Rooibos Tea Benefits, Side Effects, Reviews and Facts
Rooibos is a flavorful, caffeine-free alternative to tea for those seeking to eliminate caffeine intake. Also known as Red Tea, rooibos tea gained popularity during WWII when tea supplies from Asia forced drinkers to find an alternative. With the many amazing health benefits surfacing and many flavors available, rooibos tea has far surpassed its role as an alternative beverage.
Rooibos is a member of the legume family of plants. The rooibos shrub can grow up to 2 meter in height. The erects red coloured rooibos stems contain many dark green needle shaped leaves. The rooibos shrub produces small yellow flowers in spring through early summer. Each flower produces a one seeded small bean. Roobos has a long tap root, sometimes up to 2 m in length, enabling the plant to survive periods of drought.
Only the rooibos leaves and twigs are used. Rooibos leaves are harvested in summer, cut or chopped and are left to ferment. During the fermentation of the rooibos leaves, some chemicals are oxidized by enzymes resulting in the typical red colour and flavour of rooibos. Unfermented rooibos tea is also used and contains more antioxidants. Unfermented rooibos tea has a yellow color rather than the red colour of fermented rooibos.
These are typical phytochemicals found in rooibos: aspalathin, nothofagin, caffeic acid, chrysoeriol, isoquercitrin, orientin, isoorientin, luteolin, vitexin, isovitexin, luteolin, rutin, flavonoids, quercetin, polyphenols.
Through the 17th and 18th centuries, European travellers and botanists visiting the Cederberg region in South Africa commented on the profusion of "good plants" for curative purposes. In 1772, Swedish naturalist Carl Thunberg noted that "the country people made tea" from a plant related to rooibos or redbush.
Traditionally, the local people would climb the mountains and cut the fine needle-like leaves from wild rooibos plants. They then rolled the bunches of leaves into hessian bags and brought them down the steep slopes on the backs of donkeys. The leaves were then chopped with axes and bruised with hammers, before being left to dry in the sun.
The Dutch settlers to the Cape developed rooibos as an alternative to black tea, an expensive commodity for the settlers who relied on supply ships from Europe.
In 1904, Benjamin Ginsberg, a Russian/Jewish settler to the Cape, riding in the remote mountains, became fascinated with this wild tea. He ran a wide variety of experiments at Rondegat Farm, finally perfecting the curing of rooibos. He simulated the traditional Chinese method of making very fine Keemun, by fermenting the tea in barrels, covered in wet, hessian sacking that replicates the effects of bamboo baskets.
In the 1930s, Ginsberg persuaded local doctor and Rhodes scholar Dr. Le Fras Nortier to experiment with cultivation of the plant. Le Fras Nortier cultivated the first plants at Clanwilliam on the Klein Kliphuis farm. The tiny seeds were difficult to obtain, as they dispersed as soon as the pods cracked, and would not germinate without scarifying. Le Fras Nortier paid the local "volk", some of whom were his patients, to collect seeds. An aged Khoi woman came again and again, receiving a shilling for each matchbox filled with seed. She had found an unusual seed source: having chanced upon ants dragging seed, she followed them back to their nest and, on breaking it open, found a granary. The attempts by Dr. le Fras Nortier were ultimately successful, which led Ginsberg to encourage local farmers to cultivate the plant in the hope that it would become a profitable venture. Klein Kliphuis became a tea farm, and within ten years the price of seeds soared to an astounding £80 a pound, the most expensive vegetable seed in the world. Today the seed is gathered by special sifting processes, and Klein Kliphuis is now a guest farm.
Since then, rooibos has grown in popularity in South Africa, and has also gained considerable momentum in the worldwide market. A growing number of brand-name tea companies sell this tea, either by itself or as a component in an increasing variety of blends.
Rooibos has anti-carcinogenic and antimutagenic effects. Rooibos tea is used for its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties. Consumption of rooibos tea may relief fever, asthma, insomnia, colic in infants and skin disorders. Rooibos extracts are used in ointments against eczema. In South Africa it is very common to give rooibos tea to babies who suffer from stomach cramps (colics).
Rooibos is the only known source of the phytochemical aspalathin. In vitro and animal studies have indicated that quercetin and luteolin help to prevent cardiovascular disease, some cancers and stroke. Rutin has been associated with the maintenance of blood vessels walls.
Because rooibos contains no caffeine, it is suited for babies and children. The low level of tannins in rooibos will prevent problems with iron absorption.
Sasaki YF et all (Mutat Res 1993;286:221-232) showed in their study “The clastogen-suppressing effects of green tea, Po-lei tea and Rooibos tea in CHO cells and mice” that fermented rooibos tea reduced cancer-associated changes in animal cells induced by the certain mutagens both in vitro and in vivo. Other researchers found that rooibos extracts from fermented rooibos leaves reduced cancerous transformation of mouse cells irradiation with x-rays. They found that extracts from unfermented green rooibos tea did not show this protective effect.
