An herb entry from the Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs book by James K. Sayre, Copyright, 2001. All rights reserved.


Yerba Maté - Ilex paraguariensis (Ilex paraguensis) - family: Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family).

This is an evergreen shrub or small tree that grows up to about twenty feet high. It has large leathery toothed oval-to-oblong-shaped dark green leaves and produces clusters (cymes) of small greenish-white flowers, which are followed by small red berries. Each berry contains several small seeds. Its leaves contain a high concentration caffeine in them (up to about two percent). Caffeine is a bitter white alkaloid with the formula C8H10N4O2.H2O. Traditional use as a folk beverage in much of South America and it is used in the manner of Coffee, Coffea arabica, and Tea, Camellis sinensis, that is, as a nerve stimulant. Maté has also been used as a South American folk remedy to treat diabetes, fatigue, depression, headaches, migraines, nerve pain, rheumatism, and urinary tract infections. Approved by the German Commission E as a remedy for fatigue. Traditionally, in South America, this drink was often sweetened with the leaves of Stevia rebaudiana, a native plant that grows in the same area as Maté. Maté may be useful for those suffering from low blood pressure (hypotension). Modern American folk use as an appetite suppressant and thus as a possible aid for weight loss. It is often available at a very economical prices in bulk kilogram (2.2 pound) boxes in Mexican-owned grocery stores in North America. When it is cultivated, it is kept trimmed to a few feet high for ease of harvesting its leaves. Note: if you are pregnant, use in moderation if at all, due to its caffeine content. Note: caffeine content may cause insomnia. It is interesting to note that caffeine is used by some plants to discourage insect attacks. In his brilliant and very readable book, A Neotropical Companion, John Kricher points out that caffeine is used by some plants to discourage insects from eating its leaves [Kricher]. In other words, caffeine is a sort of plant insecticide. Native to Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in South America. Naturalized in Hawai'i. Cultivated as an ornamental and as an herb crop in Hawai'i. Cultivated as an ornamental and as an herb crop in South America.



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Web page last updated on 26 May 2003.