Natural Health
Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

Lavender Essential Oil for Body and Mind

This post is published in memory of Wendy Akin, longtime MOTHER EARTH NEWS contributor and Texas gardener, who knew the value of living as both learner and teacher.

Lavender might be the most useful of all the essential oils, and everybody should have at least a small bottle. Among the most frequent uses for lavender are: treatment for headache, calming the spirit, soothing burns, and, very important, neutralizing venom from insect bites. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be applied undiluted to the skin.

For stress. Lavender oil is lovely in the bath, whether mixed with sea salts or simply as a few drops in a warm tub bath. It’s calming, relieves stress and anxiety, and is helpful for insomnia and exhaustion.

For headaches of all kinds. Lavender can offer relief. Especially for tension headache, put just a drop on a ring finger (your weakest finger), rub against the opposing ring finger and then massage the temples in a circular manner where you feel the pulse.

For mosquito bites, bee or wasp stings and spider bites, and scorpion stings. Apply lavender oil as quickly as possible. Apply it generously! When I was bitten by a Black Widow spider, I ran for the bathroom, opened a bottle and literally doused my hand in it.  Of course, in this particular case, you would be advised to seek a physician’s help, especially if the bitten person is a child, older or has a weakened immune system.

In my case, the bite never swelled or broke open as others had. Even if you discover a bite when it begins to swell, keep applying crops of lavender in hopes that you did catch it in time.

For skin care. Lavender helps to clear up blemishes. Lavender in hand and body creams and soaps nourishes and soothes the skin. For sunburns or oven burns — any burn — lavender helps the skin to heal. It is used in burn clinics for serious burns, but that should be left to a medical professional.

Where to Find Lavender Essential Oil I buy lavender 40/42 for everyday use. My oil comes from an area south of Sault in central Provence in France, and this is dependable oil. It is a blend from multiple fields, similar to a blended wine.

Expect to pay about $40 to $45 per pound for this oil, and expect a minimum order policy from the better suppliers.

One caution when selecting any essential oil: If it sounds too good to be true, it is! You won’t want to purchase oils from multi-level marketing or “pyramid” companies.

Two vendors that I trust and that have fair prices are Rainbow Meadow, Inc., and New Direction Aromatics. Lavender and eucalyptus oils are rather common, and I’ve been satisfied with those oils from Bulk Apothecary and The Chemistry Store. You may find other essential oil vendors you like very well; there are many more today than were around 20 years ago.

Note that the more reputable vendors of essential oils do offer a Certificate of Analysis, which gives a summary of a Gas Chromatography, a test to ascertain the purity of the oil.

A Word of Caution

Do not put any essential oil in your mouth or inside your nose unless specifically advised by a knowledgeable practitioner. Most essential oils are for external use only.


Guitteny, M. (1996). Lavender. Societe Agar; Lawless, J. (1995). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Element Books; Maria, D. (2000). Making Aromatherapy Creams and Lotions. Storey Publishing; Whitton, S. (1995). Essential Oils and Essences. Apple Press; Worwood, V.A. (1991). The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. New World Library.

Wendy Akin was a lifelong learner and teacher, who was happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Chemicals to Avoid During Pregnancy: BPA

Photo by Unsplash/Bethany Beck

Being pregnant seems to lead to a lot of restrictions, from what we put in our bodies to what we surround ourselves with. Sometimes reading the plethora of online lists of things to watch out for during pregnancy can be incredibly overwhelming. It's important that we learn to prioritize the things that are most potentially harmful for us and our babies so we don't become overly stressed. To that end, I'm writing a series of posts on what I consider the five most important chemicals to avoid during pregnancy. The first of those is bisphenol-A or BPA, an endocrine disruptor found in plastics and canned food linings. 

What is BPA?

I’ve already written fairly extensively about avoiding BPA here as well as in my guest blog on Care2, but I believe this is the No. 1 most important chemical to eliminate from your body before, during and after pregnancy. BPA (bisphenol-A) is a potent estrogen mimicker, meaning it can disrupt our bodies’ vital endocrine systems, damaging the reproductive system, causing low sperm counts, cancers and more. Our endocrine systems help control our hormones, which are crucial to the healthy development of babies. Because it's extremely ubiquitous, nearly all of us are exposed to at least some level of BPA. But research shows that even small amounts of BPA can damage fetal development. And babies are often highly exposed to this chemical after birth, because it is found in #7 plastics, which are commonly used to make bottles and sippy cups, as well as the liners of infant formula cans.

