It’s common knowledge that tea has many health benefits, but do you know that a tea from South Africa might just blow your other favorites out of the water? Meet rooibos tea.
Rooibos tea (pronounced ROY-boss) is native to South Africa and touts benefit ranging from healthy bones to cancer prevention to weight loss. Many experts agree that it won’t be long before rooibos rivals green and black tea — including matcha green tea — in popularity throughout the world. It contains highly effective antioxidants that fight a large range of diseases. In fact, there is almost no part of your body that doesn’t benefit from rooibos.
From your skin, to your heart, to your bones, this high-antioxidant tea is nothing short of extraordinary.
Rooibos Tea Benefits
1. Packed with Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties
One of the root causes of disease across the board is inflammation. That, coupled with oxidative stress (free radical damage), can be attributed to a large number of diseases. I’ll say it over and over again — feeding your body with nutrients that fight inflammation and oxidation is the best way to prevent disease.
Rooibos tea functions as both an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, protecting your cells from damage by free radicals and reducing inflammation. (1)
Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant pigment (flavonoid) found in many foods and plants, one of which is rooibos tea. Its uses seem nearly endless, as it’s used to treat the following: “conditions of the heart and blood vessels including ‘hardening of the arteries’ (atherosclerosis), high cholesterol, heart disease, and circulation problems… diabetes, cataracts, hay fever, peptic ulcer, schizophrenia, inflammation, asthma, gout, viral infections, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), preventing cancer, and for treating chronic infections of the prostate.” (2)
2. Improves Heart Health
One of rooibos’ benefits is that it’s great for your heart. Rooibos tea contains chrysoeriol, a flavonoid that decreases blood pressure and improves blood circulation. It’s also be linked to lowering bad cholesterol levels. A 2012 study conducted by the Department of Anatomy and Histology at Daegu Haany University’s College of Korean Medicine in Korea found that rooibos helps decrease the occurrence of hypertension by regulating hormones secreted from the adrenal gland. (3)
Heart health is especially important in patients with diabetes. One common complication of diabetes is atherosclerosis, a form of arteriosclerosis that causes hardening and inflammation of the arteries caused by high glucose levels. Aspalathin and nothofagin, two chemical compounds present in rooibos tea, have significant effects on inflammation of the entire vascular system and are thought to be key in treating possible complications from diabetes relating to the heart.
Aspalathin is an extremely novel antioxidant, as it’s only found in rooibos and no other food or beverage. It not only helps protect against vascular inflammation, but protects the heart against oxidation and ischemia (a lack of blood supply to the heart) related to diabetic cardiomyopathy. (4) This disease, known commonly as DCM, is an unfortunately common complication of diabetes.
3. Treats and May Prevent Diabetes
Strongly connected to rooibos’ ability to strengthen your heart is its direct effect on diabetes. When tested against both diabetes and cancer, rooibos tea showed “significant therapeutic potential for either the prevention of the onset of the two diseases or their progression,” according to research published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. (5)
Fascinatingly, another study in 2013 conducted by the Department of Applied Life Science at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology’s Graduate School of Agricultural Science focused specifically on the impact of aspalathin, finding a very strong possibility that aspalathin specifically has anti-diabetic potential. (6)
This research, along with further studies, show rooibos tea makes a great addition to any diabetic diet plan.
4. May Prevent Cancer
Remember quercetin, the plant pigment found in rooibos used to treat a ton of diseases? Many doctors report effectively prescribing it in supplement form to treat cancer, as it suppresses malignant tumor growth by stopping the processes involved in cell mutation. (7, 8)
In addition, rooibos tea seems to help the immune system produce antibodies necessary to prevent and heal from cancer, allergic reactions and even AIDS. (9)
5. Aids in Digestion
The typical Western diet contributes to a surge of digestive disorders and problems not commonly found in other areas of the world that have healthier dietary practices. Your digestive system is susceptible to many problems that are made worse by diets rich in processed foods, chemicals and the other sneaky villains found in much of the food Westerners commonly consume.
The best way for your body to operate at optimal digestive health is to eat nutrient-rich foods free of the problematic chemicals and ingredients that processed foods contain.
Drinking rooibos tea is one helpful way to maintain good digestive health, especially if you suffer from frequent abdominal pain or diarrhea. Several compounds found in the tea operate as anti-spasmodic nutrients, preventing abdominal pain and reducing the occurrence of diarrhea. (10)
6. Supports Strong Bones
Rooibos tea contains many minerals that support the growth of healthy bones, including manganese, calcium and fluoride. One well-known benefit of all teas is increased bone strength, because tea increases “osteoblast activity.” (11) Osteoblasts are cells that create bone mass, so increased activity in these cells means that bones are stronger, denser and healthier.
But beyond the general benefits of all teas, rooibos tea contains two specific flavonoids, orientin and luteolin, that increase mineral content in bones. (12) This is especially significant because rooibos tea contains no caffeine, meaning that it can potentially be given to patients unable to consume other traditional teas.
