Of course, while nothing beats tea for reducing those pesky stress-inducing elevated cortisol levels, sometimes you just need a little extra something to keep you steaming ahead.
So this month, we are showcasing yerba maté. This popular tisane, derived from the holly tree family, is native to South America and highly regarded for its stimulating properties. What makes it so different to a standard coffee buzz, you ask? Referred to as a “clean buzz”, maté offers drinkers a better sense of focus and alertness, yet still allows for restful sleep. How these unique stimulating effects are produced have been widely debated, though various research has suggested that it may have to do with the ratio of theobromine to caffeine that maté contains and how they interact with each other chemically.
Theobromine — an alkaloid also found in cacao, exerts similar effects to caffeine but does not affect the body through central nervous system stimulation. In terms of ‘stimulating’, caffeine does not actually give the perceived boost most people think it does, but in fact just blocks the receptors that tell you you’re tired. Furthermore, caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor (narrowing of the blood vessels). On the other hand, theobromine works as a vasodilator – relaxing smooth muscle tissue and dilating blood vessels, allowing for better blood flow. Better circulation means regulated blood pressure and nutrients like oxygen can more freely move around the body. This may explain why maté is also used to help with nervous headaches, which are commonly associated with fatigue as well as reducing muscle tension and spasms. The ratios of theobromine to caffeine mean most negative effects of caffeine are overridden, creating a fairly harmonious combination.
There is nothing completely conclusive about why maté does what it does, but many swear by it and who are we to argue when such a great little pick-me-up exists?
Additionally, not only is maté fantastic for perking you up, but it also acts as a good appetite suppressant. If you’re prone to snacking out of boredom or stress, then drinking maté could keep that habit at bay.
Interestingly, maté has also been known to help with lucid dreaming. So drinking some maté before bedtime is something that could be worth experimenting with. And even if it doesn’t work, at least you will be well rested.
As a traditional drink to South American countries like Argentina, Bolivia, central and southern Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Southern Chile, maté is normally drunk from a decorative, cured gourd using a metal or stainless steel spoon-like straw called a bombilla. However, you can prepare maté as you would a standard cup of tea, simply by steeping in a teapot or infuser.