Health Care Professional Information
Yerba mate, St. Bartholomew’s tea, Jesuit’s tea, ilex, hervea, guyaki Paraguay tea
Mate is a plant native to South America. It is consumed in the form of a beverage in a social setting and is also used in traditional medicine. Mate is valued for its stimulatory effects and is promoted as a dietary supplement for weight loss, for cardiovascular diseases, and for cancer prevention.
Mate demonstrated antioxidant activity (11) and cardioprotective effects via regulation of nitric oxide (12) in vitro. In addition, constituents of mate exhibited proteasome (13) and topoisomerase (16) inhibitory properties. But no large scale clinical studies have evaluated its efficacy in humans. Epidemiologic data indicate that chronic mate drinkers are at an increased risk of bladder (1) (2) (3), esophageal (4) (18), lung (5), and head and neck cancers (9).
Frequently reported adverse effects include insomnia, restlessness, agitation, nausea, vomiting, and headache (6). Yerba mate may interact with prescription medications. Due to its antioxidant activity, mate may interfere with some chemotherapy drugs.
- Appetite suppression
- Central nervous system stimulation
- Fatigue Headaches
- Promote urination
- Xanthene alkaloids: 1-2% caffeine, 0.45-0.9% theobromine, 0.05% theophylline
- Tannins: 4-16% caffeic and chlorogenic acids
- Amines: Choline and trigonelline
- Amino acids
- Flavonoids: Kaemferol, quercetin, and rutin · Volatile Oils
- Other constituents: Ursolic acid (antitumor agent), vitamins B2, B6, C, niacin, pantothenic acid
Mechanism of Action
Mate's stimulant effects are due to its caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine components. A product containing Mate was found to delay gastric emptying (10). However, it is unclear if that contributes to mate's weight loss effects. In vitro studies showed that mate has antioxidant activity, (11) which is thought to be due to its polyphenolic content, (17) and exhibits cardioprotective effects via regulation of nitric oxide (12).
Research on anticancer activities demonstrated that mate extract inhibits proteasome (13) and topoisomerase (16). It also reduced DNA damage from oxidative stress (11). However, other studies show mate drinks have high concentration of carcinogenic compounds, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (15). In addition, the high temperature of water used to steep mate is thought to facilitate solubility and absorption of these substances (9), which may explain its association with incidence of cancer.
High doses and prolonged consumption of mate tea are associated with an increased risk of certain cancers.
- Patients with hypertension, cardiac disorders, and anxiety should not consume mate.
- Women who are pregnant or breast feeding should not consume mate.
Reported: Insomnia, anxiety, tremors, restlessness, agitation, nausea and vomiting, palpitations, and headache.
Chemotherapy: Due to its antioxidant activity, mate may interfere with some chemo drugs (11).
Herb Lab Interactions
Due to the caffeine content in mate, the following lab tests may be altered:
- Blood pressure
- Catecholamine levels
- Bleeding time as measured by PT, aPTT, or INR
Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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- De Stefani E, Correa P, Fierro L, et al. Black tobacco, mate, and bladder cancer. A case-control study from Uruguay. Cancer. Jan 15 1991;67(2):536-540.
- De Stefani E, Boffetta P, Deneo-Pellegrini H, et al. Non-alcoholic beverages and risk of bladder cancer in Uruguay. BMC Cancer. 2007;7:57.
- Bates MN, Hopenhayn C, Rey OA, et al. Bladder cancer and mate consumption in Argentina: a case-control study. Cancer Lett. Feb 8 2007;246(1-2):268-273.
- Pintos J, Franco EL, Oliveira BV, et al. Mate, coffee, and tea consumption and risk of cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract in southern Brazil. Epidemiology. Nov 1994;5(6):583-590.
- De Stefani E, Fierro L, Correa P, et al. Mate drinking and risk of lung cancer in males: a case-control study from Uruguay. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. Jul 1996;5(7):515-519.
