Varieties of herbal tea have been shown to boost one’s immune system, reduce inflammation and even to prevent cancer and heart disease. But, a particular type of tea is believed to triple the risk of getting cancer and should be avoided.
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Not your ordinary energy booster
Yerba maté - also known as mate - is a herbal tea originating from South America. Served hot or cold, the tea is promoted as having numerous health benefits. It is especially appreciated for its high antioxidant content and stimulant effects.
In fact, some say it contains 90% more antioxidants than green tea. Its caffeine composition can enhance mental focus, alertness and boost energy levels, without the jittery effects of coffee. Like most teas, Yerba maté is said to boost the immune system, prevent certain types of cancers and heart disease, as well as protecting the body from common infections.
Despite its many acclaimed benefits, research has linked Yerba maté to some kinds of cancer. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center:
High doses and prolonged use of maté tea are linked to increased risk of prostate, bladder, oral, oesophageal, lung, and head and neck cancers.
The tea contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are also found in grilled meats and tobacco smoke.
A study conducted on 1,000 Uruguayan adults showed that heavy drinkers of the tea were 60 times more likely to develop lung cancer than those who do not drink it as often.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarker and Prevention, suggests that the brew can also increase a person’s risk of getting respiratory or digestive cancer.
Findings from this research have given researchers reason to believe that the popular tea could behind one in five cancer cases in South America.
Authors of another paper published in the Environmental Science and Technology in 2012, said:
[if we] assume that average use of 50 grams of leavers per (gourd), then drinking an average cup of maté in the traditional way would expose the consumer to [the] equivalent content of the smoke from 100 cigarettes (five packs).
Yerba maté tea also present some unpleasant side effects such as stomach upset, headache, anxiety, ringing in the ear, nausea and vomiting.