The American Botanical Council, a non-profit dedicated to the development of research and information sharing about botanical and herbal products, has issued an abstract in their July 31st edition of HerbClip that discusses the South American beverage Maté, sometime called "Yerba Maté," and its possible ties to head and neck cancers.
This beverage is increasingly seen in coffee shops, health food stores, natural products retailers and sometimes even mainstream grocery stores. It's popularity is gaining in the USA, and it is reputed to have more than $250 Million in sales in this country.
Yerba mate (pronounced yair-ba mah-tay) is known to South Americans as the "Drink of the Gods;" it is a hot beverage made from the dried leaves of the Ilex Paraguariense bush indigenous to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. And thanks to its robust caffeine content, the drink is a natural stimulant. The drink is traditionally steeped and served in hollowed-out gourds, sipped through metal straws designed to filter out stems and leaf bits. It was first consumed by the Guarani Indians centuries ago. Today, it is not uncommon in Argentina to see businessmen walking down the street sipping out of a Maté gourd.
However, there may be a very dangerous connection between cancers of the head and neck and maté consumption. HerbClip reports on a study done in Head and Neck which used modern informatics on a number of previously published research studies. Although there were a number of issues that need further research (difference between hot and cold maté consumption, smoking and alcohol use among participants, etc.) the researchers made some very specific claims: "Maté consumption plays a significant and independent role in the development of upper aeodigestive tract cancers," and "Maté drinking should be considered one of the risk factors for cancer of the neck and head."
It should be noted that further research is being conducted to determine the mechanism of carcinogenic action.