Ilex paraguayensis – Yerba Mate (plant)
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Ilex paraguayensis is an evergreen shrub or tree from South America (Brazil). It is grown commercially in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Also called simply mate.
Mate is used as a stimulant and tonic and as an alternative to tea or coffee. Roughly 3 grams of dried leaves are allowed to steep breifly before being strained. The vessel used is called a bombilla and is basically a wooden cup made from certain timber. Any boiling will release tannins and make the tea astringent. It is more widely drunk in South America than either tea or coffee.
The active compound is caffeine, up to 2% of dry weight. Also present are theobromine, theophylline, chlorogenic acid, flavonoids, triterpene saponins and an essential oil.
Care and Cultivation Likes rich and moist soil in full sun to part shade. Keep trimmed for easier harvesting of leaves (like tea). Appears to be relatively frost and drought tolerant.