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Powerful Antioxidant: Yerba Mate

An extract from yerba mate, a traditional drink from South America, may offer an antioxidant-rich alternative to the brewed tea for use in supplements, suggests a new study from Brazil.

According to findings published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a spray-dried extract of yerba-mate (Ilex paraguariensis A.St.-Hill, Aquifoliaceae) is rich in polyphenols and displays high antioxidant activity.

“Yerba-mate or maté (Ilex paraguariensis A.St.-Hill, Aquifoliaceae) leaves are typically used for their stimulant, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and diuretic activity, presenting as principal components polyphenolic compounds,” explained researchers led by Kleber Berté from the Federal University of Paraná.

“This trial demonstrated that the obtaining of spray-dried yerba-mate is promising in the generation of a new raw material for the industry,” they added.

University of Illinois scientist Elvira de Mejia showed that mate tea drinkers had experienced a significant increase in the activity of an enzyme that promotes HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. She observed how the tea was embedded in the culture in Argentina where mate has been grown and taken medicinally for centuries.

"Our studies show that some of the most important antioxidant enzymes in the body are induced by this herbal tea," said de Mejia of her study in Planta Medica.

Not only does de Mejia hope to identify the most nutritionally beneficial genotypes of the herbal tea, she hopes that Argentine experience with drying and processing mate will lead to improved extraction of the tea's bioactive compounds. "Food companies are very interested in adding tea extracts to juices, soda, and even beer to increase the nutritional value of their products," she said.

Commenting on the findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) said that the study shows that the spray-dried water extracts of herbs normally brewed as tea “may provide a tea alternative for herb use as a food or supplement ingredient”.

Study details

The researchers, based in Southern Brazil, report their production of a spray dried yerba-mate dry extract. Subsequent analysis showed that the spray drying technique increased levels of certain polyphenol compounds, compared to the dry leaves. Specifically, increases in rutin, caffeic acid, and 5-caffeoylquinic acid were found following spray drying.


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