A genus of about 400 species of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, occurring worldwide, especially in tropical and temperate parts of Asia and N and S America. Many kinds of holly are in cultivation. One of the most widely grown is Ilex aquifolium, a very variable species, which is important as an evergreen used in Christmas decoration, an originally pagan custom symbolizing the continuation of life during winter dormancy. Several species are used medicinally. Some contain bitter compounds and stimulants, such as caffeine and theobromine, as found in tea or coffee, and cocoa. Ilex paraguariensis is more widely drunk in South America than either tea or coffee; in contains 0.2-2 percent caffeine, and 0.3-0.5 theobromine. The N American I opaca (American Holly) has been given for bronchial complaints, fevers, constipation, intestinal worms, gout, and rheumatism. The leaves are caffeine-free and usually roasted for making tea. Ilex vomitoria was important as the emetic "black drink" in native N American rituals; when roasted, the leaves can be made into tea or used for flavoring.

Maté (also called yerba maté, which means "herb cup") is a species of holly originating in parts of South America. Its leaves, which contain caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, are brewed into tea, and the drink is taken as a stimulant. A 2005 study found that maté can slow glycation, the improper linking of sugars and proteins that lays the foundation for many of the health complications seen in elevated blood sugar and diabetes. An earlier study showed that maté extract triggers the destruction of certain cancer cells.