You can find numerous studies to associate BPA exposure with a variety of developmental problems. A recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that early exposure to BPA created results similar to developmental exposure to mercury — adult fish that had been exposed to even tiny amounts of BPA as embryos has learning and memory problems, and experienced profound behavioral changes not only immediately after hatching, but also in adulthood. The scientist who conducted the study, Daniel Weber, said, “What was amazing is that exposure only happened at the embryonic stage, but somehow the wiring in the brain had been permanently altered by it.” 

Another recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured BPA levels in the urine of mothers at various times in their pregnancy and found that the mothers with higher BPA levels during pregnancy tended to have 3-year-old girls with more anxious and depressed behavior, as reported by Today. The article also quotes Shanna Swan, a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who says the study supports a growing body of evidence that BPA can affect brain development in the womb.

How to Avoid BPA

Do not drink beverages from or store food in plastic containers, in particular #7 plastic (to be safe, I avoid all plastic food storage and beverage containers). Do not eat canned foods. Nearly all canned foods contain high levels of BPA in the lining. Choose foods stored in glass jars instead. (Eden Foods is one of the only brands that has BPA-free canned food.) After your baby is born, do not use plastic bottles or sippy cups (opt instead for glass or stainless steel like these from Klean Kanteen — even BPA-free plastic can leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals, research has found). And do not feed babies canned infant formula. If you are unable to breast feed, choose dry-pack formula containers instead.

Chemicals to Avoid During Pregnancy: Retinol

Photo by Unsplash/Laercio Cavalcanti

As we pregnant women keep in mind what is entering our babies' bodies through our mouths and avoiding alcohol, processed foods, mercury in fish and food additives, we should also keep in mind what could be entering our babies' bodies through our skin. When we slather creams, lotions, moisturizers and sunscreens onto our bodies, they are absorbed into our bodies via our largest organ, where they are able to impact developing babies. In the July/August issue of Natural Home & Garden, there is a hefty, 8-page feature on healthy skin care products. Not regulated well by the federal government, laws restricting what skin-care companies can put into their products are virtually nonexistent, so it is truly up to us to become educated consumers when it comes to what we put on our bodies and to learn what chemicals to avoid during pregnancy.

This is more crucial than ever if we're pregnant, as levels of chemicals that can be somewhat hazardous to adults can wreak greater havoc on developing systems.  As doctor Debra Jaliman says on her blog on WebMD, "I can't understand why warnings for pregnant women are not on more skin care products." While I would recommend looking at the labels on your skin care products and avoiding anything potentially hazardous (using the current Natural Home & Garden article, on newsstands now, or the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database as a starting point), one of the most important ingredients to avoid is retinol. A vitamin A derivative that encourages skin to regenerate, retinol is in a wide array of skin-care products, particularly those touted as "anti-aging." Because retinol encourages cell regeneration, it can encourage skin to "renew" itself, helping it appear younger. However, that new skin is more sensitive to sun damage, and can actually increase risk of sun damage and skin cancer when used in daytime products. Nonetheless, the desire to slap "anti-aging" on the packaging has led more and more skin-care products to contain retinol. Some studies have found that retinoids (the class of vitamin A derivatives retinol is part of) in high doses can be harmful to unborn children. Oral retinoids such as isotretinoin (in the acne treatment Accutane) are known to cause birth defects.

Found in foundations, lipsticks, sunscreens and cleansers, retinol in daytime products will "actually make skin age faster because it is more susceptible to the sun, no matter the amount of SPF protection promised on the foundation or sunscreen," Jaliman writes. Retinol is particularly not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, which includes ALL products, even those intended for use at night. Check your sunscreen! Many sunscreens contain retinol, which is a particularly hazardous use of the additive because exposure to the sun helps the product break down more quickly.  

If you are pregnant and you have been using skin-care products with retinol, don't panic. No studies have definitively linked topical use of retinol to birth defects or harm to unborn infants. To be on the safe side, though, avoid skin-care products with this ingredient. Retinoids can be listed as a variety of names on labels. Watch out for these: Differin (adapelene), retin-A, renova, tretinoin, retinoic acid, retinol, retinyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate, tazorac and avage, tazarotene. You can read more on this subject on the BabyCenter website. 

How and Why to Support Beneficial Bacteria During Pregnancy and Beyond

Photo by Unsplash/Camylla Battani

In the last decades, our knowledge regarding the miracle of creating life has advanced with leaps and bounds. We have learned so much about how the baby grows, the different developmental stages and what is necessary for a healthy baby.

