Yerba mate has become popular recently in the United States. It has also been associated with numerous health benefits, and is slowly making an appearance on the K-State campus.
The herb originated from subtropical South America in northeastern Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. The first humans to tame and understand the benefits of the wild herb were the Guaraní people. After the Spanish conquered the native inhabitants of South America, the tradition of consuming this product was adopted by the new settlers as well.
It is traditionally brewed or served cold in a little container made of “palo santo” hardwood, bovine horn or sometimes aluminum. The soaked leaves are then sipped dry through a metal straw, also known as a “bombilla.” The bombilla has a filter on one end to stop the ground leaves from being swallowed. Warm or cold water is carried around in leather-coated containers called “termo de terere.” These containers have personalized leather designs, traditional and modern embroidery patterns, and often the name of the owner.
The trend has migrated from South America, and has become popular in North America. Even some K-State students can be seen carrying the containers of yerba mate.
Yerba mate also has many health benefits. Several medical experts have praised yerba mate as benefiting the overall health of the drinker. For example, the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (also known as the British Herbal Medicine Association) indicated that the herb was ideal for the treatment of chronic fatigue, weight loss and headaches produced by stress.
Dr. James Balch, M.D., who’s done extensive research on antioxidants, recommends yerba mate for arthritis, pains, hemorrhoids, fluid retention, obesity, weariness, anxiety, constipation, and maintenance of healthy kidneys.
Dr. Mowrey, Director of Mountainwest Institute of Herbal Sciences, stated that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.” These include 11 poly-phenols—powerful antioxidants that are believed to help prevent cancer by reducing the replication of deformed cells containing damaged or altered genetic code.
While some people seem to attribute nearly magical properties to this ancient drink, it is worth pondering that before humans knew what cancer, DNA and poly-phenols were, ancient South Americans tribesmen were already drinking it to stay sharp and nourished while hunting for food centuries ago.