Evergreen tree with elliptic-ovate leaves to 12cm (5in) long, that have scalloped margins. Small, green-white flowers appear in the axils of younger branches, followed by clusters of small, deep red berries.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Chimarro, Jesuit's Tea, Maté Folium, Paraguay Tea, St. Bartholomew's Tea, South American Holly, Yerba Maté
Botanical Name:
Ilex paraguariensis
Native Location:
Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina
Moist, well-drained soil in sun or shade. Variegated hollies need sun for optimum color. Ilex verticillata tolerates wet conditions. Cut back or trim in spring; clip formal specimens in summer. Prune I. paraquariensis into a low bush for ease of harvesting in the same way as tea (Camellia sinensis, See tea). Leaves may be damaged by holly leaf miner or leafspot. Transplant or repot with the root ball intact.
By seed sown in autumn (species only); by semi-ripe cuttings in late summer or autumn.
Leaves are picked in early summer (I aquifolium) and dried for infusions and liquid extracts. Leafy shoots (I. paraguarensis) may be picked at intervals throughout the year, in the same way as tea, and dried for infusions. Bark is peeled from twigs of I. verticillata in spring and dried for use in decoctions and liquid extracts.
15m (50ft)
10m (30ft)
Min. 7°C (45°F)
Parts Used:
Chemical Constituents:
A pleasant-tasting, slightly bitter, stimulant herb that is mildly analgesic and diuretic, relaxes spasms, and clears toxins. Reputed to reduce appetite.
Known Effects:
  • Stimulates central nervous system
  • Helps body dispose of excess fluid by increasing the amount of urine produced
  • Causes hallucinations
  • Possible Additional Effects:
  • Potential laxative
  • May increase perspiration
  • Medicinal Uses:
    Internally for nervous tension headaches, migraine, neuralgia, mild depression, and rheumatic pain.
    To treat depression, fatigue, ulcers, inflammation, rheumatism, diabetes, and anemia. Germany's Commission E has approved the use of maté to treat lack of stamina.
    Typical Dose:
    A typical daily dose of of maté may range from 2 to 3 gm of the herb.
    Possible Side Effects:
    Maté's side effects may include insomnia, nausea, and rapid heart rate. Prolonged use of maté may increase the risk of mouth, esophageal, kidney, bladder, and lung cancer.
    Drug Interactions:
    Taking maté with these drugs may cause or increase liver damage:
    Abacavir, (Ziagen)
    Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
    Acetaminophen, (Genepap, Tylenol)
    Allopurinol, (Aloprim, Zyloprim)
    Atorvastatin, (Lipitor)
    Celecoxib, (Celebrex)
    Cidofovir, (Vistide)
    Cimetidine, (Nu-Cimet, Tagamet)
    Ciprofloxacin, (Ciloxan, Cipro)
    Cyclosporine, (Neoral, Sandimmune)
    Meloxicam, (MOBIC, Mobicox)
    Methotrexate, (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
    Methyldopa, (Apo-Methyldopa, Nu-Medopa)
    Modafinil, (Alertec, Provigil)
    Morphine Hydrochloride, (Morphine Hydrochloride)
    Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
    Naproxen, (Aleve, Naprosyn)
    Nelfinavir, (Viracept)
    Nevirapine, (Viramune)
    Nitrofurantoin, (Macrobid, Furadantin)
    Ondansetron, (Zofran)
    Paclitaxel, (Onxol, Taxol)
    Pantoprazole, (Pantoloc, Protonix)
    Phenytoin, (Dilantin, Phenytek)
    Pioglitazone, (Actos)
    Piroxicam, (Feldene, Nu-Pirox)
    Pravastatin, (Novo-Pravastatin, Pravachol)
    Prochlorperazine, (Compazine, Compro)
    Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
    Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
    Rifampin, (Rifadin, Rimactane)
    Rifapentine, (Priftin)
    Ritonavir, (Norvir)
    Rofecoxib, (Vioxx)
    Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
    Saquinavir, (Fortovase, Invirase)
    Simvastatin, (Apo-Simvastatin, Zocor)
    Stavudine, (Zerit)
    Tamoxifen, (Nolvadex, Tamofen)
    Tramadol, (Ultram)
    Zidovudine, (Novo-AZT, Retrovir)
    Taking maté with these drugs may interfere with the actions of the drug:
    Acetaminophen and Codeine, (Capital and Codeine, Tylenol with Codeine)
    Alfentanil, (Alfenta)
    Alprazolam, (Apo-Alprax, Xanax)
    Amobarbital, (Amytal)
    Amobarbital and Secobarbital, (Tuinal)
    Aspirin and Codeine, (Coryphen Codeine)
    Belladonna and Opium, (B&O Supprettes)
    Bromazepam, (Apo-Bromazepam, Gen-Bromazepam)
    Brotizolam, (Lendorm, Sintonal)
    Buprenorphine, (Buprenex, Subutex)
    Butabarbital, (Butisol Sodium)
    Butalbital, Acetaminophen, and Caffeine, (Esgic, Fioricet)
    Butalbital, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Fiorinal)
    Butorphanol, (Apo-Butophanol, Stadol)
    Chloral Hydrate, (Aquachloral Supprettes, Somnote)
    Chlordiazepoxide, (Apo-Chlordiazepoxide, Librium)
    Clobazam, (Alti-Clobazam, Frisium)
    Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
    Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
    Codeine, (Codeine Contin)
    Dexmedetomidine, (Precedex)
    Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
    Dihydrocodiene, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Synalgos-DC)
    Diphenhydramine, (Benedryl Allergy, Nytol)
    Estazolam, (ProSom)
    Fentanyl, (Actiq, Duragesic)
    Flurazepam, (Apo-Flurazepam, Dalmane)
    Glutethimide, (Glutethimide)
    Haloperidol, (Haldol, Novo-Peridol)
    Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen, (Vicodin, Zydone)
    Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
    Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
    Hydromorphone, (Dilaudid, PMS-Hydromorphone)
    Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
    Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride, (Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride)
    Levorphanol, (LevoDromoran)
    Loprazolam, (Dormonoct, Havlane)
    Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
    Meperidine, (Demerol, Meperitab)
    Meperidine and Promethazine, (Meperedine and Promethazine)
    Mephobarbital, (Mebaral)
    Methadone, (Dolophine, Methadose)
    Methohexital, (Brevital, Brevital Sodium)
    Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
    Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
    Nalbuphine, (Nubain)
    Opium Tincture, (Opium Tincture)
    Oxazepam, (Novoxapam, Serax)
    Oxycodone, (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
    Oxycodone and Acetaminophen, (Endocet, Percocet)
    Oxycodone and Aspirin, (Endodan, Percodan)
    Oxymorphone, (Numorphan)
    Paregoric, (Paregoric)
    Pentazocine, (Talwin)
    Pentobarbital, (Nembutal)
    Phenobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
    Phenoperidine, (Phenoperidine)
    Prazepam, (Prazepam)
    Primidone, (Apo-Primidone, Mysoline)
    Promethazine, (Phenergan)
    Propofol, (Diprivan)
    Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
    Propoxyphen and Acetaminophen, (Darvocet-N 50, Darvocet-N 100)
    Propoxyphen, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Darvon Compound)
    Quazepam, (Doral)
    Remifentanil, (Ultiva)
    Secobarbital, (Seconal)
    Sufentanil, (Sufenta)
    S-Zopiclone, (Lunesta)
    Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
    Tetrazepam, (Mobiforton, Musapam)
    Thiopental, (Pentothal)
    Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
    Zaleplon, (Sonata, Stamoc)
    Zolpidem, (Ambien)
    Zopiclone, (Alti-Zopiclone, Gen-Zopiclone)
    Taking maté with these drugs may increase the diuretic effects of the drug:
    Acetazolamide, (Apo-Acetazolamide, Diamox Sequels)
    Amiloride, (Midamor)
    Azosemide, (Diat)
    Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
    Chlorothiazide, (Diuril)
    Chlorthalidone, (Apo-Chlorthalidone, Thalitone)
    Ethacrynic Acid, (Edecrin)
    Etozolin, (Elkapin)
    Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
    Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
    Hydrochlorothiazide and Triamterene, (Dyazide, Maxzide)
    Hydroflumethiazide, (Diucardin, Saluron)
    Indapamide, (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
    Mannitol, (Osmitrol, Resectisol)
    Mefruside, (Baycaron)
    Methazolamide, (Apo-Methazolamide, Neptazane)
    Methychlothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
    Metolazone, (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
    Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide, (Benicar HCT)
    Polythiazide, (Renese)
    Spironolactone, (Aldactone, Novo-Spiroton)
    Torsemide, (Demadex)
    Triamterene, (Dyrenium)
    Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
    Urea, (Amino-Cerv, UltraMide)
    Xipamide, (Diurexan, Lumitens)
    Taking maté with these drugs may increase the therapeutic and/or adverse effects of the drug:
    Dexmethylphenidate, (Focalin)
    Dextroamphetamine, (Dexedrine, Dextrostat)
    Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine, (Adderall, Adderall XR)
    Doxapram, (Dopram)
    Methamphetamine, (Desoxyn)
    Methylphenidate, (Concerta, Ritalin)
    Modafinil, (Alertec, Provigil)
    Pemoline, (Cylert, PemADD)
    Maté contains caffeine, so see Caffeine and Caffeine-containing Herbs for an additional list of drugs that may interact with this herb.
    Lab Test Alterations:
    See Caffeine and Caffeine-Containing Herbs for a list of lab tests that may interact with the caffeine in this herb.
    Disease Interactions:
    Food Interactions:
    May increase therapeutic and adverse effects of caffeine when taken together with caffeine-containing foods and drinks.
    Supplement Interactions:
    See Caffeine and Caffeine-Containing Herbs for a list of supplements that may interact with the caffeine in this herb.
    Culinary Uses:
    Dried leaves are infused as a popular alternative to tea (Camellia sinensis See, Paraguay Tea)
    Warnings and Precautions:
    Berries are harmful if eaten.