Until quite recently, scientists believed that the uterus was a perfectly sterile environment, where the baby was safe from infections or other detrimental exposures. Natural birth was supposedly the first contact with bacteria and other blessings of the outside world.

There is no doubt that passing through the birth canal seeds the baby with precious beneficial bacteria from the mother, a critical event that research has found to play a major role in the short- and long-term health of the baby. The excellent documentary Microbirth is a testimony to this radical, yet entirely science-based truth.

Reproductive System Bacterial Communities

But now we have gone even further. Studies have found that the uterus is not the perfectly sterile and safe haven that we thought it was. In fact, both the uterus and the placenta (the organs most closely and intimately related to the baby) are now confirmed to harbor their own unique microbial communities, which are decisively different from microbes in other maternal organs, like the vagina or the gut.

The type of bacteria dominating these critical (for the baby and pregnancy) organs seems to influence the risk for pregnancy complications; when potential pathogens are present, there is higher risk for preterm birth and conditions such as preeclampsia.

Therefore, we need to do our best to ensure that the symbiotic bacteria of mothers-to-be are characterized by health-giving, beneficial strains, not pathogenic ones.

What Does Oral Hygiene have to Do with Healthy Pregnancy?

Another ground-breaking scientific finding is that the placental and uterine bacteria seem to be more similar to the bacteria of the mouth, despite the considerable physical distance between them. Perhaps, this is why serious gum infection (periodontitis) has been linked to higher risk for labor complications, as have other types of serious infections as well.

These finding do not mean that the gut and vagina are not important for a healthy pregnancy and baby, just that they are not in the front row of interest anymore. It is important to remember that natural birth remains a major event in seeding a baby with beneficial bacteria and that gut and vaginal flora are closely related.

However, the new facts put an unexpected emphasis on the oral hygiene during pregnancy and also provide several ways to help pregnant women enrich their symbiotic bacteria with good guys.

Bacteria in Breast Milk

Finally, we have learned that breast milk is yet another source of bacteria for the newborn baby. The mammary gland is an additional, newly found bacterial home that inevitably donates bacteria to breastfed infants.

The mother´s weight and pregnancy weight gain are shown to be important factors affecting the kind of bacteria passed on to the baby. According to a study published in the journal Pediatric Research, the breast milk of mothers with higher Body Mass Index (BMI), usually indicating obesity or overweight, has more potentially pathogenic bacterial strains, such as Staphylococcus, Clostridium, Bacteroides and Akkermansia muciniphila and less beneficial strains, like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.

All these exciting scientific advances show us that seeding a baby with beneficial bacteria starts from the early stages of pregnancy, is reinforced during natural birth and hopefully with breastfeeding. It is a multi-step process that lasts several months and depends significantly on the mother´s diet and lifestyle.

Unfortunately, this is not a matter of simply taking a probiotic supplement, although this is a necessary step as well. In order to fully support the microbiome of pregnant women and new mothers, a more holistic and careful approach is necessary.

4 Ways to Help Beneficial Bacteria Thrive

1. Practice good oral hygiene. Because the mouth is a source of bacteria for the uterus and placenta, keeping oral bacteria happy and balanced is essential. Harsh, alcohol-based, flavored mouthwashes or hydrogen peroxide washes may give a refreshing feeling, but at the same time kill indiscriminately good and bad bacteria and irritate mouth tissues.

An excellent natural alternative is oil pulling (using a natural oil as a mouthwash), which supports beneficial mouth bacteria, while being an effective detox method. Organic sesame oil and cold pressed, virgin coconut oil are the best options, because they are loaded with gentle, natural antimicrobials and numerous health-giving substances. Needless to say that keeping teeth clean is also a fundamental part of a good oral hygiene.

2. Increase probiotics. If there is no history of gut dysbiosis, you can take extra shots of beneficial bacteria with naturally fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. The bacteria in these foods and drinks remain temporarily in the gut, encouraging the establishment of healthful microorganisms.

Alternatively, probiotic supplements rich in different Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria species can also enrich the gut and vaginal flora with beneficial bacteria.

3. Limit antibiotics. Prescribed antibiotics inevitably mess up bacterial communities in the whole body, because they kill beneficial bacteria along with the bad. If you have to take antibiotics of any kind, make sure to replenish your good bacteria communities with fermented foods and drinks or by taking probiotic supplements at the same time until a week after the treatment is finished.

