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Antioxidant Benefits of Yerba Mate, Moringa, & Tulsi (Antiox Part 7)

Posted by Stephany Morgan

In today's post I'm expanding our Antioxidants in Tea series, and I, your (hopefully favourite?!) Tea Scientist, will go through the key antioxidant compounds and the studied health benefits of the energizing Yerba Mate and our favorite adaptogens Moringa and Tulsi! 

Basically we are always looking for the next food or drink to stay at our best, and are ‘told’ by mysterious articles that this or that is good for us. But how? Why? Well I'm here (with all my access to scientific journals!) to fill in the blanks, allowing you to make the best choices for your body.


If you want to jump ahead...


As before I will explain their effects in the body from current scientific literature - translating the scientific lingo into plain English. Crucially every single one of the health impacts mentioned below were found in the studies cited. No wild claims or exaggerations here, only science. If you are curious, follow the links in the references for more information and to read the studies themselves.

For a quick intro to how antioxidants work in our body our last Antioxidants in Rooibos, Honeybush & Chamomile: What Do They Actually Do? has a great recap. In short, they help prevent oxidative stress from free radicals in the body (both ones you consume and ones your body produces in normal activity), damaging DNA, RNA, cell membranes, lipids, and protein and more, leading to various cancers and other health issues.


 Green Yerba Mate Leaf Tea


What are the Antioxidants in Yerba Mate?

Yerba mate tea is traditionally consumed in South America and packs a powerful caffeine-punch. 

Mate is made from a cousin of the Holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis) and is native to the subtropical highlands of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. The majority of the world's Yerba Mate is consumed in these countries.

It is known as a coffee replacement due to its high caffeine content, and is traditionally consumed via a bombilla (a hollowed-out gourd with a sieve-like straw). The drink is made by brewing the dry roasted leaves of the tree, which are processed somewhat like tea leaves.

To learn more about Yerba Mate, read our post introducing it: Yerba Mate Tea: What is it and why is everyone talking about it?

Mate has an ORAC score of 1704.

ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and is a scale to gauge antioxidant units. The higher the ORAC value, the higher the antioxidant level. Learn more about ORAC here.


Key Yerba Mate Antioxidants

Mate’s primary antioxidants are xanthines (caffeine, theobromine), caffeoyl, saponins and polyphenols/phenolic compounds. But what do they do? Well, let’s get to their Yerba Mate benefits!


Phenolic Compounds

Yerba contains phenolic compounds, a large class including caffeoyl derivatives, these sciency words to you mean antimicrobial and antioxidant, due to their classification as a subclass of polyphenols, which are some main contributors of antioxidant action in Yerba (1,2).

Polyphenols are considered to be the major bioactive substances of Yerba (bioactive just meaning they have an effect on living organisms). Some polyphenols in yerba mate include: caffeic acid, caffeine, chlorogenic acid, quercetin, rutin, and theobromine (1). Polyphenols like all antioxidants reduce free radicals by donating electrons and mollifying the harmful molecules.

They’re responsible for anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective (the heart), and anticancer properties (1). Rutin in particular supports the strength of capillary walls and is used for vein health and circulation (24).


Yerba Mate Tea Wake Up Focus


Caffeine and theobromine

These are methylxanthines (wow that’s a long word!), basically, they stimulate the central nervous system, have cardiovascular effects, increase gastric acid secretion, and diuresis - where the kidneys try to produce more urine. You may be aware already of how you need to go to the bathroom more with lots of coffee! So, as with anything high in caffeine, drink in moderation. Mate has just a bit lower caffeine content than coffee, so is a great replacement if for you, health or taste preferences have you on a search.

