1. The mutagenic and genotoxic effects of mate (Ilex paraguariensis) aqueous solutions were analyzed in bacterial cells. 2. Mate solutions showed mutagenic activity in the Ames test (TA97, TA98, TA100 and TA102 strains) at concentrations of 20 to 50 mg/plate (mutagenic factors of 3.5 to 5.6) and genotoxic activity in the inductest (WP2s (lambda) strain), with a maximal phage induction at concentrations of 10 to 20 mg/plate. Above these concentrations the mate solutions were cytotoxic. 3. Addition of 5 U/ml catalase, 20 microliters/ml S9 rat liver microsomal fraction, 100 mM thiourea or 10 mM dipyridyl completely inhibited the lysogenic induction produced by mate; however, the addition of 1,000 U/ml superoxide dismutase was almost ineffective. 4. Oxygen reactive species may be present in mate solutions playing an essential role in its genotoxicity.