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Yerba Mate

Yerba mate or yerba-maté is a plant species of the holly genus Ilex native to South America. It was named by the French botanist Augustin Saint-Hilaire. The leaves of the plant can be steeped in hot water to make a beverage known as mate. Brewed cold, it is used to make tereré. Both the plant and the beverage contain caffeine. The botanical name of Yerba mate is Ilex paraguariensis. Yerba Mate can be grown successfully indoors in pots, but it has pretty specific requirements for outdoor planting. Unless you live in a hot and humid region that receives plenty of rainfall.

Ilex paraguariensis begins as a shrub and then matures to a tree. The leaves are evergreen, 7–110 millimeters (0.3–4.3 in) long and 30–55 millimeters (1.2–2.2 in) wide, with serrated margins. The leaves are often called yerba (Spanish) or erva (Portuguese), both of which mean "herb". They contain caffeine (known in some parts of the world as mateine) and related xanthine alkaloids, and are harvested commercially. The flowers are small and greenish-white with four petals. The fruit is a red drupe 4–6 millimeters (0.16–0.24 in) in diameter.

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25 - 60 feet

Width-Circumference (Avg)

20 - 30 feet

Approximate pH

3.7 - 6.8

Planting Yerba Mate

If planting outside, choose a site that is shielded from prevailing winds, with soil that drains well. Avoid planting your yerba mate tree under overhead utility wires or cables. Unpot your sapling and tease out any encircling roots, which can girdle the tree and slowly kill it. Dig a hole that’s as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Place the tree in the hole, and, while holding it steady, fill in around it with topsoil, tamping down as you go to eliminate air pockets. Water thoroughly. Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch, such as bark chips, around the root zone, but keep it from touching the trunk to avoid rot.

Growing Yerba Mate

Being Grown in Containers

Unless you have the right climate, the slow-growing Yerba Mate is best suited to being grown in a container indoors. Providing they're positioned in a sunny spot and kept moist; they tend to thrive.

Because of their ability to grow out and up, you'll want to regularly prune them to prevent them becoming too tall or wide.

Growing From Seeds

Growing Yerba Mate from seeds can be a challenge. They need to be planted quickly after harvesting to prevent them from losing their ability to germinate. Even with the right timing and conditions, success isn't guaranteed.

Yerba Mate seeds aren't readily available in garden centers either. You'll likely have to purchase them from a reputable online specialist.

When buying seeds like this, they'll have to go through a cold stratification process, but their likelihood of germinating is reduced in comparison to those planted immediately after harvesting.

Ideally, germination will begin in a sheltered and warm environment, like a greenhouse. During this stage, it's best to keep the seedlings out of harsh, direct sunlight.

This plant is notoriously slow to establish. Transplanting the seedlings to their permanent position, ideally, shouldn't be done until they have had at least 12 months to start rooting.

Don't expect any flowering until a few years after germination.

Yerba Mate Care

This plant thrives in the right conditions, but it won't be suited to every garden. Used to growing in a subtropical climate, Yerba Mate needs lots of moisture and warm temperatures.

It'll do well in pots on your windowsill, but don't attempt to grow it in your garden if you're in an arid climate or you experience harsh winters.


If you have a very shady garden, the Yerba Mate isn't going to be the plant for you. It does best in full sunlight but can also cope with partial shade if the temperatures are right.


The Yerba Mate plant prefers a rich, loamy, well-drained soil that absorbs and retains moisture well.


Your Yerba Mate needs consistently moist conditions, and you shouldn't let the soil dry out. This is not a drought-tolerant plant!

Temperature and Humidity

The Yerba Mates likes to be warm. It'll only thrive if the temperatures stay above 60 degrees F for most of the year. It can tolerate slightly lower temperatures, but this should only be for short periods.

If winter temperatures go below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, this could kill your plant.

The plant likes a humid, moist heat. It can tolerate humidity levels down to around 50%, but it won't survive in overly dry environments.


While you're establishing seedlings, they'll benefit from regular fertilization.

Pruning and Propagating Yerba Mate


To encourage a full and healthy growth, your Yerba Mate will benefit from controlled pruning. The leaves can start to grow outwards excessively if they aren't cut back.

If you want to retain a lower shrub shape, pruning will also be required. Yerba Mate trees can easily grow to be up to ten meters tall, and some have reached heights of over 15 meters!