They’re also weak bronchodilators inside the lungs and may enhance lung function for up to four hours after consumption (3, 4). So that’s interesting for exercise. Both are potent free-radical scavengers with an affinity for certain radicals - again if you need a reminder as to how antioxidants work see my intro to the previous blog here

Theobromine scavenges and binds to copper in the body (Cu(I) and Cu(II)), which helps with the consequences of chemotherapy, and helps with the anti-cancer properties of other aspects when in green tea (5) so perhaps a blend is in order! 

Theobromine is similar to caffeine, and is safe for humans (but not for pets) in small to moderate amounts (such as those found in chocolate or yerba). It’s interesting to note that while caffeine is stimulating to the brain, theobromine can enhance sleep duration and relaxation, as well as support heart health, so the effects of different substances such as coffee, yerba, chocolate, cacao, and green tea may be due to the differing ratios of the two substances (3). 

Some good news about caffeine: Just so you know, if consumed appropriately the literature overall shows caffeine can have health benefits, just don’t go overboard with litres of mate, or coffee or high-caffeine tea per day. It has neuroprotective properties and is being studied for potential benefits and prevention in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (5). To read more about caffeine, see our blog Caffeine in Coffee and Tea.



These have cholesterol-lowering effects, which are somewhat responsible for the anti-inflammatory and anticancer benefits in Yerba (1). Saponins have synergistic antioxidant action particularly in conjunction with quercetin (6).

Basically this is saying there there are two antioxidants that work together well and to avoid repeating myself later, see the benefits of quercetin below in moringa. Yes both mate and moringa have this powerful antioxidant!


Fancy a try? Shop Yerba Mate


Organic Moringa Powder on Egg_MatchaAlternatives


What are the Antioxidants in Moringa oleifera?

This superfood contains a staggering amount of nutrients and phytochemicals, and most of its beneficial action is due to the nutritive and moringa’s antioxidant properties.

It is a truly remarkable tree native to North India: It is super rich in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and nutrients, especially when drunk or eaten in powdered form (as on a fried egg, for example!). Infusions made from the leaves are still good, but with consuming the powder you get all the moringa goodness. 

Moringa leaves provides all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein - a rare thing for the plant world, and when the leaves (whole or powdered) are simmered in hot water, its not-insignificant iron content becomes 3x more bioavailable than it is when raw.

Moringa leaves contain vital antioxidants, nutrients, antibiotic constituents, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and healthy fatty acids (Omega-3s and 6s). Moringa also contains more fiber, vitamins A & C, and protein than matcha, which barely contains any protein to speak of.

It also has an impressive shelf life: most plants’ nutrients breakdown over time, but Moringa leaves, whether whole or powdered, can be stored for months without refrigeration and not lose their nutritional value.  

Also worth remembering moringa is naturally caffeine free, the opposite of caffeine packed yerba mate.

To learn more about Moringa, read our post introducing it: Moringa: The Energizing, Caffeine-Free Matcha Alternative

Moringa oleifera has an ORAC score of 1576.

ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and is a scale to gauge antioxidant units. The higher the ORAC value, the higher the antioxidant level. Learn more about ORAC here.


Organic Moringa Powder_MatchaAlternatives

Key Moringa Antioxidants

Let’s start with a list of the main antioxidants in Moringa: Vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, luteolin, and chlorogenic acid. Here’s what these antioxidants do to the body and their benefits:


Vitamin C

Vitamin C occurs in Moringa as ascorbic acid, and reduces numerous harm-causing biological oxidants. Here’s the super-sciencey explanation for what Vitamin C does: Because of its high reactivity for reducing reactive oxygen species (ROS), it has beneficial antioxidant action on multiple bodily systems (F). And guess what - Moringa actually contains more vitamin C than oranges (8)!

Also, because Vitamin C is water soluble, its protective antioxidant effects work both inside and outside the cells (9). Nice!


Beta carotene

This carotenoid is used by the body to make our friend Vitamin A. Moringa’s beta carotene is a powerful immune-boosting antioxidant but it got some bad rap when it was used in mega doses in clinical trials. Turns out - unsurprisingly!! - it is only beneficial when it comes packaged as nature intended: in dietary amounts naturally occurring in plants.