4. Pastured meat and dairy products. Unfortunately, the vast majority of animal products that are available come from industrially raised, confined animals, receiving large doses of antibiotic cocktails on a daily basis. Small quantities of these antibiotics are found in all types of animal products and, therefore, eating them can throw most bacterial communities out of balance.

It is much more sustainable, ethical and healthful to consume animal products coming from humanely raised, pastured animals. The products coming from such animals are of premium quality and superior nutritional value, while lacking harmful antibiotics and synthetic hormones.


The placenta harbors a unique microbiome. Science Translational Medicine. May 2014; 6(237):237ra65.

Probiotics and pregnancy. Current Diabetes Reports. January 2015; 15(1):567.

Microbiome of the placenta in pre-eclampsia supports the role of bacteria in the multifactorial cause of pre-eclampsia. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research. May 2015; 41(5):662-9.

Exploring preterm birth as a polymicrobial disease: an overview of the uterine microbiome. Frontiers in Immunology. November 2014; 5:595.

Placental Microbiome and Its Role in Preterm Birth. Neoreviews. December 2014; 15(12):e537-e545.

The Placental Microbiome Varies in Association with Low Birth Weight in Full-Term Neonates. Nutrients. August 2015; 7(8):6924-37.

The perinatal microbiome and pregnancy: moving beyond the vaginal microbiome. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. March 2015; 5(6).

Collado MC, Laitinen K, Salminen S, Isolauri E. 2012. Maternal weight and excessive weight gain during pregnancy modify the immunomodulatory potential of breast milk. Pediatric Research. 72(1):77-85.

Eleni Roumeliotou is a fertility and pregnancy nutrition and lifestyle specialist. Through Primal Baby, she helps women from all over the world to restore their fertility naturally and have complication-free pregnancies and healthy babies. Find Eleni on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Strategies for Stress Management

Photo by Unsplash/ Omid Armin

Stress can be debilitating; anyone with anxiety will tell you this. While people deal with stressors in different ways, our bodies all react quite similarly. You may have heard talk of adrenals, or seen adrenal support tinctures or concoctions for supporting a healthy stress response. This is because your adrenals, which are glands located above each kidney, control specific hormone production. One of these hormones is called "cortisol" and is increased as your body’s response to a stressful environment (3).

Your Body's Stress Response

When you're faced with a stressful situation, your body can’t distinguish the threat of financial insecurity from being chased by a bear, and it creates the same internal environment. This response is supposed to be relatively quick, increasing your blood pressure and making you more alert so you can get out of a potentially perilous situation and then go back about your day. When we worry about things, that cortisol level rises.

When we're chronically worried or anxious, cortisol is in our system for longer than necessary, which can lead to a bulk of health issues. These include a weakened immune system, digestive issues, heart disease, insomnia, depression, skin irritation, and many more (4). This is why it’s incredibly important to have certain strategies in place to help reduce stress in our daily lives. 

Tea Blends and Herbal Remedies for Stress

Adrenal Support Tincture
Adrenal tincture we made this year. Photo by Mackenzie Varney

In our present time, I’m sure everyone is dealing with their own different stressors and maneuvering around obstacles that wouldn’t have existed a month ago. Stress-relieving teas or tinctures are a great ally to have on hand right now. Lavender, chamomile, calendula, motherwort, rose, rosemary, and St. John's wort are all great herbs for relieving stress and tension in the body. Gail Edwards writes that nettles are invaluable at "restoring adrenal function" (1), so if you suffer from chronic stress, a nettle tincture might be a must-have.

At the farm, we drink a soothing tea made up of our house tea blend (see my earlier lemon balm post for the recipe) with added chamomile and lavender flowers. On top of that, I also take a rosemary tincture to help promote mental clarity and untangle some of the things I’m worried about. Rosemary is a great aid for the whole nervous system, especially when dealing with “fatigue, exhaustion, and stress” (1).

I happen to feel everything in my gut when I'm stressed, so I like to massage calendula oil right onto my stomach and neck. Taking the time to care for yourself is a huge part of healing, so make sure you’re setting time aside, or taking advantage of those precious moments when you can just breathe and check in with yourself. 

A 2014 study on chronic stress and pain in the body mentioned that “Stress may be unavoidable in life, and challenges are inherent to success; however, humans have the capability to modify what they perceive as stressful and how they respond to it” (2). Though it may not seem like it sometimes, we have the ultimate control to determine what stresses us out and why. 

Below, you’ll find some tips for managing stress, along with a list of activities that can be done to improve your living and working spaces!