- Schulz V, Rudolf H, Tyler V. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. 3rd ed. Berlin (Germany): Springer; 1998.
- Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 3rd ed. Sandy (OR): Eclectic Medical Publications; 2001.
- Bisset N. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart (Germany): CRC Press; 1994.
- Goldenberg D, Lee J, Koch WM, et al. Habitual risk factors for head and neck cancer. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004;131(6):989-93.
- Andersen T, Fogh J. Weight loss and delayed gastric emptying following a South American herbal preparation in overweight patients. J Hum Nutr Diet 2001 Jun;14(3):243-50.
- Miranda DD, Arcari DP, Pedrazzoli J Jr, et al. Protective effects of mate tea (Ilex paraguariensis) on H2O2-induced DNA damage and DNA repair in mice. Mutagenesis 2008 Jul;23(4):261-5. Epub 2008 Feb 27.
- Schinella G, Fantinelli JC, Mosca SM. Cardioprotective effects of Ilex paraguariensis extract: evidence for a nitric oxide-dependent mechanism. Clin Nutr 2005 Jun;24(3):360-6.
- Arbiser JL, Li XC, Hossain CF, et al. Naturally occurring proteasome inhibitors from mate tea (Ilex paraguayensis) serve as models for topical proteasome inhibitors. J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Aug;125(2):207-12.
- Martin I, Lopez-Vilchez MA, Mur A, et al. Neonatal withdrawal syndrome after chronic maternal drinking of mate. Ther Drug Monit 2007 Feb;29(1):127-9.
- Kamangar F, Schantz MM, Abnet CC, et al. High levels of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in mate drinks. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 May;17(5):1262-8.
- Gonzalez de Mejia E, Song YS, Ramirez-Mares MV, Kobayashi H. Effect of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) tea on topoisomerase inhibition and oral carcinoma cell proliferation. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Mar 23;53(6):1966-73.
- Chandra S, De Mejia Gonzalez E. Polyphenolic compounds, antioxidant capacity, and quinone reductase activity of an aqueous extract of Ardisia compressa in comparison to mate (Ilex paraguariensis) and green (Camellia sinensis) teas. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Jun 2;52(11):3583-9.
- Szymañska K, Matos E, Hung RJ, et al. Drinking of maté and the risk of cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract in Latin America: a case-control study. Cancer Causes Control. 2010 Nov;21(11):1799-806.
How It Works
Bottom Line: Regular consumption of mate is associated with increased risk of developing lung, bladder, esophageal, and head and neck cancers.
Mate contains compounds that are thought to have stimulant effects. Mate products have been used for weight loss and for cancer prevention. Laboratory studies suggest that mate has antioxidant effects and inhibitory effects on certain cancer cells. But it has not been shown effective for cancer prevention or as a cancer treatment in humans. Drinking high doses of mate tea can increase the risk of developing certain cancers.
- To lose weight
There is one small clinical study showing a formula containing mate can help to lose weight and delay stomach emptying. However, it is unclear if mate alone has the same effect.
- As a stimulant
Because of its caffeine content, mate is a known stimulant.
- To treat depression
No scientific evidence supports this use.
- To treat headaches
Caffeine may increase the effect of some medications for headache.
- To relieve fatigue
Because of its caffeine content, mate is a known stimulant. However, the increased risk of certain cancers likely outweighs any benefits.
- To promote urination
Mate contains caffeine, which is a diuretic.
- To treat cancer
Constituents in mate can inhibit certain cancer cells in the lab. But this has not been studied in humans.
- High doses and prolonged consumption of mate tea are associated with increased risk of certain cancers (bladder, oral, esophageal, and lung).
- Due to the caffeine content in mate, the following lab tests may be altered: Blood pressure, catecholamine levels, and bleeding time as measured by PT, PTT, or INR.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking chemotherapy drugs (Mate may interfere with the actions of some drugs).
- Restlessness and agitation
- Nausea and vomiting
- One case of liver failure was reported in a heavy mate drinker.
Last updated: September 26, 2012