The antioxidant activity of rooibos tea
Like regular tea, rooibos tea contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants. While the most beneficial flavonoids of green tea are catechins such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the main flavonoids in rooibos tea are aspalathin and nothofagin. One in vitro study found that aspalathin is even more effective at scavenging free radicals than EGCG – a rather surprising result, given that just about everyone knows about antioxidants in green tea but not in rooibos tea. All in all, green tea still seems to beat rooibos tea in antioxidant activity, however.
The second flavonoid tested, nothofagin, was not as effective as quercetin but still potent. Oddly enough, an older study found that aspalathin and nothofagin can also act as pro-oxidants under certain in vitro conditions. The authors comment:
Fermentation (i.e., oxidation) of rooibos decreased the pro-oxidant activity of aqueous extracts, which was contributed to a decrease in their dihydrochalcone content. The in vitro pro-oxidant activity displayed by flavonoid-enriched fractions of rooibos demonstrates that one must be aware of the potential adverse biological properties of potent antioxidant extracts utilized as dietary supplements.
This is not a unique case, however. Vitamin C, probably the most famous antioxidant, has also been said to act as a pro-oxidant in some conditions in vitro; there is much less evidence to suggest it does so in vivo, however.
Feeding normal, healthy rats given rooibos tea instead of water had significantly higher serum superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels than the control rats. They also had less DNA damage, a result that confirms the findings of an earlier study. Furthermore, when the rats were given dextran sodium sulfate to induce colitis, the rooibos group had higher SOD levels, and the drop in hemoglobin levels seen in the control group was prevented. Thus, rooibos tea seems to be anti-inflammatory and have the potential to prevent DNA damage.
Rooibos is completely pure and natural, as it contains no additives, preservatives or colorants.
Rooibos can strongly be recommended for people suffering from irritability, headaches, disturbed sleeping patterns, insomnia, nervous tension, mild depression or hypertension, as it contains no caffeine and has a soothing effect on the central nervous system.
Stomach and indigestive problems like nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach ulcers and constipation can be relieved by drinking naturally caffeine-free Rooibos.
Rooibos has anti-spasmodic properties , thus relieving stomach cramps and colic in infants.
Rooibos is quite safe for nursing mothers, pregnant woman and infants to drink.
Rooibos is of benefit in the management of allergies like hay fever, asthma and eczema.
Rooibos has a soothing effect on the skin, relieving itching and certain skin irritations like eczema, nappy rash and acne when directly applied to the affected area.
Rooibos is a soothing drink for people on a calorie restricted diet, without adding kilojoules.
The effect of free radicals (a by-product of normal cell function) in the process of aging and declining of the immune system is limited by the anti-oxidants in Rooibos.
Rooibos has also been found to be rich in anti-oxidants plus flavonoids and has 50 times more SOD than Green Tea as well as other anti-oxidants not found in other tea.
Rooibos also supplements the daily amounts of calcium, manganese and especially fluoride, needed for the development of strong teeth and bones.
Rooibos contains zinc and alpha-hydroxy acid, which promotes a healthy skin and magnesium which is necessary for a healthy nervous system.
Since Rooibos contains no oxalic acid it can be drunk freely by people suffering from kidney stones.
Rooibos is an all day drink which can be used as a pick-me-up in the morning, a superb thirst-quencher during the day and at night it helps you to relax and sleep well.
Rooibos is completely free of additives, preservatives or colorants.
Rooibos is low in tannin and therefore does not have a negative effect on the absorption of iron and proteins into the body.
Medical science is only beginning to discover the many health advantages of Rooibos. Ongoing research and case studies confirm there seems to be no end to its benefits.
The cardiovascular benefits of rooibos tea
Due to their effects on vasodilation and vasoconstriction, angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and nitric oxide (NO) are used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure. In one study, the effect of green tea, black tea and rooibos tea on ACE and NO was compared in healthy human volunteers. None of the three had a marked effect on NO concentration, but both green tea and rooibos tea inhibited ACE activity, suggesting that they have cardiovascular benefits. This is in contrast to an earlier in vitro study which found that only green tea and black tea inhibited ACE.
Closely related to cardiovascular disease is diabetes. The good news is that that rooibos tea may help with this as well. In a mouse model of type 2 diabetes, aslapathin suppresses the increase in fasting blood glucose levels. It also improves glucose tolerance, apparently through stimulating glucose uptake in muscle tissues and insulin secretion from the pancreas. Drinking rooibos tea during a meal may not be a bad idea.
Rooibos tea for liver disease and respiratory problems
In rats, rooibos tea aids in liver tissue regeneration after prolonged intoxication. Compared to the rats receiving water during the regeneration period, the rooibos group had less fibrotic tissue in their livers and lower tissue malondialdehyde levels. The authors conclude that rooibos tea "can be recommended not only for the prevention but also as a co-adjuvant for the therapy of liver diseases."
Rooibos tea also has therapeutic potential for respiratory ailments. According to a study on rats, in addition to lowering blood pressure, rooibos tea is both a bronchodilator and an antispasmodic. This helps explain why rooibos tea is commonly used for gastrointestinal and respiratory problems. The flavonoid chrysoeriol seems to be mainly responsible for the bronchodilator and antispasmodic effect.
