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Tea from this South American tree sharpens your mind ... and does much more.



When my mother turned 90, she noticed her mind was not as clear as it had been. Fuzzy thinking, she called it. Names and thoughts were just slightly out of reach. This disturbed her more than any other aspect of aging. She had always prided herself on having a sharp mind.

It was also difficult for her to wake up in the morning and get moving. Mother had long stopped drinking coffee. It was too acidic and kept her awake at night. And it made her jittery. I suggested she drink a cup of green tea each morning, and it helped her fatigue. But it didn't wipe the cobwebs cob·web  
n.
1.
a. The web spun by a spider to catch its prey.

b. A single thread spun by a spider.

2. Something resembling the web of a spider in gauziness or flimsiness.

3.
 from her mind.

I wish I had known more then about a popular South American herb tea. It's even more nutritious than green tea, and even though it contains some caffeine, it lets most people sleep at night. What's more, it clears the mind and helps people think more clearly. And I'll bet as you get older, you want to keep a clear, sharp mind as long as possible, just like I do.

This tea, made from the leaves of an evergreen tree native to South America, is packed with valuable nutrients as well. It contains anti-cancer antioxidants called polyphenols and saponins saponins,
n.pl glycosides from plants that foam in aqueous solutions. They contain adaptogenic, antiinflammatory, mucoprotective characteristics and can induce hemolysis. Also called
sapogenins.
, chemicals that strengthen the immune system. No wonder it's more popular in many South American countries than coffee or tea. The beverage I'm talking about is yerba mate. You can find it in health food stores, but it may not be in your supermarket yet. Hopefully, it will be eventually.

Here's how I compare the effects of coffee, green tea, and yerba mate. Coffee wakes me up and gives me a little energy buzz. I used to like this buzz. Now I'd just as soon feel more alert without it. Green tea takes away my fatigue without any buzz. This feels more natural to me. Yerba mate has a similar effect with one addition: It sharpens my mind. I like that extra mental clarity a lot? I also like some of the health benefits associated with mate.

Mate, cancer, and heart disease

Antioxidants protect against heart disease and cancer. Yerba mate is high in antioxidants. In fact, it has as much free-radical activity as green tea. And its antioxidants are even more potent that those in ascorbic acid (vitamin C). That's what the studies say.

Mate can significantly lower cholesterol and triglycerides Triglycerides
Fatty compounds synthesized from carbohydrates during the process of digestion and stored in the body's adipose (fat) tissues. High levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with insulin resistance.
, which makes it an excellent addition to a low-saturated fat, healthy heart diet. I've explained before that high cholesterol itself isn't as much of a problem as oxidized oxidized

having been modified by the process of oxidation.


oxidized cellulose
see absorbable cellulose.
 (spoiled) cholesterol. Well, mate slows down LDL LDL - ["LDL: A Logic-Based Data-Language", S. Tsur et al, Proc VLDB 1986, Kyoto Japan, Aug 1986, pp.33-41].  oxidation.

A cup of mate contains about 100 mg of caffeine--half the amount as a cup of coffee, and less than a cup of black tea. Some of its beneficial effects, like weight loss and a diuretic diuretic (dī'yərĕt`ĭk), drug used to increase urine formation and output. Diuretics are prescribed for the treatment of edema (the accumulation of excess fluids in the tissues of the body), which is often the result of underlying  action can be attributed to the caffeine. But mate is considered to be good for the heart and lungs because it contains small amounts of theophylline theophylline /the·oph·yl·line/ (the-of´i-lin) a xanthine derivative found in tea leaves and prepared synthetically; its salts and derivatives act as smooth muscle relaxants, central nervous system and cardiac muscle stimulants, and , a chemical that's used medically for asthma and chronic lung problems. Because theophylline has a slight stimulating effect on the heart, mate is considered to be a heart tonic. It could also help you lose weight. When mate was compared to 12 other plant preparations, it helped burn more fat than any of the other herbs tested.

Poor studies gave mate bad press

A few years ago, some studies found that people who drank mate were at an increased risk for getting esophageal cancer. What they really found was that people who drank at least a liter per day of very, very hot mate through a metal straw (commonly used in South America) had an increased risk for getting cancer of the esophagus over those who drank smaller amounts of warm or normally hot tea. Repeatedly scalding scalding

plunging of pig or poultry carcasses into very hot water to facilitate scraping and dehairing and plucking. Chicken scalding water is 130°F for broilers (larger birds higher) applied for 1 to 2 minutes. Modern pig abattoirs use steam at 144 to 147°F for about 3 minutes.
 of the esophagus was not even considered to be a factor.

Other studies found that people who drank mate along with large quantities of alcohol, and who smoked cigarettes, had an increased risk for esophageal cancer. A previous study of this same population found an association between eating barbecued meat every day anda higher incidence of cancer. I mean, come on? If you ate barbecued meat every day, drank a lot of alcohol, smoked cigarettes, and scalded your throat with exceptionally hot mate, you would increase your risk for esophageal cancer too?

So is mate safe?

Let me tell you how safe mate is--it's safe enough for pregnant women to drink. You can't get much safer than this. A study of over 5,000 Brazilian women found no harmful effects on the size or weight of their babies, or any other negative side effects.

I like mate's taste and its effects. I find it a perfect pick-me-up drink, especially for those times when I want to think more clearly. Like many beneficial substances, it shouldn't be abused. But a cup or two a day appears to be completely safe.

Give it a try. You'll find plain yerba mate tea, as well as mate combined with other flavorings from ginger to peppermint peppermint: see mint.
peppermint

Strongly aromatic perennial herb (Mentha piperita, mint family), source of a widely used flavouring. Native to Europe and Asia, it has been naturalized in North America.
 and even organic chocolate. You can final it in the tea and bottled drink sections of your natural food stores.

Fabiana, L., et al. "Vascular responses to extractable fractions of Ilex paraguariensis in rats fed standard and high-cholesterol diets," Biol Res for Nursing, 2005.

Gugliucci, A., and A.J. Stahl. "Low density lipoprotein Low density lipoprotein (LDL)
A fraction of total serum lipids, the so called "bad" cholesterol.

Mentioned in: Hypercholesterolemia
 oxidation is inhibited by extracts of Ilex paraguariensis," Biochem Mol Biol Int, 35, 1995.

Martinet mar·ti·net  
n.
1. A rigid military disciplinarian.

2. One who demands absolute adherence to forms and rules.



[After Jean Martinet (died 1672), French army officer.
, A., et al. "Thermogenic ther·mo·gen·e·sis  
n.
Generation or production of heat, especially by physiological processes.



ther
 effects of commercially available plant preparations aimed at treating human obesity," Phytomedicine, 1999.

Santas, I.S., et al. "Mate drinking during pregnancy and risk of preterm preterm /pre·term/ (-term´) before completion of the full term; said of pregnancy or of an infant.

pre·term
adj.
 and small for gestational age small for gestational age Intrauterine growth retardation Neonatology adjective Referring to an infant whose gestational age and weight gain are < expected for age. See Low birthweight.  birth," Journ Nutr, vol. 135, 2005.

Sewram, V., et al. "Mate consumption and the risk of squamous cell esophageal cancer in Uruguay," Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, 2003.
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Publication:Women's Health Letter
Date:Mar 1, 2007
Words:979
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