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Yerba Mate
Chemical Features and Therapeutic Properties
From a chemical point of view, Ilex paraguariensis (Yerba Mate) can be evaluated under its food chemical aspect or as a raw material for several byproducts.
Long before its chemical composition was known, Indians used Yerba Mate not only due to the beverage's taste but also and mainly because they knew its virtues, chiefly an increased resistance to fatigue and its thirst and hunger mitigation powers.

Studies show that the Yerba Mate has the following components:
water, cellulose, gums, dextrin, mucilage, glucose, pentose, fat substances, aromatic resin, legumin, albumin, xanthine, theophylline, caffearin, folic acid, caffeic acid, viridic acid, chlorophyll, cholesterin and essence oil.
Ashes contain great amounts of potassium, lithium, folic, sulfuric, carbon, chloric and citric acids, beside magnesium, manganese, iron, aluminum and arsenic traces.

Xanthine, theophylline and theobromine are three strongly related alkaloids found in Yerba Mate and are the most interesting compounds from a therapeutic standpoint.
The Yerba Mate's xanthine rate averages 1.60%, whereas it is 1.10% in infusions.

Average composition of Yerba Mate (100 gr.)
Minimum amount Maximum amount Average amount
Moisture 5.36 9.80 8.17
Proteins 8.30 13.45 10.89
Carbohydrates 9.70 14.18 12.04
Starch 2.56 6.63 4.55
Glucose 1.30 6.14 3.84
Fibers 14.96 19.95 16.96

Mineral composition of Yerba Mate (100 gr.)
Minimum amount Maximum amount Average amount
Ashes 6.310 7.780 6.910
Chlorine (g) 0.082 0.160 0.116
Sulphur 0.082 0.168 0.125
Phosphorus (g) 0.074 0.214 0.120
Calcium 0.597 0.824 0.668
Magnesium 0.134 0.484 0.337
Potassium (g) 1.181 1.554 1.350
Sodium (g) 0.000 0.003 0.002
Iron (mgs) % --- 94.000 59.900
Cuprum (mgs) 0.600 1.600 1.260
Manganese (mgs) 30.200 183.000 133.180

Vitaminic contents of Yerba Mate (100 gr.)
Minimum amount Maximum amount Average amount
Caroffin (mgs) 0.639 2.267 1.234
Caroffin (vitamin A UI) 1.065 3.779 2.095
Thiamin (gamma) 62.300 313.100 222.700
Riboflavin 246.000 573.900 404.300
Ascorbic acid 8.200 20.700 11.900

Therapeutic Properties
Yerba Mate is basically a stimulant drink, eliminates fatigue, stimulating metal and physical activity.
It has a beneficial effect on nerves and muscles; it also enhances intellectual work.

Due to the central stimulant effects of xanthine jointly with the activation of reserve substances, the cardiovascular activity strengthens the organism.
Xanthine has a well-known effect on the central nervous system, that stimulates mental energy.

Thanks to its vitamin B complex, Yerba Mate collaborates to sugar intake in man's muscles, nerves and cerebral activity; vitamins C and E act as organic defense and on the organism's tissues; mineral salts, jointly with xanthine, help the cardiovascular work and blood circulation by decreasing blood pressure, since xanthine acts as a vasodilator. In such circumstances, hunger can feel as satisfied.

Yerba Mate enhances diuresis and is very useful for bladder troubles.
Yerba Mate also acts on the digestive tube by activating peristaltic movements; it facilitates digestion, attenuates gastric troubles and enhances evacuation and urination. Yerba Mate's stimulant action is longer than that of coffee and does not have side effects such as insomnia and irritability.

Researches at the Paris Pasteur Institute confer to Yerba Mate a very important role in the cell regeneration process.

Yerba Mate - La bebida que revitaliza. Gobierno de la provincia de Misiones.
Secretaria de comercio exterior e integración. Argentina.

Valduga, Eunice.
Chemical and anatomic characterization of Ilex paraguariensis Saint Hilaire leaf and some species used in adulterating Yerba Mate.
Post-graduation thesis presented at the University of Paraná, Curitiba, in 1995.