What Is the Connection between Yerba Mate and Cancer?

Steven Symes

A connection between yerba mate and cancer has been shown in some studies, with consumption of the tea putting some people at risk of developing a number of different cancers. The drink does contain some antioxidants that produce beneficial effects, but the antioxidants do not outweigh the risk of cancer. Drinking yerba mate occasionally does not necessarily put someone at risk, since studies also have shown that regular, high consumption of the drink leads to cancer risks.

A person who smokes and drinks yerba mate tea on a regular basis has a high risk of developing cancer.
A person who smokes and drinks yerba mate tea on a regular basis has a high risk of developing cancer.

Yerba mate tea may be served either hot or cold, with the traditional preparation taking place inside a dried gourd. Some medical studies suggest the relationship between yerba mate and cancer is strengthened when people drink the tea hot rather than cold, leading to more cancer risks. Occasional consumption of yerba mate does not necessarily put one at risk of developing cancer, but drinking the tea in high quantities on a daily basis might.

Mouth and esophageal cancers are linked to the consumption of yerba mate tea.
Mouth and esophageal cancers are linked to the consumption of yerba mate tea.

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The consumption of yerba mate tea and cancer has been shown by some studies to go hand-in-hand, with regular consumers of the tea at risk of developing several different types of cancer. Lung, mouth and esophageal cancers are most commonly linked to the consumption of the tea. If a person smokes as well as drinks the tea on a regular basis, the person has an even greater risk of developing cancer. Drinking alcohol in combination with the tea, as well as not maintaining proper oral hygiene have also been shown to increase a person’s risk of contracting cancer. Researchers have also looked into the manufacturing process of the tea as possibly introducing cancer-causing chemicals into the tea leaves.

Ounce for ounce, coffee has a slightly higher caffeine content than yerba mate.
Ounce for ounce, coffee has a slightly higher caffeine content than yerba mate.

Those who promote the consumption of yerba mate tea as beneficial to a person’s health cite antioxidants and other nutrients found in the tea. Promoters of the tea have claimed yerba mate and cancer have a positive relationship, or that the tea might even cure cancer. They also claim yerba mate tea can cure headaches, treat depression and raise a person’s energy levels. Some antioxidants have been found present in the tea, with chlorogenic acid as the primary antioxidant in the tea. The tea also contains vitamins B and C, potassium, zinc and other potentially beneficial properties. A cup of yerba mate also contains about 80 milligrams of caffeine, which is less than a typical cup of coffee.

Occasional consumption of yerba mate tea does not lead to a relationship between yerba mate and cancer, according to several studies. Drinking the tea on a regular basis, especially in quantities of a liter or more per day, might put a person at significant risk of developing cancer. How exactly yerba mate and cancer are related is still being debated by researchers, most of whom agree that drinking the tea occasionally should not pose any major health problems.

Yerba mate tea may help treat depression.
Yerba mate tea may help treat depression.

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