The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Research Ongoing Into the Many Health
Benefits of Yerba Mate Herbal Tea
The yerba mate plant (Ilex paraguariensis) a member of the holly family, and
grown primarily in
Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay has been shown to have sev-
eral health benefits, with much research still ongoing.
With higher antioxidant lev-
els than green tea, yerba
mate has shown in verified
research studies to be highly toxic, killing
some types of cancer cells.  It's also shown
to be effective at lowering cholesterol and
triglcerides, along with anti-inflammatory
properties, effectively inhibiting arthero-
sclerosis and other heart related diseases.
Research has also shown some results in
weight loss and weight management, with
studies in this area still underway.

Along with its disease killing properties, it
also provides other physical and mental att-
ributes, such as increasing mental alertness,
energizing, and promoting a feeling of well
being.  Yerba mate also contains several
vitamins, minerals, and compounds which are important for proper metabolism, growth, and
development.

So what is in yerba mate that makes it so healthy?  Let's take a clo-
ser look.  Studies have shown yerba mate to have higher levels of
antioxidants than even
green tea (which is also high in antioxidants,
and has some of the
health benefits and cancer fighting attributes).
The anti- oxidants in yerba mate are in the form of caffeoyl deriva-
tives or the polyphenol compound, chlorogenic acid. In a study done
by the University of Illinois, human colon cancer cells were treated with caffeoylquinic acid (a
derivative of yerba mate) with an amount equal to that of one cup of tea, causing the cancer
cells to suffer apoptosis or cellular death.

Elvira de Mejia, Associate Professor of Food
Chemistry and Toxicology at the University of
Illinois says of the promising discovery, "The
derivatives of caffeine in
yerba mate not only
induce death in human colon cancer cells, they
also reduce important indicators of inflamma-
tion.  This is important, since inflammation can
unleash the spread of cancer.  Briefly, the can-
cer cell destroys itself due to harm to its DNA."

The study further suggested that the caffeine
derivatives found in yerba mate are possible
anti-cancer agents and could be of use in other
diseases associated with inflammation.

         In studies, the antioxidant chlorogenic acid has also been shown to slow the release of
         glucose into the bloodstream after a meal which could be useful in other diseases, in-
         cluding
diabetes, where the antioxidant epicatechin (EC) found in green tea regenerat-
         ed beta cells and acted with insulin like properties in the body.  (Research on this is still
         underway and green tea is not considered a treatment for diabetes at this time).

         The
caffeine in yerba mate comes from a family of chemicals called
         methyl xanthines which contain caffeine, theobromine, and theophy-
         lline, with caffeine the strongest of the three.  The three compounds
         act as stimulants to the central nervous system which accounts for
         the uplifting, invigorating feeling and mental boost soon after drinking
         a caffeinated beverage.  Coffee, soda, and chocolate also contain
         xanthines, and the caffeine amounts found in mate are much higher
         and more in line with coffee, than that found in green tea.  

         Lessor amounts of theobromine and theophylline are found in mate,
         with the theobromine the next strongest of the three after caffeine.
         Lastly, theophylline acts in a similar fashion as caffeine and theobromine but is the weak-
         est of the three compounds. Small amounts of theophylline may be found in mate or
         sometimes none is present.

         Limited studies have shown the xanthines in mate to work differently then other plants in
         which it's found.  Rather than working as a stimulant to the central nervous system, the
         xanthines in mate work instead on muscle tissue with the three xanthines together
         shown to have a relaxing effect on smooth muscle and a stimulating effect on heart
         tissue.

         Also found in mate are saponins, compounds responsible for the flavor of yerba mate tea.
         Saponins are also believed to contain the anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering
         properties found in mate tea.

         Several saponins isolated from mate leaves contain ursolic
         acid which is known to have anti-bacterial, antifungal, and
         anti-inflammatory properties. Oleanolic acid, another saponin
         also contains anti-inflammatory and other health benefits as
         well.  Other saponins found in yerba mate have also been
         found to be antiparasitic.

         Yerba mate also contains a whole host of vitamins and minerals important for human
         metabolism and development.  These include minerals aluminum, chromium, copper, iron,
         
nickel, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and zinc.  It also contains trace amounts of lead at levels well below allow-
able limits.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is found in fresh leaves, but after processing decreases by almost 60%. Other vitamins found
in mate are A, B1, and B2.

Like tea, it's plain to see that yerba mate is in the same league, with many of the same attributes and health benefits,
and even higher amounts of some ingredients and why its gaining in popularity
worldwide.  It's also great knowing
there's yet another "weapon" available in the fight to stay healthy today, in the form of a tasty, enjoyable beverage.  
Enjoy.
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