Can Yerba Mate Cause Cancer?

Yerba maté gets a lot of love for its smooth energy boost and high antioxidant content, but if you’re a regular yerba maté drinker – especially if you like to sip with with the leaves still in the mug – may want to cut back. Recent research suggests that yerba maté might increase your risk for certain types of cancer.

Back in 2003, I was lucky enough to spend a week in Buenos Aires visiting a couple of friends who were living there for school. The coffee in Buenos Aires is delicious, the empanadas are mind-blowing, and I came back with a dried gourd, a metal straw, and a bag of yerba maté tea. My yerba maté habit tapered off over the years. Coffee was just so much more convenient, especially since my husband takes care of brewing it every morning. It turns out this unplanned switch may just have reduced my cancer risk.

Lifetime yerba maté drinkers have a higher risk for mouth, head and neck, esophagus, bladder, larynx, kidney, and lung cancer, along with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Yikes! According to Dr. Reshma L. Mahtani:

“Other research supports that yerba mate naturally contains carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds, and this is the reason why the drink is linked with increased cancer risk. Two research programs that evaluate carcinogenic activity of hundreds of chemicals, mixtures, and natural substances are the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans and the US National Toxicology Program’s Report of Carcinogens. The information from these agencies places yerba mate in the category of having a moderate level of evidence of posing a cancer risk to humans.

The concentration of carcinogens can vary from cup to cup of yerba maté, but it stays at harmful levels whether you drink it hot or cold. One major difference researchers found is that the traditional preparation – where you don’t strain out the leaves before serving – is more harmful than if you brew and strain the tea before drinking. They say that regularly drinking unstrained yerba maté is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

What do you yerba maté drinkers out there think about this research? Do you feel like there’s enough evidence to warrant cutting back, or would you want to see more studies first?

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Andrew O.
Andrew O.3 years ago

This add has been brought to you by Nescafe gold blend.

Alena V.
Alena V.3 years ago

Any drink or food extra hot or intrusive in its effects, such as leading to ulcers that would not heal due to prolonged habitual process (addictions) would lead to health problems always.
I am absolutely positive that if any research would have being conducted to investigate our poor habits related to various types of eatery addictions we would be stalled by the results.
Other words in my opinion our consumption habits may be and are No.1 harm.
Introduction of foods altered by humane intellect is would be a No.2 harm.
Consume wisely !!!

Braden R.
Braden R.4 years ago

@Nathaniel W.-- Thank you for that comment. I was really starting to worry that Mate was hurting me. I can't imagine how bogus science gets published. I used to have a naive tendency to believe anything I read on the internet, if I couldn't think of any reason why someone would want to deceive me, but now I know better.
Another common misperception is that the music and movie industry are suffering from all of the "piracy" that is going on, when really, piracy occurs because of the prices on these products are too high--they are overvalued. ;)

Ajla C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you

Brian M.
Past Member 4 years ago

This kind of so-called research is usually sponsored by corporate interests that would rather sell you a toxic pill than let you enjoy a simple herb. Look no further than sassafras root which has become hard to find because of propaganda that the root causes cancer. Quite simply, the uncooked root is problematic, but, as far as I've been able to discover, no one consumes it raw. Generally, everyone makes it into a tea...the process of steeping sassafras root in hot water is more than sufficient to eliminate the problem chemicals. Yet, our corporate oligarchy masquerading as a legitimate government has made it exceptionally difficult to find now. Don't be surprised if yerba mate disappears from shelves soon.

Robert O.
Robert O4 years ago

I hadn't heard of it until today. Thanks Becky.

Donna B.
Donna B4 years ago

I have never heard of this. Learn something new every day. Thx for the info.

Nathaniel W.
Nathaniel W.4 years ago

This study was thrown out in the U.S. scientific community due to 70% of the test group being smokers. Also, they found that the reason for higher risk of esophageal cancer was due to the hot water through a staw irritating the throat repeatedly, it had nothing to do with the mate.

Sue H.
Sue H4 years ago

I'd like to see more evidence.

Jonathan D.
Jonathan D.4 years ago

There is no conclusive evidence that shows yerba mate EVER having directly been the cause of ANY type of cancer in anyone! In fact studies conducted across the world show the exact opposite is true, along with a plethora of additional physical and mental benefits:

- Mejia, de Evlira Gonzalez. “Dicaffeoylquinic acids in Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis St. Hilaire) inhibit NF-κB nucleus translocation in macrophages and induce apoptosis by activating caspases-8 and -3 in human colon cancer cells.” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 55, no. 10 (2011): 1509-1522.
-Unknown Author, “Another benefit of yerba mate: discover that prevents the loss of red blood cells,” Clarín, May 16, 2012, globulos-rojos_0_701329958.html (accessed May 16, 2012). [Original text in Spanish, translated by David Askaripour]
-Bracesco, N, “Recent Advances on Ilex paraguariensis research: minireview,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 136, no. 3 (2011): 378-84

The coffee and soft drink industries, whom are actually the one's poisoning us, can spread all the lies they like, but 500 years of tradition are about to sweep the population of the US as more and more learn the truth and discover the ancient magic of this perfectly nutritious and life sustaining plant.