Tips for Managing Stress

Create a stress board. Make a notecard about what's stressing you out and why. Then, create another notecard that outlines how you could solve that problem, with steps for accomplishing that. This can help sort out issues that may seem larger than life in your head.

Do 10 minutes of yoga or stretching each morning and night. This will help you reconnect with your body, and it's a simple way to check if anything hurts or needs special attention. 

If the outdoors is available to you, go for a walk. If you live in a more crowded area, just sitting outdoors in a secluded location is a good way to get fresh air. 

Keep a separate workspace so your brain doesn’t get overwhelmed with switching between home and work mode. 

Try to keep a normal sleep schedule. Your body and mind will benefit from sticking to a schedule!

Nature Walk  
Photo from a walk in our backwoods. Photo by Mackenzie Varney

At-Home Activities

This is a good time to declutter. Go through your rooms and determine what can be donated, thrown away, or kept. Clutter can be overwhelming, even on a subconscious level.

Make music! Especially if you have young ones, making up songs about menial tasks, such as washing dishes, making the bed, or picking up toys, can keep them entertained while also getting the job done. (My siblings and I did a quarantine theatre, which we shared virtually with our friends and family.)

Learn something new. Khan Academy is a free site that offers videos and quizzes on a multitude of subjects, and it's especially good for school-age kids trying to learn from home right now.  

Make a scrapbook with saved movie stubs, photos, drawings, notes, and other things you’ve collected over the years.

Get cooking. Play around with an old family recipe, or make a new one. 

Make sure you're taking good care of your adrenals and coping with stressors you can’t immediately solve. As always, check with your healthcare practitioner before starting herbal supplements, as they may interfere with other medications you may be taking, or may not work for you specifically. Listen to your body. We here at Nezinscot Farm wish you all health, happiness, and safety during these times.


Edwards, F. Gail. Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs, 2000. pg. 165

Hannibal, K. E., & Bishop, M. D. (2014). Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Physical therapy, 94(12), 1816–1825.

What are the health effects of chronic stress? Medical News Today, 2018.

Mackenzie Varney is an apprentice herbalist on Nezinscot Farm in Maine. She has degrees in biology and health and has lived and worked on farms all her life. Connect with her on Instagram, and read all of Mackenzie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Belly Dancing Through Pregnancy

"That’s what birth is, it's improv." —Jamie Rose Lyle

Photo by Adobe Stock/sdubrov

Three weeks before the estimated due date of her first child, Jamie Rose Lyle’s water broke and slow contractions began. She wasn’t worried about a thing. ”I knew I didn’t need medical interventions, I needed to give my body time.” she said. She spent the time laboring and listening to music. “Reggae was what I was grooving to.” said Jamie, “that song ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright was playing when my water broke.”

After 24 hours of labor at home, Jamie was one centimeter dilated. She went to the hospital and was given antibiotics and pitocin for the next five hours, then spinal anesthesia. “By the time we had medical intervention, it was welcome.” said Jamie. Finally, 44 hours after her membranes ruptured, and a half an hour of pushing, Jamie pulled out her baby boy.

Fast forward nine months and Jamie has started belly dancing. While she had prior experience with ballet, modern and ballroom dance, she had fallen in love with an improv style of belly dance, and has even earned herself a spot in a local troupe. When Carol Vance, the troupe’s director called to invite Jamie to dance with them, Jamie let Carol know that she and her husband has just started trying to get pregnant again.  

“Fabulous!” was Carol’s response. “Right from the start,” Jamie said, “I found support for dancing while pregnant.”  

With the challenges that often come with first trimester pregnancy, I asked Jamie if she ever wanted to stop dancing during that time. “No, I didn’t want to stop, not at all,” she said, “When I was dancing, I would feel fine.” So, for three and a half hours each Tuesday night, Jamie dances with her troupe and gets relief from her nausea and exhaustion.

Jamie likes that the troupe consists of four generations of women, most who have given birth themselves. She said she loves, “being around all those tummies that have had babies.” She also acknowledges that belly dance has its roots in childbirth and she often thinks of how other mothers, both current and through the ages are joining her in her experience, “right now and in time,” she said, referring to pregnancy, birth and midnight nursing.

Jamie also feels strong and more comfortable because of belly dance. Throughout our conversation she listed the ways her body feels as a result of dance; "I really feel like the dancing helps me feel strong, my stomach muscles are holding up my belly, I literally feel like my back is so supported, I can walk more comfortably and everything because of belly dance, my hips aren’t tight, if I could just keep my muscles doing this, it feels really good, it's the kind of movement my body needs right now."

