Skip to Content

The originating document has been archived. We cannot confirm the completeness, accuracy and currency of the content.


Scientific names: Ilex paraguariensis A. St.-Hil.

Common names: Maté also is known as chimarrao, erva-mate, yerba maté, Paraguay tea, St. Bartholomew's tea, terere, and Jesuit's tea.

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Maté?

Maté is a beverage prepared from the leathery leaves of Ilex paraguariensis, a species of holly found in Central and South America. It has alternate, simple leaves and single or clustered small berries that may be red, black, or yellow.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Yerba maté was used as a beverage for it depurative, stimulant, and diuretic properties by ancient Indians in Brazil and Paraguay. The plant Ilex paraguariensis first was cultivated by Jesuit missionaries. Consumption of maté is common in Brazil south of the Amazon and in Paraguay and Argentina. In those areas, the beverage largely replaces coffee and tea. Preparations also are available in the US, where they are sold in health food stores.

Traditionally, yerba maté is served in a small gourd called a maté. It is consumed through a drinking tube, or bombilla, with a filter attached to the lower end to prevent consumption of the leaf fragments.

General uses

Maté has been traditionally used as a caffeine- and vitamin-containing beverage for its stimulant, diuretic, and depurative properties. Anticancer and antiatherosclerosis effects, have also been suggested, largely because of antioxidant action. Clinical trials are lacking.

What is the recommended dosage?

Yerba maté is widely used as a beverage; however, there are no clinical applications for maté to form a basis for dosing.

How safe is it?


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Documented adverse effects. Avoid use. Low birth weight, birth defects, and premature birth have been recorded. High concentrations of the alkaloid theobromine have been found in the placenta, cord serum, baby's urine, and breast milk.


None well documented.

Side Effects

Case reports exist of newborn babies suffering from caffeine withdrawal because of long-term maté use by the mother. Symptoms included increased irritability, crying, and muscle spasms in the limbs.


Epidemiological studies suggest that high maté consumption (more than 1 L per day) may be associated with cancer, especially head, neck, and bladder cancers; however, the conclusions do not firmly implicate maté. Tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption were also common in the subjects of these studies, and the role of heat-induced injury to mouth tissues and wood smoke chemicals produced in the processing of the leaves are other possible reasons for the increase in cancers.


  1. Maté. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; August 2010.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.