What is yerba mate

what is yerba mate

Yerba mate is a plant scientifically known as Paraguayan holly. It has been around since ancient times and is part of the culinary tradition. It is known for its slightly bitter taste and for its benefits in treating certain health ailments. It spreads naturally and is widely used by the inhabitants of the Paraná and Alto Uruguay basins, where it originates from. Later, it was cultivated on an organized scale and became the main ingredient in typical drinks. Yerba mate has maintained its prestige over time, mainly in South American countries such as Panama, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Chile, where it is a symbol of their culture. However, many people do not know what is yerba mate.

For this reason, we are going to dedicate this article to telling you what yerba mate is, what its characteristics are and the main care it needs.

What is yerba mate

yerba mate tea

It is a subtropical tree native to the Paraná jungle, and in the wild it grows in the thickets of Alto Uruguay, the Alto Paraná Basin and the tributaries of the Paraguay River. In nature it can reach a height of 15 meters, while in plantations it becomes a small bush 11 cm long with a branched trunk. commercially, It is grown in Argentina, the world's largest producer of yerba mate, followed by Brazil and Paraguay.

It is an evergreen tree that does not fall in autumn, and the leaves last about 3 years on the plant. The branches emerge from the tree at right angles, with needles, green leaves with jagged edges and very marked yellow veins. It obtains mate from its ground dry leaves and branches, a popular infusion from Paraguay, Argentina, southern Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay and Chile.

During the flowering season (October-November) it produces white flowers, the male specimens have from 3 to 11 flowers and the females from 3 to 11 loose flowers per dioecious. The fruit ripens from January to March and is purple, reddish or black when ripe. The yerba mate harvest is done manually, starting from January to May and continuing until September. After harvest, the yerba mate tree will grow more leaves.

Properties and habitat

yerba mate plantation

This plant is found in tropical or subtropical regions where there is humidity and abundant rainfall, such as mountains and ravine forests. As for the ground, prefers clay or sand, with some acidity. It does well in low lying areas with adequate drainage and depth. Also in those areas where there is the famous red or red land. This provides nutrients like laterite and various minerals to promote normal growth.

One of the most outstanding properties of yerba mate is its antioxidants. Therefore, it is used to prevent cell aging. It also renews the body's natural defenses and prevents cardiovascular diseases, since it reduces the so-called bad cholesterol.

Yerba mate contains caffeine and theophylline, which stimulate the central nervous system and stimulate mental activity and concentration. Minerals like potassium are essential for the heart to function properly. It also contains ideal magnesium to help the body absorb proteins. It contains amino acids and B vitamins, which are necessary for energy production.

Other health-protective properties of the plant are its diuretic, depurative, vasoconstrictor, bronchodilator, laxative and healing properties. It is said to stimulate cognitive activity.

Reproduction and uses of yerba mate

what is yerba mate in infusions

Yerba mate can be propagated by seed, but this is not easy as it requires a painstaking process. The seeds are collected from the fruit of the mother plant and then they are planted again in a controlled space. When the seedlings sprout, they move to a large area where they finish forming. If you want to multiply faster, you can do it by cuttings, layers and grafts. Pollination is carried out by insects.

Various types of drinks are prepared from the dried and ground leaves and branches of this herb. Mate, tereré and cocido stand out, but the most popular is mate. In Argentina and Uruguay it is eaten as a sweet. In other countries like Paraguay, it is eaten bitter or with hot milk when it rains.

This infusion is made with hot water and loose yerba mate. It is best taken in a container made of wood or similar material with a straw, cigarette or light bulb. Tereré is drunk in guambá, a vessel made of wood or horn. This is typical of Paraguay and is mainly prepared with ice water due to the high temperature. Mint or orange or lemon zest is usually added.

The cocido is a boiled yerba mate. After boiling, strain and add sugar. It is taken with milk. In Paraguay it is used as a substitute for morning coffee. More than drinks, mates and trere are customs in the Southern Cone. There is a ritual or social act to ingest them. Depending on the drink chosen, it is called Tererada or Mateada. It includes sharing with friends or family who meet and chat. All attendees drink from the same container and the same straw.

Being a ritual, it has its rules and must be respected. If a person is invited, it means that the group appreciates them and you want to share it with them. It was an intimate, pleasant and meaningful experience for all who shared it.

The largest producers of yerba mate in the world are Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The country that imports the most yerba mate is Uruguay, followed by Chile and the United States. Argentine yerba mate is mainly bought by Syria. The second country is Chile, but in a much smaller number.


Yerba mate is very good for your health and here we show you some of its benefits for the body.

  • Yerba mate tea supports cardiovascular health because it contains high amounts of antioxidants, which can prevent various heart diseases, as well as regulate cholesterol and prevent fat from accumulating in the arteries.
  • It also increases good cholesterol, which prevents heart attacks.
  • Helps slow the aging process since its antioxidants prevent cell wear and oxidation

I hope that with this information you can learn more about what yerba mate is and its characteristics.

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