Yerba mate is made from the Ilex paraguariensis plant and is available as a tea beverage or dietary supplement in capsule form. The health benefits of yerba mate that has been processed through a smoking method provides the same benefits as unsmoked yerba mate. The smoking process produces unhealthy substances that may outweigh the health benefits, however. For this reason, it's best to choose unsmoked, or air-dried, yerba mate.
Choose Unsmoked Yerba Mate
To make most commercial yerba mate, the leaves are processed using a smoke-drying method, according to Guayaki, a large yerba mate manufacturer. The smoking process uses burning wood, and it's this method that produces cancer-causing chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. These substances are found in small amounts in other common beverages like coffee and tea, but the smoking process produces high levels in smoked yerba mate. A chromatography analysis of the PAH content confirmed that it is high compared to other foods and beverages. The authors of the analysis on the Restek website attributed the high levels to the smoking process.
Promotes Healthy Cholesterol
Substances in yerba mate promote healthier levels of lipids in your blood, according to a study published in the September 2009 issue of the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. In the experiment, 102 participants with normal and abnormal cholesterol drank typical servings of yerba mate tea three times daily. Yerba mate lowered bad cholesterol in all of the participants, even those already on statin therapy. It also boosted good cholesterol in participants who had unfavorable lipid profiles. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Promotes Healthy Blood Sugar
Glucose control is a crucial part of managing type-2 diabetes and preventing complications, and yerba mate may improve glucose control in people who have type-2 diabetes. Scientists conducted a study involving 58 volunteers who had prediabetes or type-2 diabetes who drank mate tea for 60 days. The authors found that mate significantly lowered fasting glucose and hbA1c -- a measure of average glucose levels over a three-month period in people with type-2 diabetes. HbA1C is a long-term measure of glucose control. The study was published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
May Aid Weight Loss
The February 2015 issue of the journal Nutrition published a review of evidence that yerba mate may promote healthy body weight. Human and animal studies suggest yerba mate contains substances that have anti-obesity properties. Large, well-designed human studies are needed, but evidence suggests mate compounds may slow down food passage from your stomach to your intestines to keep you feeling fuller longer. It may also help reduce tissue inflammation, which plays a role in developing obesity, according to the authors.