-“Ya voy…Ya te llevo unos matecitos,” was usually the first greeting of my mother Gladys when she got up early in the morning at our home in Montevideo.
She had introduced her two sons to the healthy practice of drinking “mate” at breakfast and as a collation at teatime or in some other times of the day. We are grateful for her initiation of the rainforest’s ancient herbal infusion in our daily diet.
A legend of the Guaraní Indians states that Yari, the moon goddess, asked Ari, the dusk’s pink cloud, to accompany her to go down and visit the Earth. They were walking along the woods when a jaguar leapt towards them; a Guaraní Indian shot an arrow, killing it. As a token their of appreciation, Yari sowed light blue seeds in front of his house and Ari poured a sweet and soft rain which made white flowers appear in the midst of dark green leaves.
The dried leaves of the “Yerba mate” are used to prepare an herbal infusion that is served hot in a hollowed gourd with a metal straw; it can be used as a tea bag for the “mate cocido”, a popular breakfast drink in South America. It is widely consumed in Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil, plus the related diaspora all over the planet.
Admiring the well-built, vigorous and healthy Guaraní Indians, the invading Spaniards inquired about their secret and discovered the herbal infusion. Initially branded as a “diabolic drink” by the Jesuit missionaries that settled in the lush banks of the Paraná River, they eventually accepted it and started to cultivate it with modern irrigation methods in their sprawling farms.
Yerba Mate both contains xanthines—chemical substances that boost the metabolic rate—and panthotenic acid—a tonifier of the nervous system; it has the double effect of stimulating bodily functions without overshooting it. it is a powerful cell protector against the neoplasias and ravages of ageing. It is used as a depurative to cleanse the body and to stimulate the appetite.
For all its benefits, I raise my eyes to the deep blue sky and say: “gracias Mamá!”
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