Yerba mate tea is a healthy, nutrient-rich and energizing drink. Many people in South America drink it every day and it is also becoming more popular all over the world. Are you wondering if yerba mate tea has any side effects or negative impact to your health? I wrote this article to answer that particular question.
Yerba mate also has many proven health benefits. If you want to read more, see this article: Yerba Mate Tea Health Benefits – There are Many!
Pregnant Women and Breastfeeding
Is it safe to drink yerba mate tea while pregnant or breastfeeding? There are claims that yerba mate could increase the risk of cancer and this risk would be passed on from mother to the fetus. Another problem could be the caffeine content of yerba mate.
The risk of cancer is related to two things: possible high temperature of yerba mate (esophageal cancer) and cancer-inducing compounds. The risk of esophageal cancer can be avoided by not drinking too hot (more than 140 F or 60 C) yerba mate. The possible cancer-inducing compounds would be coming from the smoke-drying process of yerba mate leaves. However, most of the mate producers don’t use smoke-drying, and if they do, it’s usually mentioned in the product label.
In general, pregnant women should avoid consuming large amounts of caffeine (1). 300 mg is the maximum amount recommended. There is no evidence that even large amounts of yerba mate would cause any problems like miscarriage or low birth weight.
Some babies have showed signs of caffeine withdrawal after birth, if their mothers had been consuming very large amounts of caffeine daily during the pregnancy (2). Also, if high amounts of caffeine is consumed during breastfeeding, it could cause stomach problems for the infant (3).
As a conclusion we can say that it is ok to consume yerba mate while pregnant or breastfeeding. Just remember the following:
- Don’t drink too much yerba mate daily and don’t make it too strong.
- When you drink yerba mate, make sure it’s not too hot (over 140 F or 60 C).
- Choose a product that has not been smoke-dried.
Heart, Blood Pressure and Liver
The caffeine in yerba mate could possibly cause problems for people with heart problems (4) or high blood pressure (5). Also, consuming large amounts of yerba mate can cause some stress on the liver. So if you are sensitive to stimulants, have heart problems or high blood pressure, or you have any liver problems or medications causing strain on your liver, consult your doctor before consuming any drinks with caffeine.
People with Medical Conditions
- Anxiety: It is possible that the caffeine in yerba mate will make feeling of anxiety worse, especially if you are sensitive to stimulants.
- Hypertension: The caffeine in yerba mate can cause blood pressure to rise, which can cause problems if you have hypertension (see reference 5 above).
- Diabetes: If you drink yerba mate regularly, it can actually reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (6). For most people caffeine does not have a significant effect on blood sugar levels. Again, large amounts of caffeine should be avoided if you are sensitive to it.
- Diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Large amounts of caffeine can make stomach problems such IBS, IBD and diarrhea worse (7).
- Weak bones (osteoporosis): There is research suggesting that drinking yerba mate can increase mineral density of bones in postmenopausal women (8). In turn, caffeine could have a contrary effect by flushing calcium out of the body (9). I think more research needs to be conducted before we can determine if yerba mate is beneficial for bone strength. At his point, if you are in risk of osteoporosis, I recommend that you avoid large amounts of caffeine and take extra calcium and vitamin D (10).
Alcoholics and Tobacco Smokers
As we know heavy smokers have a much higher risk of cancer as do heavy drinkers. When you combine these two unhealthy habits you get even higher risk of cancer. What happens when you add yerba mate to this equation? Not much, I would say. But there is a possibility that it will further increase the risk of cancer.
Research indicates that heavy alcohol use, smoking and drinking very hot drinks can have a synergic effect of increasing the risk of cancer significantly (11). How to best avoid the risk of cancer? Quit or reduce smoking and using alcohol. In addition, as mentioned before, don’t drink your yerba mate too hot and don’t use smoke-dried yerba mate.
Consuming an Excessive Amount of Yerba Mate
If you consume an excessive amount of yerba mate tea, it is possible to get unpleasant side effects. What is too much, really depends on a person. The point is, that too much caffeine during a short period of time will not make you feel good. It can cause the following side effects:
- Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting
- Nervousness and restlessness
- Heart palpitations / increased heart rate and gasping
Yerba Mate Tea Side Effects – Conclusion
As a conclusion, we can say that yerba mate tea is a healthy drink and for most people its health benefits greatly overcome the possible side effects. However, I recommend avoiding excessive amounts of any drink with caffeine, including yerba mate tea.
Finally, if you have a medical condition mentioned above, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, be extra careful with your daily caffeine intake. If you drink yerba mate (or any other drink containing caffeine), try not to make it too strong and avoid drinking large amounts of it regularly. Also, let your tea cool down a little bit before drinking it, and avoid using smoke-dried products, if you are worried about the possible cancer risk.
I hope this article provided you with the information you were looking for. If you have any questions or comments related to yerba mate side effects you can post them below.