Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Magnoliopida
Order Icacinales
Family Aquifoliaceae
Genus Ilex
Species I.paraguariensis
Binomial name Ilex paraguariensis

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the shrub Paraguay Tea are mate, yerba mate, South American Holly, Ilex, St. Bartholomew's Tea, Ilex Mate, Missionaries' Tea, Jesuit Tea, Hervea, Matte Tea, Houx Mate, Brazil and Gon-gouha.


Mate, the tea made from the Yerba Mate plant, is the South American equivalent to coffee in the United States. The plant offers a popular beverage, much akin to tea, and is also known as mate.Mate tea is the national drink of Argentina, where it is consumed more frequently than tea or coffee." Its name of Yerba signifies the herb par excellence, and the consumption in South America is vast, as it is drunk at every meal and hour. 'Maté' is derived from the name of the vessel in which it is infused in the manner of tea, burnt sugar or lemon-juice being added.

It is sucked through a tube, usually of silver, with a bulb strainer at the end, and the cup is passed round. According to records, the Guarani were supposed to be the first people to cultivate mate in South America, while the Jesuit missionaries were the first Europeans to grow the plant. These missionaries were the people who spread the practice of drinking as far and wide as Ecuador. Charles Darwin called it "the ideal stimulant," and the parts of this plant used medicinally are the roasted leaves, collected when the berries are ripe rete.


The Yerba Mate plant grows as a shrub or small tree that produces a large red fruit or drupe (which is never consumed) and leafy shoots that may be picked at intervals throughout the year in the same manner as tea. It is a handsome shrub that puts forth large white flowers but it is grown for its leaves. The leaves alternate on the stem and are large, oval and broadly toothed. Harvested from December to august the leaves are heat-dried and powdered. Its leaves have a serrated margin, and they are used in herbal medicine and also made into a tea that is the beverage of choice in much of South America.

Because of its enormous popularity, Yerba Mate is heavily cultivated as a valuable crop and has displaced great areas of rain forest canopy trees. Although the trees can sometimes reach a height of twenty feet, they are still much lower than the rain forest canopy they replace and have, thus, created an environmental issue. The leaves contain up to 1 percent caffeine. Depending on the gender of the plant, Ilex Paraguariensis, a variety of the mate plant, varies in the flavour potency, caffeine content and other nourishing substances. The female Ilex Paraguariensis plant possesses a suave essence and lesser caffeine content.


Mate is indigenous to South America, particularly Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and southern parts of Brazil where it can be found plenty in the wild. The herb is also cultivated commercially in Argentina, Spain and Portugal.


The shrub yerba mate grows and flourishes in the rocky and hilly terrains of its range. It is generally seen growing wild near the stream. Typically found at an altitude of 0 to 4,653 meters. Requires well-drained, slightly acid, fertile soil.


This ilex will do well in a rich, well-drained soil. It grows very rapidly and can produce a crop after one year's growth from seed. The seed, however, must be stratified, as it does not germinate until the second year. Seedlings should be transplanted in early fall or in the spring, before new growth starts. Some of the leaves should be stripped off first to lessen the shock. It may also be propagated by cuttings under glass. The leaves of the herb are collected when the mate berries are mature. Soon after harvesting, the leaves are heated over kindled logs, pulverized and then stored in bags for almost a year before selling it to prospective buyers. The branch tips bearing young leaves should be cut when the growth is new. These should be lightly toasted in an oven until dry, and the twigs removed and discarded. Sometimes the branches of the mate plants are dried over wood fire during the harvesting of the yerba or the mate leaves. This process leaves behind a smoky essence in the beverage. Following this, the leaves as well as the shoots of the mate plant are occasionally broken up.

Flowering Season

The white flowers of the paraguay tea are in bloom in mid spring.

Pests and Diseases

Yerba mate is affected by aphids and fungal diseases. Wooly blue curls are often found among these plants.Powdery mildew is also said to affect the plant to some extent.

Parts Used


The leaves of yerba mate are commonly used for its commercial and medicinal purposes.

Medicinal Applications


• Yerba Mate is sometimes combined with other remedies in the treatment of psychogenic headache, fatigue, mild nervous depression and rheumatic pains.

• It is believed to stimulate mental and physical energy.

• The herb has a reputation as a nutritious tonic that not only stimulates the body (providing youthful vigour and energy), but it also stimulates the mind (promoting mental acuity and clarity).

• Yerba Maté is recommended for balancing and strengthening immune function and toning the nervous system.

• Yerba Mate is believed to possess anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful in alleviating rheumatic conditions and inflammatory bowel disorders.

• The herb is also thought to stimulate the production of cortisone, which is a natural anti-inflammatory.

• Because Yerba Mate is especially rich in minerals such as magnesium, manganese and potassium, it helps the body maintain electrolyte balance and restore lost minerals

• caused by rapid weight loss due to a high protein diet.

• Yerba Mate is thought to be a depurative, an agent that cleanses and purifies the blood.

• The herb is also said to be useful for alleviating allergies.

• It also functions like a gentle analgesic or pain killer and has diuretic properties that help in increasing the urine outflow.

• In addition, mate has also been found to be useful in treating diabetes.

• Mate is an invigorating beverage that can also be called the conventional South American tea which is produced for commercial purposes.


According to the astrological report for the shrub Paraguay tea it is under the dominion of the planet Uranus.

Folklores and Myths

When planted around the home it protects the inhabitants and guards against lightening, poisoning and mischievous spirits. Drinking mate with friends from a shared hollow gourd (also called a mate in Spanish, or cabaça or cuia in Portuguese) with a metal straw (a bombilla in Spanish, bomba or canudo in Portuguese) is an extremely common social practice in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Chile, eastern Bolivia and Southern Region, Brazil and also Syria and Lebanon. Luck was increased if a small branch was kept and hung outside of the house, there it would continue to protect against lightening.