Its antioxidant activity is further enhanced when in conjunction with other antioxidants such as vitamin E. Synergy at its best (10)!


Chlorogenic acid

This is an antioxidant with anticarcinogenic action and liver protective properties. Also, seriously cool, it also shows potent inhibition of the Hepatitis B virus. Chlorogenic acid supports kidney tissue regeneration by reducing renal oxidative stress and inflammation, as seen in clinical studies (11).

So, in layperson’s terms, this moringa antioxidant helps protect against carcinogens, boosts kidney health, and reduces inflammation. Aww yeah!


Quercetin and Luteolin

These antioxidants help to inhibit lipid peroxidation (jargon alert!), that means to reduce free radical damage which can lead to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, rheumatic arthritis, cancer and atherosclerosis (24, 25, 26).

As we mentioned in our Antioxidants in Rooibos article as well, Quercetin and luteolin work together towards cancer cell death, reduce cancer cell spread (thyroid and colon cancers) and may have anti-colon cancer effects (24).


Fancy a try? Shop our Superior Organic Moringa Tea Powder!



Loose Leaf TulsI Holy Basil


What are the Antioxidants in Tulsi (Holy Basil)?

Also called “The Incomparable One”, Tulsi is a herb true to her name. Holy basil (tulsi,  tulasi or tulsiis) is, unsurprisingly, a type of basil from India, but when dried and brewed does not taste anything like the basil you are imagining. The tulsi tea  flavour is rich, warm, herbaceous and with a light spice and sweetness. The powerful flavor has hallmarks of the menthol effect of a strong mint tea with notes of peppermint, clove, or lemon.

Tulsi has a long history in its native place of the Indian subcontinent, being considered a sacred plant by Hindus. It is often planted around Hindu shrines and around the home and is used extensively in Ayurvedic traditional medicine across hundreds of different remedies.

To learn more about Tulsi, read our post introducing it here: Tulsi Holy Basil: An Ancient Tea for Modern Times.

Tulsi  is naturally caffeine free & has an ORAC score of 2550.

ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and is a scale to gauge antioxidant units. The higher the ORAC value, the higher the antioxidant level. Learn more about ORAC here.


Key Tulsi Antioxidants

These are the main antioxidants in Tulsi Holy Basil, and I’m going to demystify the lesser known ones!

Vitamin C, vitamin A, rosmarinic acid, caryophyllene, eugenol, and ursolic acid. Here are the properties and benefits of these antioxidants:


Rosmarinic acid

This is a seriously sciency bit - but to summarize it helps with blood flow and inflammation. Here are the detailed details:

This Tulsi antioxidant is an ester of caffeic acid with antioxidant, antimutagen, antimicrobial, and powerful anti-inflammatory properties (12) and it reduces oxidative stress via scavenging (13). It’s a phenolic compound and carries many of the reputed actions of that class, such as anticancer properties. As an antioxidant, it reduces superoxide and hydroxyl radicals, and also prevents oxidation of low density lipoproteins.

Because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action, it can also increase the health of blood cells and blood vessels. Lastly, it has synergistic antioxidant action with lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes (14). No wonder we love the complementary flavors of tomato and basil!



This antioxidant reduces superoxide anions, hydroxyl radicals and lipid peroxidation, which in layperson’s terms means it has liver protective properties and reduces fibrosis (scarring and scar tissue that can interfere with normal organ functioning). In a study where oxidative stress was used to increase production of certain proteins, caryophyllene was able to inhibit the proteins and improve liver structure (15). In other words, good for your liver!



This Tulsi antioxidant was found in a study to demonstrate highly potent antioxidant and free radical scavenging abilities (16). The antioxidant action lends to its liver-protective properties (17). It is also anti-stress, anticonvulsant, and has local anesthetic properties (18).