7. Helps You Lose Weight
One of the three compounds that burn belly fat that I like to share with people are polyphenols, antioxidants found in a variety of foods (including rooibos tea). Because of these flavonoids (one subset of polyphenols), rooibos tea is one of my favorite fat-burning foods, and I think it’s a great idea to use it in place of green or black tea to expand your wellness routine.
In a study to discover how the nutrients in rooibos tea fight obesity, South African researchers found that consuming rooibos causes increased leptin secretion. Leptin is known as the “satiety hormone” and is part of how your body knows it has had enough to eat. Rooibos tea also prevented new fat cells from forming and caused existing fat to metabolize faster, according to the findings published in Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology. (13)
8. Treats Allergies
As I mentioned before, the same impact rooibos has on the immune system in fighting cancer also helps treat allergies. Quercetin is capable of blocking “mast cells,” which are immune cells critical in triggering allergic reactions. In fact, quercetin may have a huge anti-allergenic potential and treats allergies as effectively as some prescribed medications without side effects. (14)
9. Keeps Skin and Hair Young
Many people throughout the world consume rooibos tea for its benefits for skin and hair, as the alpha hydroxy acid found in rooibos tea isn’t extremely common in other foods. This type of acid is safest when consumed in natural sources, rather than used in dangerous processed methods, such as chemical peels. Because of this alpha hydroxy acid and prevalent antioxidants, rooibos tea has a significant effect on wrinkle reduction. (15) In addition, its antioxidant properties protect hair follicles from damage.
Rooibos Tea Nutrition & History
Rooibos tea is jam-packed with nutrients that should be a part of your diet. It’s a zero-calorie, caffeine-free, low-tannin tea that has been used in South Africa for centuries, as well as many other countries around the world. It’s a member of the legume family, and its official plant name is the Aspalathus linearis.
It’s also referred to as “red bush,” lending to its broom-like structure. Rooibos tea, referred to as “The Tao of Tea” by WebMD, can only be found growing in one location: the mountains near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. It contains 50 percent more antioxidants than those found in green tea and has been a much-loved alternative to other traditional teas, both by South Africans and immigrants to the country.
Unlike other teas, rooibos tea contains no oxalic acid, which is great news for those suffering from kidney stones, as this tea is safe for them to drink. Rooibos tea contains a laundry list of incredible minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid. High in antioxidants, such as aspalathin and nothofagin, this tea is power-packed with nutrients your body needs.
While references to rooibos tea can be found in documents as early as 1772, this incredible tea has only been commercially traded since 1904. It took many years to determine a method of germinating the plant that would allow the tea to be more widely produced.
Dr. Pieter Le Fras Nortier is often considered the father of the rooibos tea industry, as it was his research that led to the global distribution of this red tea. Rooibos is an iconic national beverage of South Africa and is also considered a commodity in many places around the globe. Nortier was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1948 for his contribution to South African agriculture.
How Rooibos Tea Is Used
One of the best parts about rooibos tea is that it’s so low in tannins that it’s never bitter and always naturally sweet, unlike other traditional teas. It’s delicious both hot and cold, and should be brewed longer than other teas.
When brewing the tea, it’s recommended to put one teaspoon to one tablespoon of tea into an infuser and pour boiling water over it, then steep between five and 15 minutes and sweeten to taste with honey or another natural sweetener. For cold rooibos tea, double the amount of tea and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes.
While the vast body of research on rooibos focuses on its many health benefits, another recent study published in the Journal of Food Science has also discovered that rooibos might be a useful natural food preservative. The study, conducted by the Deptartment of Food and Nutrition at Kyung Hee University in Korea found that rooibos specifically can work as a preservative for meat products. (16)
Precautions of Consuming Rooibos Tea
Although rooibos tea is extremely beneficial for most, there are a few minor precautions you should take if you plan on drinking large amounts of the red tea. First, some research suggests that rooibos tea consumed for a long time may have a subtle impact on male fertility, even though in “regular” amounts, it causes sperm to be more concentrated. (17)
Some physicians suggest that rooibos tea can negatively affect patients with liver disease, kidney disease and certain hormonal cancers. It’s also possible that rooibos tea can interfere with chemotherapy treatments. If you suffer from any of these conditions, consult your physician before introducing rooibos tea into your regular dietary routine.
Final Thoughts on Rooibos Tea
Although it’s not as easy to find as traditional black or green tea, rooibos tea is an incredible substance that can benefit almost anyone conscious of his or her health. And it isn’t just a health drink — rooibos tastes delicious and is naturally sweeter than other teas. It’s caffeine-free and can be enjoyed at any time of day (in fact, it’s common for parents in South Africa to give it to their children to help them sleep).
It’s packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, improves heart health, treats and may even prevent diabetes, may prevent cancer, aids in digestion, supports strong bones, helps you lose weight and achieve satiety, treats allergies, and keeps your skin and hair young.
Visit Dr Axe for more great health stories! Click here