The fresh leaves and stems of Ilex paraguariensis (Aquifoliaceae) are employed to prepare the commercial product used in North-eastern Argentina, Southern Brazil and Eastern Paraguay named yerba maté. The presence of polyphenols and xanthines, which present antioxidant activity, has been described in I. paraguariensis. In living organism, reactive oxygen species can cause tissue damage affecting erythrocyte membranes leading to hemolysis.
The aim of this work was to evaluate the protective effect of an aqueous extract of I. paraguariensis (green leaves) on the hemolysis of red blood cells induced by hydrogen peroxide and to correlate this activity with the enzymatic activity related to hydrogen peroxide metabolism. The antioxidant activity of chlorogenic acid and caffeine was also analysed to evaluate their contribution to the activity of the crude extract. The extract as well as the isolated compounds protected red blood cells from hemolysis. This effect was related to a catalase-like activity. This study could contribute to the knowledge of the antioxidant activity of I. paraguariensis in view of the great quantities of yerba maté consumed by the population. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.