Ursolic acid

Usolic acid is what makes apple peels waxy, and is commonly found in herbs and spices, such as rosemary and thyme - and Tulsi of course!

Going full-on science, it is a proton donor, and has reducing powers. It is able to scavenge nitric oxide and superoxide, and prevent lipid peroxidation (which reduces free radical damage) (19). In one study it was able to reverse microscopic anatomical changes and ameliorate liver toxicity by reducing lipid peroxidation and increasing circulatory antioxidants (20).

Whew - but what does all this mean in everyday English?! In short, these and other studies have shown that, in mice at least, it helps build muscle mass, reduce white fat obesity, improve cognition, boost endurance and help protect the heart. Wow. An apple a day indeed!


Give it a try! Shop All Tulsi Tea



Tea assortment Packaging MatchaAlternatives


Stephany Morgan

A Note from the Herbalist

When I'm diving into the hard science behind antioxidants, it can be a struggle to make it easily readable but I hope I have done it justice and, when you wondered what are the actual studied benefits of the antioxidants found in these delicious teas and tisanes, you now have your answers. 

Here at we’re an antioxidant tea shop at heart, so we strive to make it easier and cheaper to get your daily fix with delicious teas without the eye watering cost of matcha, and without the need for sugar and fats (we’re looking at you Starbucks matcha latte with your hundreds of calories!).

There are so many antioxidant packed teas in our shop like these three above, which all have a higher antioxidant score (ORAC) than matcha. Why not try them out? Free shipping in the USA!


Rare Superfood Tea Trio
Three rare superfood teas with a mega-antioxidant hit: all have more antioxidants than Matcha.
Plus, save $5 off the regular price on the 4oz bundle!
'The Purist' Green Yerba Mate
Get to know yerba mate with our broad range of flavors, from roasted to pure, zingy to chai. 
'The Purist' Organic Tulsi Holy Basil
Discover why this adatpogen has been consumed for millennia! 
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All of the information regarding the herbs, botanicals, minerals, vitamins, etc., is information drawn from traditional use data or academic research and should be regarded as such. If you, the reader, has a health or medical concern, please consult your healthcare professional. The information found here is not meant to diagnose, treat, prescribe or cure and has not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only.


