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The potential side effects of Yerba Mate and Maca

So, you are tired and looking for something to give you a little energy boost.  Caffeine may be out of the question, but what about some of the other natural alternatives? In traditional medicine, there are a number of botanical remedies that have been used to provide energy and improve stamina, but they may also have side effects that outweigh the benefits.

Yerba Mate

A popular energy herb is Yerba mate (Llex paraguariensis).  Traditionally it is used in a beverage that is mainly consumed in South America.  The herb contains minerals, plant flavonoids and caffeine.  In South American cultures, it is used as a stimulant to help with mental and physical fatigue and it may help with depressive symptoms and headaches.
To date, the clinical trials for efficacy, safety and toxicity are lacking.  The epidemiological studies suggest that prolonged use (daily use) and consumption of large amounts of Yerba mate can increase risk of some cancers (mouth, esophagus, head, neck and lungs etc.).  This herb also contains carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons,found throughout the processing stages.  In laboratory studies, extracts of Yerba mate were found to be genotoxic and mutagenic, meaning that it mutated human lymphocoyte DNA.  The quality of Yerba mate should also be questioned as it has been found to contain cadmium, lead and aluminum and in some studies, fungal contamination.

Maca

Another widely popular energy ingredient is Maca (Lepidiummeyenii).  This is actually a root vegetable that was used traditionally as food, to relieve stress, as an aphrodisiac as well as for infertility.  There are many different types and colours of maca.  It seems that each strain has different pharmacological effects.   There are very few human clinical studies for the safety and toxicity of maca.  Although the root can be consumed up to a couple grams a day without much concern about toxicity, there was a well designed clinical study to show that even at a fairly low dose of maca (o.6g/day), there was stress to the liver and elevated blood pressure.  In general, there is a lack of human clinical studies to support the use of maca for its use as a stimulant and energizing herb.
Traditionally, natives of the Andes do not use fresh maca as it was considered harmful and can cause stomach pain.  The roots are dried then rehydrated by boiling then consumed.  Large amounts of maca may lead to digestive upset, causing bloating and flatulence.
When using natural health products, it is essential to understand the efficacy, quality and dosages of the products you are ingesting.  Ensure that you understand all the benefits as well as the potential side effects and check with your natural healthcare practitioner about proper dosages and any possible interactions.

 

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