And according to Jamie, she can do things with her body that she couldn’t do in her first pregnancy. For example, she can get into the traditional birth squat now, “and I for sure was not doing belly rolls when I was pregnant with (Jackson),” she said. Out of a vocabulary of 300 dance moves, Jamie said there are only two that aren’t comfortable, “just knowing that I can do those positions fully helps my confidence.”

Finally, in contrast to her first labor, where Jamie said she knew she had to try hard to relax, her goal is not to try so hard this time. She anticipates the improv nature of belly dancing to be one of the best preparations of childbirth and that it will help her with this. “Before when I danced, it was always choreographed, but belly dancing is improv style which will be a huge help in birth." She said that all her belly dance performances have been while she has been pregnant and she has to decide which moves to do in live time. Just like dance, she said, “I just have to trust my body and not think too much and let myself go. That’s what birth is, it's improv.”

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Preparing Yerba Mate, From Root to Brew


Photo by Lautaro Andreani on Unsplash 

At last an unpredictable year has come to an end. As we are all reflecting on the wild ride it has been we are also ready to shift our gears in motion and begin on a clean, positive slate. We usually plant these seeds of positivity for the year in the form of “resolutions” or “intentions”. If you are still wondering what changes you can incorporate to your daily routine and are interested in trying something new, why not begin this new year drinking yerba mate?

Allow me to explain, yerba mate is a traditional South American herbal beverage made from the leaves of the yerba mate plant. Mate is drunk throughout South America; however, it is the national drink of Argentina and they are the largest producer of mate in the world! Some of you may recognize mate as it is served in a specific cup, called a gourd, and is drunken using a metal straw. The best part? Yerba mate is a stimulating, caffeine-rich beverage that enhances your focus like coffee but without the crash.

Coffee effects without the crash?! Let’s break it down. The caffeine levels in loose leaf tea range but usually come in to about 26mg of caffeine. Coffee is a whooping 100mg while yerba mate comes in a middle ground between the two at 85mg of caffeine. Infinite books, blogs, articles and research studies are written about the incredible health benefits of yerba mate but I’ll do my best to keep it short and sweet. The benefits from drinking mate are as follows:

  • Contains higher antioxidants than green tea
  • Promotes a healthy immune system
  • Rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Anti-aging effects
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Improves memory
  • Boosts energy
  • Enhances physical performance
  • May protect against illnesses and infections
  • Lowers blood sugar levels
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • May kill cancer cells and reduce inflammation
  • Prevent digestive issues (IBS, constipation, bloating, etc.)

Drinking yerba mate also comes with a loaded punch of vitamins and minerals:

On the yerba mate band wagon yet? If so, let’s jump right in to preparation! First things first, you are going to need the two essentials to making yerba mate which are the gourd (drinking cup) and bombilla (metal straw). These are necessary because we will be pouring water almost at boiling temperature into the cup and we definitely don’t want to be doing so in a glass or plastic cup. The metal straw is also a must because with its bottom end acting as a filter you can drink your mate without ingesting any of the leaves (you only want to be drinking the steeped water).  


  • Once your hot water is boiled, let it rest. You don’t want to burn your leaves (aka all the health benefits!), so let it cool off a bit. You want the temperature to be around 90°
  • Fill your gourd halfway with yerba mate. I like to add a little room temperature water to the leaves to absorb.
  • Slowly, pour your hot water in the gourd and DO NOT move the straw... ever! It must be kept in place as to not clog the straw.
  • Drink and enjoy the beautiful benefits of yerba mate!

Some people add mint, sugar, or orange peel to their serving to contrast the bitterness. Do what appeals to you. Also, you can refill your same cup as many times as you like. Although yerba mate contains caffeine, you can drink the beverage any time throughout the day. In South America, locals drink anywhere from one to four liters a day of yerba. The act of drinking yerba mate is also a tradition with beautiful roots. South Americans drink yerba mate not just for their caffeine fix but as a social practice; gathering and sharing the gourd is a sign of friendship and bonding. It is no doubt worth trying.

Yerba Mate can be bought at your local supermarket either located in the coffee/tea aisle or international foods aisle. Select health food stores also sell mate as well as Amazon.

Taylor Goggin is tropical gardener in Florida who gained her skills in cooperative agriculture while work-trading with a World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program on the Hawaiian Islands. She now grows papaya, banana, avocado, fig, tomatoes, and medicinal herbs to make into inventive plant-based recipes. Connect with Taylor on Instagram, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

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