Yerba Mate & Dopamine Neuron Protection

Neuroprotective Benefits of Yerba Mate

Unlike other sources of caffeine, yerba mate offers a unique blend of benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, which contribute to the overall health of your body. 

Moreover, yerba mate includes a significant compound—GLP-1—that has a positive role in the management of blood sugar levels. 

This aspect could make yerba mate a preferable choice for people concerned with blood sugar regulation alongside their caffeine intake.

Most intriguingly, yerba mate has shown promise in guarding the neurons that produce dopamine. Dopamine is crucial for regulating movement and motivation, and preserving its neurons can have extensive benefits for the brain’s well-being. 

In particular, certain compounds found in yerba mate were observed to support neuron survival in situations where these cells were at risk, suggesting that yerba mate could bolster our neural pathways responsible for both movement and motivational behaviors.

Huberman’s personal preference for yerba mate as his principal source of caffeine might inspire listeners to consider this beverage as a healthier and potentially neuroprotective option over other caffeinated drinks. 

However, Huberman advises caution and emphasizes that while yerba mate’s potential benefits are supported by some studies, extensive research is necessary before drawing concrete conclusions about its effects.


“Ingestion of caffeine is somewhat of an exception among the other examples of things I’ve mentioned to avoid before what would otherwise be dopamine increasing activities, because again, caffeine can increase the density and the efficacy of these dopamine receptors. It turns out that the source of caffeine could also matter. 

While coffee or tea or other forms of caffeine will have this effect of increasing dopamine receptors, yerba mate, something I’ve talked about before on this podcast, has some interesting properties. First of all, it contains caffeine. It’s also high in antioxidants. It also contains something called GLP-1, which is favorable for management of blood sugar levels. Yerba mate, it turns out, has also been shown to be neuroprotective specifically for dopaminergic neurons. 

Now I should mention, this is just a couple of studies, so we don’t want to conclude too much from these studies, more needs to be done, but they showed that in a model of damage to dopamine neurons, ingestion of yerba mate and some of the compounds within yerba mate can actually serve to preserve the survival of dopamine neurons in both the movement-related pathway and the motivation pathway. 

So perhaps you need that incentive in order to ingest yerba mate tea. Perhaps you don’t need any incentive. In my case, I don’t need any incentive. I already enjoy yerba mate as my principal source of caffeine, although I do drink coffee as well. But if one were going to consume caffeine, you might consider consuming that caffeine in the form of yerba mate, both for sake of upregulating dopamine receptors and getting more of a dopamine increase. And of course, for the stimulant properties of caffeine, if that’s what you’re seeking. And in addition to that, because yerba mate does appear to have some sort of neuroprotective and in particular dopamine neuron protective properties. 

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