Yerba mate: Is it safe to drink?

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Yerba mate: Is it safe to drink?

Question

A friend suggested that I try yerba mate tea to boost my energy. What is yerba mate? Is it safe?

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Answer

Yerba mate is a tropical plant. Yerba mate leaves and twigs can be steeped in hot water to make a tea-like beverage known simply as mate. Yerba mate, which contains caffeine, is a popular drink in some areas of South America. In the United States, yerba mate is widely available in health food stores and online. Proponents of yerba mate say that it can relieve fatigue, promote weight loss, ease depression and headaches, and help treat various other conditions.

Some studies indicate that people who drink large amounts of yerba mate over prolonged periods may be at increased risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, esophagus and lungs. Smoking in combination with yerba mate seems to greatly increase the cancer risk. However, occasional use of yerba mate probably poses no serious risks for healthy adults. As always, check with your doctor before using any herbal product.

Last Updated: 2010-01-26
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