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Yerba Mate and Holistic News

September 30, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Culture and geography have a profound influence over the types of scientific trials that are conducted worldwide. The health benefits of natural medicines such as cat’s claw or yerba mate are frequently investigated in South America. Ginseng and tea have been extensively researched by Asian institutes of medicine. In the United States, a great deal of time and energy has been devoted to the study of dairy products and eggs. The common link among all of these foods and herbal remedies is that they play a major role in the economy and health of their countries of origin.

Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a variety of holly that is commonly brewed as an energizing tonic in South American countries. The brew, referred to as “mate”, is traditionally drunk from a gourd that contains a metal straw (pictured above). In recent years, it has become a trendy item in ethnic markets and health food stores throughout North America and beyond. A new Brazilian study in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry may further popularize it.

  • 102 men and women with normal, mildly-elevated or high cholesterol participated in the trial.
  • The study volunteers drank about 11 ounces of mate tea, three times daily for 40 days.
  • All three groups experienced an 8-9% drop in LDL “bad” cholesterol. Apolipoprotein B (APOB) was also reduced by 6%.
  • HDL “good” cholesterol increased in all three groups.

It’s interesting to note that a subset of 30 participants were also taking “long-term statin therapy” during the course of the trial. Their cholesterol levels benefited to an even greater extent (LDL decreased by 13% and HDL rose by 6%). There were no changes in triglycerides reported. Previous studies indicate that mate tea may help prevent cholesterol oxidation, which plays a role in the accumulation of plaque in the arteries. However, caution about the widespread use of this beverage is urged as there may be a connection between it and certain forms of cancer. (1,2,3,4,5)

Chronic bad breath can be a consequence of H. pylori infection. H. pylori is a bacterium that is responsible for stomach inflammation, ulcers and most likely an increased risk of stomach cancer. A specific course of antibiotic therapy is generally prescribed for those suffering from such an infection. Unfortunately, this treatment isn’t always successful and can frequently bring about adverse effects. A recent Korean trial offers a possible alternative.

  • 68 patients with H. pylori related halitosis (bad breath) were asked to take a red ginseng supplement for 10 weeks.
  • At the end of the 10 week study, 38 were free of bad breath.
  • The addition of ginseng to the conventional (antibiotic) eradication regimen resulted in higher success rates.

Interestingly, 13 of 20 volunteers who had “H. pylori negative” halitosis also found complete resolution after a 10 week trial of ginseng therapy. This current study is supported by numerous laboratory (animal and test tube) trials from the past decade. (6,7,8,9,10)

Changes in Carotenoid Levels After Regular Egg Consumption

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 2, 247-251 (link)

Many opthamologists recommend eating green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, in order to improve eye health. The concept is that specific antioxidants (carotenoids) in these foods help protect the eyes from oxidative stress which can be caused by environmental insults, genetics, light exposure and poor diet. Certain fruits and vegetables are indeed good sources of carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin. But, there is an even better food source that is often neglected – eggs. Eggs are rarely recommended because of a concern that they may be harmful to the cardiovascular system. (11)

A US study just presented in the American Journal of Clinical nutrition addresses two important aspects of the egg/eye connection. The first consideration was to determine whether eggs could effectively increase ocular levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. Secondly, this study was conducted in a group of older adults, most of whom were being treated for high cholesterol with statin medications. The conclusion of the trial explained that, “consumption of 4 egg yolks/daily, and possibly 2 egg yolks/daily, for 5 weeks benefited macular health in older adults … serum HDL cholesterol increased without an increase in LDL cholesterol in this study population”. In short, the egg yolks (wherein all the saturated fat and cholesterol reside) were shown to be both eye and heart healthy. (12)

Several previous studies confirm that eggs do not have a significant impact on raising LDL “bad” cholesterol. In addition, if you look at research that examines the combination of higher egg consumption within the context of a carbohydrate restricted diet, you will find that such a mix may actually improve cardiovascular health markers. Lastly, choosing eggs that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids appears to be an additional step you can take to ensure that you’re truly eating “heart smart”. (13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21)

The health care decisions we make need to be based upon the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Yerba mate may very well be the wonder tonic that some herbalists claim. However, you need to evaluate whether it’s safety profile meets your standards. When it comes to bad breath, you can brush and floss like a professional and you may still suffer from halitosis. If that’s the case, don’t just continue to practice superb oral care without looking for other alternatives that your dentist may not know about. The same goes with eggs. There are still some health authorities who emphatically proclaim that dietary cholesterol and saturated fat are always harmful. That point of view is refuted by much of the current scientific evidence. This is why we all need to ask probing questions and look for our health care answers in more than one place.

Be well!

JP

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4 Comments to “Yerba Mate and Holistic News”

  1. yoda Says:

    You can get Yerba Mate Royale from Wisdom Natural Brand. They have yerba mate with stevia in it. You can also get it without stevia if that doesn’t float your boat. I use their symfre as a remedy for colds. It always does the trick! I don’t kow of any other tea company that carries it!

  2. JP Says:

    I’ve seen their products around but have yet to try them.

    Thanks for the tip, Yoda!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Yerba mate benefits include energy, endurance, immune system support, mental clarity, greater focus and concentration, relief of allergy symptoms and symptoms of mild to moderate asthma. The tea is a vital part of the regimen of the legendary gauchos (cowboys) of Argentine for sustained energy and stamina. Its role as a nutritional supplement has carried regions of South America through bouts of famine and drought that distressed food supply.

  4. JP Says:

    It’s true that yerba mate has been traditionally used to promote many aspects of health. Modern science is beginning to support some of those historical observations but also points to the possibility of certain health risks – mainly relating to certain forms of cancer (bladder, esophageal, gastric, etc.). Hopefully future research will clarify how we can best use yerba mate – in the most health promoting way.

    Be well!

    JP

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