References for the Antioxidant Benefits of Yerba Mate, Moringa, & Tulsi

  2. Polyphenol sub-class Hydroxycinnamic acids. Polyphenol Explorer, Database on polyphenol contents of food Showing polyphenol sub-class Hydroxycinnamic acids
  3. Franco, R., Oñatibia-Astibia, A., & Martínez-Pinilla, E. (2013). Health benefits of methylxanthines in cacao and chocolate. Nutrients, 5(10), 4159–4173.
  4. Welsh EJ, Bara A, Barley E, Cates CJ. Caffeine for asthma. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD001112. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001112.pub2 The effect of caffeine in people with asthma
  5. Monteiro, J. P., Alves, M. G., Oliveira, P. F., & Silva, B. M. (2016). Structure-Bioactivity Relationships of Methylxanthines: Trying to Make Sense of All the Promises and the Drawbacks. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 21(8), 974.
  6. Puangpraphant S, de Mejia EG. Saponins in yerba mate tea ( Ilex paraguariensis A. St.-Hil) and quercetin synergistically inhibit iNOS and COX-2 in lipopolysaccharide-induced macrophages through NFkappaB pathways. J Agric Food Chem. 2009;57(19):8873-8883. doi:10.1021/jf902255h Saponins in Yerba Mate Tea ( Ilex Paraguariensis A. St.-Hil) and Quercetin Synergistically Inhibit iNOS and COX-2 in Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Macrophages Through NFkappaB Pathways 
  7. Stipanuk, M. & Caudill, M. (2019). Biochemical, physiological, and molecular aspects of human nutrition (4th ed.) St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Saunders.
  8. Sankhyan, Nidhi & Sharma, Anshul & Seth, Chandrika & Chauhan, Anjali & Kulshrestha, S.. (2013). DETERMINATION AND COMPARISION OF VITAMINC CONTENT FROM MORINGA OLEIFERA BY DIFFERENT METHODS. International Journal of Agricultural Science and Research (IJASR). 3. 67-70.  (PDF) DETERMINATION AND COMPARISION OF VITAMINC CONTENT FROM MORINGA OLEIFERA BY DIFFERENT METHODS
  9. By Fadime Eryılmaz Pehlivan Published: August 2nd 2017 DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.69660 Vitamin C: An Antioxidant Agent
  10. Paiva SA, Russell RM. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids as antioxidants. J Am Coll Nutr. 1999;18(5):426-433. doi:10.1080/07315724.1999.10718880 Beta-carotene and Other Carotenoids as Antioxidants
  11. Science Direct directory Chlorogenic Acid - an overview
  12. Antioxidants 2014, 3(4), 830-842;
  13. Talambedu Usha et al Published: 3 December 2014 Rosmarinic Acid, a New Polyphenol from Baccaurea ramiflora Lour. Leaf: A Probable Compound for Its Anti-Inflammatory Activity
  14. Focus Biomolecules, information on Rosmarinic acid (references in page) Rosmarinic acid Supplier | CAS 20283-92-5
  15. Rosmarinic acid – The active ingredient from rosemary (references in page)
  16. Calleja MA, Vieites JM, Montero-Meléndez T, et al. The antioxidant effect of β-caryophyllene protects rat liver from carbon tetrachloride-induced fibrosis by inhibiting hepatic stellate cell activation [published correction appears in Br J Nutr. 2013 Feb 14;109(3):583. Montero-Meterdez, Trinidad [corrected to Montero-Meléndez, Trinidad]]. Br J Nutr. 2013;109(3):394-401. doi:10.1017/S0007114512001298
  17. Gülçin İ. Antioxidant activity of eugenol: a structure-activity relationship study. J Med Food. 2011;14(9):975-985. doi:10.1089/jmf.2010.0197
  18. Nagababu E, Rifkind JM, Boindala S, Nakka L. Assessment of antioxidant activity of eugenol in vitro and in vivo. Methods Mol Biol. 2010;610:165-180. doi:10.1007/978-1-60327-029-8_10
  19. İlhami Gülçin, Published Online:21 Aug 2011 Antioxidant Activity of Eugenol: A Structure–Activity Relationship Study | Journal of Medicinal Food
  20. Santiago, Librado & Dayrit, K. & Correa, P. & Mayor, Anna Beatriz. (2014). Comparison of antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity of triterpenes α-amyrin, oleanolic acid and ursolic acid. J Nat Prod. 7. 29-36. (PDF) Comparison of antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity of triterpenes α-amyrin, oleanolic acid and ursolic acid
  21. Science Direct directory Ursolic Acid - an overview
  22. Moringa: The Complete Vegan Protein - (references in page)
  23. Moringa: The Energizing, Caffeine-Free - (references in page)
  24. Moringa vs Matcha - (references in page)
  25. Qi, L., Zhou, Y., Li, W. et al. Effect of Moringa oleifera stem extract on hydrogen peroxide-induced opacity of cultured mouse lens. BMC Complement Altern Med 19, 144 (2019). Effect of Moringa oleifera stem extract on hydrogen peroxide-induced opacity of cultured mouse lens
  26. HerbalGram Issue 59 Article 2550
  27. Ramana, K. V., Srivastava, S., & Singhal, S. S. (2013). Lipid Peroxidation Products in Human Health and Disease. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2013, 1–3.

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1 comment
  • While not quite the antioxidant point of this blog post, it’s very cool to learn that moringa has both protein and iron! I’ve been converting to vegetarianism and finding plants that help supplement vital nutrients is always wonderful.


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