Propagating Yerba Mate

Make sure you select a semi-wood, mature cutting during late summer, and they should be dipped in rooting hormone before you plant them.

It can be very challenging to get cuttings from young plants to root successfully. So, ideally, you want to select from a mature, established plant


Mate is known to be packed with vitamins and minerals, and studies have shown it could have a multitude of health benefits.

If you're growing your Yerba Mate Plant from seeds, be prepared for a few years wait before it's mature enough to harvest the leaves for tea.

Don't forget that yerba mate leaves contain high quantities of caffeine, so the brew shouldn't be drunk in excessive quantities.

If you're drying the leaves yourself, be prepared for a different taste from the tea purchased from professional cultivators.

The type of soil, levels of moisture, and temperatures can all impact on the flavor. So can the drying process, and you won't have access to the sophisticated drying facilities that are used for large scale production.

Dried stems, as well as the leaves, are usually added to the mix to create a slightly softer flavor.

Pests and Diseases

Although the yerba mate tree faces several insect pests in its native South America, few pests will bother it when grown in the U.S. A container-grown plant may experience some insect pressure from common insects, such as aphids and spider mites, but a healthy tree should be able to fend them off. The trees are also disease-resistant. However, you may see signs of root rot, which should be pruned out and your supplemental watering decreased.

Benefits of Yerba Mate

1. Enhances Physical Performance

Yerba Mate offers a balanced energy boost without causing jitters while enhancing mental focus and physical performance. Several human studies observed improved alertness, short-term recall, and reaction time in participants who consumed Yerba Mate daily. Often used as a coffee alternative as Yerba Mate works to stimulate neurons and promote brain activity, conscious awareness, memory, concentration, and reasoning. It’s not the headliner ingredient in our Energy blend by accident.

2. Helps With Weight Loss

Yerba Mate has been known to boost metabolism and curb appetite, resulting in weight loss. Yerba Mate increases the body's reliance on fat for fuel during exercise. It may also improve muscle contractions and reduce fatigue, contributing to better physical performance.

Drinking this herbal tea before a workout can even enhance fat burning and calorie expenditure throughout the activity, according to a 2014 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism. Another clinical study proved that Yerba Mate significantly prolongs gastric emptying time, influencing the feeling of fullness and resulting in a significant weight loss during the 45 days of the experiment in overweight patients.

Drinking Yerba Mate, especially as a component of functional foods can help to combat chronic diseases such as lipid metabolism disorders, elevated blood glucose levels, obesity, and even inflammation. According to several studies done over the years, Yerba Mate is said to be effective in averting cytotoxicity linked with blood flow restraint heart disorders such as stroke and heart attack.

3. Lowers Risks of Heart Diseases

Consumption of Yerba Mate may also affect heart function in a positive way. After consuming Yerba Mate tea, antioxidant compounds are absorbed and appear in the circulating plasma, exerting antioxidant effects. Yerba Mate's high levels of Theobromine increase blood flow by relaxing the constricted smooth muscle in vessels, allowing for increased oxygen and efficient nutrient delivery. Relaxing these muscles can also lower blood pressure and protect your cardiovascular health.

The regular consumption of Yerba Mate beverages is categorized as functional food intake due to its many antioxidants. Several papers suggest that Yerba Mate consumption may be an excellent food source for humans to cut cardiovascular risk factors. Combining physical activity with functional foods enhances metabolic and cardiovascular protective benefits and can also provide a basis for preventing lifestyle-related type 2 diabetes.

4. Helps With Digestion

Regular consumption of Yerba Mate can help soothe an upset stomach and digestion problems. Several papers have reported results from preclinical and clinical studies, suggesting that Yerba Mate consumption may be an effective food source to improve digestion.

Yerba mate is rich in inulin which can aid digestion and promote a healthy gut by assisting in the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Studies have demonstrated that Yerba Mate leaves have antioxidant, antiobesity, antidiabetic, digestive improvement, and cardiovascular properties, and can even protect from cellular damage that may cause chronic diseases in the future.


  • The leaves of the plant can be steeped in hot water to make a beverage known as mate.

  • It is used to make tereré.

  • Yerba mate used as various energy drinks as well as being sold as a bottled or canned iced tea.

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