically to anthrax skin ulcers (for which mate's tannin content - highly astringent - may be the reasoning behind this use).

Yerba mate also has a long history of use worldwide. In Europe it is used for weight loss, physical and mental fatigue, nervous depression, rheumatic pains, and psychogenic- and fatigue-related headaches. In Germany it has become popular as a weight-loss aid. Yerba mate is the subject of a German monograph which lists its approved uses for mental and physical fatigue. In France yerba mate is approved for the treatment of asthenia (weakness or lack of energy), as an aid in weight-loss programs, and as a diuretic. It also appears in the British Herbal Phamacopoeia (1996) and indicated for the treatment of fatigue, weight loss, and headaches. In the U.S., Dr. James Balch, M.D. recommends yerba mate for arthritis, headache, hemorrhoids, fluid retention, obesity, fatigue, stress, constipation, allergies, and hay fever, and states that it "cleanses the blood, tones the nervous system, retards aging, stimulates the mind, controls the appetite, stimulates the production of cortisone, and is believed to enhance the healing powers of other herbs."

Yerba mate now is cultivated in India, and the Indian Ayurvedic Phamacopoeia lists mate for the treatment of psychogenic headaches, nervous depression, fatigue, and rheumatic pains.

Food Uses: The infusion called mate is prepared by steeping dry leaves (and twigs) of yerba maté in hot water, rather than in boiling water like black tea. The flavor of brewed yerba maté is strongly vegetal, herbal, and grassy, reminiscent of some varieties of green tea. Many consider the flavor to be very agreeable, but it is generally bitter if steeped in boiling water, so it is made using hot but not boiling water. Unlike most teas, it does not become bitter and astringent when steeped for extended periods, and the leaves may be infused several times. Additionally, one can purchase flavored maté in many varieties.

In Brazil, a toasted version of maté, known as chá mate or "maté tea", is sold in teabag and loose form, and served, sweetened, in specialized shops, either hot or iced with fruit juice or milk. An iced, sweetened version of toasted maté is sold as an uncarbonated soft drink, with or without fruit flavoring. The toasted variety of maté has less of a bitter flavor and more of a spicy fragrance. When shaken it becomes creamy (since the formed foam gets well mixed and lasts for some time), known as mate batido. It is more popular in the coastal cities of Brazil, as opposed to the far southern states where it is consumed in the traditional way (green, drunk with a silver straw from a shared gourd).

Cultivation: The difficult transplantation of the wild plants meant that domestic plantations were not easily founded. Tree resists transplantation

The rainforest provides a unique environment of shade, high humidity, cool temperatures, and rich organic soil.

Propagation: The mate plants are initially started from seeds.


Cautions or Warnings: Yerba mate contains caffeine and should not be used by those who are sensitive or allergic to caffeine. Excessive consumption of caffeine is contraindicated for persons with high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcers, and other diseases.

Yerba mate should not be consumed excessively and chronically (as it has been documented to increase the risk of certain such cancers as oral and esophageal cancer).

It should not be consumed if you are pregnant or attempting to get pregnant.


Recipes: A leaf tea or infusion is the standard preparation, utilizing 2-4 g of cut leaves in 150 ml of hot water.

Yerba Mate ‘Tea’

Fill the mate gourd 2 3's full. Tilt the gourd on an angle and give it a little shake to let the grinds lean on the side. With the little hollow you've formed, add a little bit of cold water - not much, just enough to moisten it. Leave the gourd on the angle for a few minutes until the water has soaked in. The yerba mate grinds will stay packed against the side of the gourd this way.

Sit the gourd flat again and insert your bombilla. Add enough hot water into the hollowed area to go just below the top of the yerba mate. That's it!

Sip on the yerba mate tea until the gourd is empty. The first drink will be strong but that's the best part. Continue refilling and drinking until there's no taste left in the yerba mate. Once it's gone, go back to step one and start again!

Yerba Maté Energy Pudding

A nutritionally balanced blend of easily digestible high nutrient containing foods, Yerba Maté energy pudding is the ideal pre-exercise snack.

2 bananas

1 cup blueberries

1 2 cup raw, almonds, soaked

2 tsp ground yerba maté (grind to a fine powder using a coffee grinder)

1 tsp lemon juice

1 4 tsp sea salt

Process everything in a food processor

Makes two servings

Nutritional value per serving:

Carbohydrate: 55 grams

Protein: 22 grams

Fat: 18 grams

Refrigerate unused portion

Yerba Maté Salad dressing

2 3 cups balsamic vinegar

1 2 cup hemp oil

1 3 cup water

2 tbsp yerba maté (dry)

1 clove garlic

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried cilantro

1 2 tsp dried thyme

Finely chop grate garlic (or use garlic press). Shake all ingredients together in a bottle. Let sit overnight to allow flavors to infuse and nutrients in yerba mate to be extracted.

Yerba maté
Koehlers Medicinal-Plants 1887 [Image in Public Domain]

Comment: Yerba maté, Ilex paraguariensis

Page Posts: 1

July 12, 2010
Yes, I've heard of this. Never had the slightest idea what it was though. Thanks for sharing it.

Look for Yerba maté on:
Google: Yerba maté Wikipedia: Yerba maté YouTube: Yerba maté
Phylogenetic Tree of Life

Learn how to create a custom
Tree of Life

© Copyright 2006 - 2021 HealthyHomeGardening.com.
All Rights Reserved.
Web Design by Artatom