For persons who are too much excited by tea, maté is an excellent drink; it is less exciting to the nervous system, as I have been most strikingly able to convince myself in the case of an hysterical young lady who was my patient last summer. This tea is made from the leaves of a kind of prickly holly (Ilex paraguayensis) which grows in Paraguay and even more plentifully in thickets (Hervaes) in southern Brazil. These leaves are chopped into small pieces or are finely ground. According to the recent experiments of French investigators, maté accelerates the circulation of the blood and diminishes fatigue consequent upon muscular exertion, and also prevents the sensation of hunger without, however, in any way affecting the appetite. In Brazil and in many other countries of South America maté is much used for breakfast, especially by persons subject to stomach disturbances or having diabetes. Whether this tea has any curative properties in such affections must still be determined. That it is fitted to take the place of ordinary tea is shown by the fact that it also contains theine; according to an analysis by Fournier, it contains from 5 to 6 grams of alkaloids to the kilo (caffeine, mateine, theine).
Larger quantities of maté can be taken without producing the nervous symptoms caused by tea. When one considers that sometimes the Gauchos in the Pampas, when they are far away from the corrals and have been in the saddle for twenty-four hours, have only maté to satisfy their hunger and. to drive away the desire for sleep which threatens to overpower them, it must be admitted that the action of the maté must be quite a powerful one.
In preparing maté 3 teaspoonfuls of it are put in cold water, which is then allowed to come to the boiling point. As soon as this has been reached it is removed from the fire, and after two or three minutes it is strained. The product obtained is a greenish-yellow liquid, which has a fine aroma. Milk may be added, and in my opinion it tastes much better than without it. Sugar is always added. Through the kindness of a patient of mine, Mr. Antonio dos Santos, from Rio Janeiro, I received a box of maté, which I took every morning for breakfast during quite a long time. It has a very agreeable taste, and when not made too strong is quite easily digested. After large quantities of a strong brew I always had acid eructations, but this is said not to be the case with most persons. My appetite for breakfast seemed to be improved, and fatigue seemed to be diminished. I found that I was much less excited after having taken large quantities than was the case with tea. I consider that maté may very well take the place of ordinary tea, when the latter is not well tolerated. Whether it really can replace tea is a question of taste, and in this respect the old Spanish saying is true: “De gustos no hay disputa” (the matter of taste does not admit of dispute). If anyone asks me, however, which is most healthful, tea or maté, I would not hesitate to recommend maté.