Rooibos tea is lesser-known type of tea and unrelated to its green, black, and oolong tea alternatives, but it has excellent health benefits and a remarkable flavor that’s both sweet and aromatic. Also known as red tea or red bush tea, rooibos tea is made using leaves from a shrub called Aspalathus linearis, which is a flowering shrub grown mainly in Africa. This contains polyphenols like aspalathin, which aren’t found in any other foods.
Traditional rooibos tea is made by fermenting the leaves, giving them a red-brown color. Unfermented green rooibos differs in flavor and comes with more antioxidants, but is more expensive.
Rooibos tea is usually consumed like black tea. Some people add sugar and milk to it. Rooibos iced tea, lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos have also taken off.
Origin of Rooibos Tea
Rooibos has been consumed in the Cedarberg region of South Africa for more than 300 years. In 1772, the plant was first recorded by botanists after they enjoyed a sweet-tasting brew served to them by the locals. The tea is made by bruising and cutting the leaves and stems of the plant, fermenting them in heaps and leaving them out to dry in the sun. This process gives the leaves a red-brown color. Since the 1930s, rooibos tea is cultivated and imported to more than 31 countries.
Taste of Rooibos Tea
This tea has a sweet and nutty flavor often compared to hibiscus tea, plus it has earthy tones that are comparable to yerba mate teas. Rooibos tea is also described as to having a smoky essence with hints of caramel and vanilla. Overall, its flavor is subtle, and not overpowering.
Its sweet flavor can be enhanced with slices of lemon or honey. It can be brewed as a hot tea or an iced tea.
Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea
The nutritional benefit of rooibos tea lies in its antioxidant contents, and its unique polyphenols like aspalathin. This tea also contains essential minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and alpha hydroxyl acid. As with most herbal teas, it also contains high levels of vitamin C that offer extensive health benefits.
1. No caffeine content
Consuming moderate amounts of caffeine is generally safe, but excessive intake has been linked to heart palpitations, sleep problems, headaches, and increased anxiety. Green tea, black tea, and other common types of tea contain caffeine. Meanwhile, rooibos tea is a caffeine-free beverage, so it can be safely drunk as a fluid replacement for those who want to avoid or unable to tolerate caffeine. Rooibos tea also has no oxalic acid, which can increase risk of kidney stones.
2. Good for the heart
The antioxidants present in rooibos tea appears to have beneficial effects on blood pressure, linking it to a healthier heart. This tea can inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which causes rise in blood pressure and contraction of blood vessels. The high flavonol content of rooibos tea also supports the cardiovascular system due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
There is also promising evidence that the tea can decrease bad cholesterol, while boosting good cholesterol in overweight adults at high risk of heart disease. However, the same effect wasn’t seen yet in healthy people.
3. May help control or prevent diabetes
Drinking rooibos tea can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes by preventing oxidative damage associated to diabetes. The antioxidant aspalathin present in rooibos tea work to regulate blood sugar levels and increase glucose tolerance in diabetic mice, according to a 2013 animal study. Though rooibos tea won’t cure diabetes, it can help improve symptoms and decrease insulin resistance.
Aspalathin helps increase glucose uptake and suppress the increase of fasting glucose levels, which can lead to blood sugar spikes in diabetic individuals.
4. May reduce risk of cancer
Potent antioxidants in rooibos tea can help protect against free radical damage associated with cancer. According to test tube studies, luteolin and quercetin – two polyphenols present in rooibos tea – can kill cancer cells and prevent tumor growth. The green, unfermented rooibos tea has higher levels of polyphenols than the traditional fermented one. It also demonstrates greater anti-mutagenic capabilities in test tube studies, unsurprisingly.
However, it’s worth noting that research has not yet confirmed whether there are enough levels of antioxidants in rooibos to replicate this effect on humans. Also, the amount of luteolin and quercetin in a cup of rooibos tea is small, and many fruits and vegetables are better sources.
5. May help enhance bone strength
Though there isn’t enough evidence, rooibos tea may help promote bone health. This tea contains minerals such as calcium, manganese, and fluoride that can help build strong bones. The presence of these minerals These minerals help produce increased activity of osteoblast cells, which help develop strong bone mass.
While most teas contain essential minerals that help protect healthy bones, rooibos tea contains two more compounds that are more beneficial for bone health. Rooibos tea also contains flavonoids such as luteolin and orientin, which has been shown to potentially increase mineral content in the bones. This can help keep problems like arthritis at bay.
6. Good for the skin
Alpha hydroxyl acid, which is also present in rooibos tea, is a main ingredient in skin treatments like chemical peels that you get at the dermatologists’ office. It’s not commonly found in foods, so anything that comes with it can aid in your skin care routine, helping reduce wrinkles. According to a 280day clinical study, rooibos tea demonstrated almost a 10% improvement in the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It also helps soothe skin, reducing redness and irritation. This tea also contains zinc, which has a potential to treat skin conditions like acne and eczema.
7. Aids in digestion
Drinking tea has a potential digestive benefit, and rooibos tea isn’t exempted. This tea comes with several nutrients and compounds that are anti-spasmodic, like orientin, quercetin, and vitexin, which helps relax the digestive system and relieve feelings of discomfort. The vitamins and minerals in rooibos can help support immune function and prevent invading pathogens that can make you sick.
8. Prevents allergies
Rooibos tea contains a flavonoid called chrysoeriol, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. It works as bronchodilator, so it can help relieve symptoms like coughing and wheezing that’s caused by asthma and allergic rhinitis. The flavonoid quercetin in rooibos tea also helps prevent allergies from being triggered in the first place. It does that by blocking mast cells, which are responsible for releasing histamine, so in essence, this brew can work as an antihistamine without the drowsy side effect. While it’s not a replacement for allergy treatments, drinking a few cups of rooibos tea can help limit your body’s overactive immune response that causes allergies.