    Don't take if you:
  • Are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or plan pregnancy in the near future
  • Have any chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract, such as stomach or duodenal ulcers, reflux esophagitis, ulcerative colitis, spastic colitis, diverticulosis, or diverticulitis

  • Consult your doctor if you:
  • Take this herb for any medical problem that doesn't improve in 2 weeks (There may be safer, more effective treatments)
  • Take any medicinal drugs or herbs including aspirin, laxatives, cold and cough remedies, antacids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, supplements, other prescription or non-prescription drugs

  • Pregnancy:
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
    Infants and Children:
    Treating infants and children under 2 with any herbal preparation is hazardous.
    None are expected if you are beyond childhood, under 45, not pregnant, basically healthy, take it only for a short time and do not exceed manufacturer's recommended dose.
  • Store in a cool, dry area away from direct light, but don't freeze.
  • Store safely out of reach of children.
  • Don't store in bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture may change the action of the herb.

  • Safe Dosage:
    Consult your doctor for the appropriate dose for your condition.
    Adverse Reactions, Side Effects or Overdose Symptoms:
    Signs and Symptoms What To Do

    Confusion Seek emergency treatment
    Excessive Urination Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient
    Hallucinations Seek emergency treatment
    Heartburn Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient
    Insomnia Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient
    Irritability Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient
    Nausea Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient
    Nervousness Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient
    Rapid Heartbeat Seek emergency treatment
    Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg 241
    The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp 333-337
    Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals, & Supplements. The Complete Guide by H. Winter Griffith, MD Copyright©1998 Fisher Books pp. 473-474