Red bush tea (Rooibos tea) seems safe for most people when used as a beverage. There isn't enough information available to know if red bush tea is safe for use as a medicine.
Special Precautions & Warnings
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is always a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider before taking any herbs or supplements. Not enough is known about the use of red bush tea during pregnancy and breast-feeding. To be on the safe side, talk to your health care provider before using red bush tea during pregnancy.
Some More Benefits of Rooibos Tea
Rooibos extract fights HIV
Rooibos tea extract seems to be helpful in antigen-specific antibody production by increasing interleukin-2 (IL-2) production in vitro and in vivo. According to the authors, rooibos tea intake "may be of value in prophylaxis of the diseases involving a severe defect in Th1 immune response such as cancer, allergy, AIDS, and other infections."
Another study found that an alkaline extract of rooibos tea leaves suppressed HIV-induced cytopathicity. Green tea extract, on the other hand, was ineffective. The authors conclude that HIV infection may be suppressed by the daily intake of the alkaline extract of rooibos tea. Note that the extraction mechanism is important here, because regular rooibos tea does not have anti-HIV activity.
Rooibos tea, lipid peroxidation and brain aging
The uncontrolled oxidation of lipids, which can happen during cooking or inside the body, leads to the formation of advanced lipid peroxidation end-products (ALEs). The accumulation of such products is one of the types of damage that occurs with aging.
Lipid peroxides also accumulate in the brain. Rooibos tea may help prevent this damage, however. Rats given rooibos tea instead of water accumulate significantly less aging damage in the brain than rats given water. In fact, the 24-month old rats given rooibos tea for most of their lives had brains similar to young 5-week-old rats. This is quite a remarkable result.
One study found that out of the flavonoids tested, quercetin and EGCG (found in green tea) were the best inhibitors of lipid peroxidation, while aspalathin had a similar potency as catechin. Nothofagin was of no use here, however. Since polyunsaturated fats or PUFAs are especially prone to form ALEs, it seems like a cup of green tea or rooibos tea with a meal containing polyunsaturated fats might be useful.
The difference between red and green rooibos tea
Typically, rooibos leaves are oxidised before they are used to make rooibos tea. This process, which is not exactly the same as the fermentation process used in making black tea, gives them the familiar reddish-brown color and the slightly sweet taste. However, unoxidised rooibos tea is also available. The color and taste are quite different.
Like in the case of regular tea, the oxidation process also affects the flavonoid content of the tea. Unoxidised rooibos tea contains more about twice as much total flavonoids as oxidised tea and 10-fold higher levels of aspalathin and nothofagin. In the studies that have directly compared the two, the unoxidised version seems to generally come out on top. For example, unoxidised rooibos tea seems to protect rats from liver cancer more effectively than oxidised tea. The antimutagenic activity of the two depends on the mutagen in question, however.
tea Rooibos September 20, 2010, From Israel
Very nice and helpful tea. I very like drink it.
Rooibos March 02, 2011
I was happy with this product. It is the first time I have had rooibos. I was pleasantly surprised.
Good May 23, 2011, From Great Britain
My husband really likes this tea, he says it tastes like good quality tea. Makes a stong cup with a fresh flavour.
Dark, Rich, & Delicious April 06, 2010
Steeping this tea has provided a wonderful treat that calms and heals. Add a little Stevia, and wow, hello delicious.
Wonderful, caffeine-free! August 23, 2010, From Taiwan
This has a nice taste. It's caffeine-free so pregnant moms can drink it and get the benefits...
Rooibos tea ... November 22, 2011, From Great Britain
am bit lazy to boil the water so I just put it in the jar with filtered water and I still could have a rich tea just like hot tea. And with 4-5 tea spons, you could enjoy for whole day and even for another :)
BEST TEA ON THE PLANET August 09, 2010, From Kentucky
I've tried a LOT of different "types" of tea ... ROOIBOS TEA is THE BEST OF THE BEST if YOU LIKE "TEA". I say that "If you like Tea" because Rooibos Tea tastes ALMOST INDENTICAL to "regular" "Black" tea but it has a slightly SWEET taste and also has A LOT of Minerals and Anti-Oxidants that our bodies NEED!
red velvet November 23, 2011, From Australia
love this tea, it's quenching and soothing, decaffed and so smooth..and stays strong for ages.I make up a pot in a large teapot, and leave the water in it...when it's time for another cup I pour in the cold tea and add enough hot water to make a hot cup, so easy!!! I have another magnificent tasting, economical, healthy tea.
new to tea June 21, 2011, From New York
I bought this tea because I developed high pressure and I read that this could help with that. At first taste I didn't like it, but I have never been much of a tea drinker. However, I now like it very much. I don't even add sugar. I don't know if it's helping my pressure yet because I've only had it a few days now. But I'm hoping.
Very delicious tea August 04, 2011, From Canada
You don't need to add sugar. It is a very yummy healthy tea. I recommend it to all my friends.
This Tea is Amazing!! May 25, 2010, From Oklahoma
I really didn't know what to expect with this tea. I had to give up coffee due to hiatial hernia, so turned to tea as alternative. Naturally decaffeinated, gorgeous red color...