Rooibos tea with its distinctive taste, is becoming an increasingly popular choice amongst tea-drinkers.
But as well as having a delicious, deep flavor, rooibos tea is also a great drink due to its wide range of health benefits. Although it’s drunk in a similar fashion to more well-known black or green teas, its unique and nutrient-rich composition means that it can boost health in a range of ways.
We’ve got the low-down on this distinctive tea and rounded up six ways that drinking it could improve health. Flick the kettle on, and have a read as the first cup starts to brew!
What Is Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos (pronounced roy boss) tea is a herbal tea made from the harvested leaves of the South African aspalathus linearis plant. Also known as red bush tea (‘rooibos’ meaning ‘red bush’ in Afrikaans), rooibos has been enjoyed in South Africa for centuries - and has more recently gained popularity across the globe as an alternative to black or green teas.
There are a few different types of rooibos tea: the most common kind, red rooibos tea, made from fermented leaves has a nutty, musky, slightly sweet flavor, is a deep reddish brown when brewed, and can be drunk with or without milk. Green rooibos tea is made from unfermented leaves and is lighter and more delicate in taste. Flavored rooibos is typically made from a combination of red or green rooibos and various flavorings like mint, vanilla, or chamomile.
The green tea, with its unfermented leaves, has around double the number of antioxidants as red tea; however, all types of rooibos tea have unique nutritional aspects that make them great for health.
The Nutrition Of Rooibos Tea - And Why It’s Good For You
There’s a high amount of antioxidants in rooibos tea, giving the drink the power to protect cells from damage from free radicals. In particular, rooibos has high levels of quercetin and aspalathin. Aspalathin is abundant in rooibos tea leaves, and its prevalence in the drink allows the tea to provide a range of health benefits.
Also, rooibos tea’s nutritional composition, when drunk without milk or sugar added, contains no fats, proteins, or carbohydrates. It’s also calorie-free, meaning for those who are trying to control their calorie intake, it can be a great choice - and an excellent replacement for sugary sodas.
Rooibos tea also generally contains trace amounts of minerals that are not notable enough to offer any significant nutritional benefit; the main health benefit, therefore, comes from its antioxidant levels and potential to protect against free radical damage.
What Are The Top Health Benefits Of Rooibos Tea?
1 - Naturally Caffeine Free
Unlike many other teas, rooibos is naturally caffeine free - meaning that it doesn’t provide the same stimulant quality that a traditional black or green tea will give. As such, it means that rooibos can be drunk as a fluid replacement where other teas cannot, as caffeine has a diuretic effect that causes the body to become dehydrated.
Also, excess consumption of caffeine can cause symptoms such as increased anxiety, sleep issues, and insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, and mood changes - and while moderate consumption of caffeine is usually safe if drinking too much of it becomes a concern switching out a regular tea for rooibos could be a great way to limit intake.
2 - May Benefit Heart Health And Blood Pressure
The antioxidant-rich quality of rooibos tea may help for heart and cardiovascular health. The high flavonol profile of rooibos tea means that it delivers anti inflammatory effects, which can help to protect our hearts from damage as well as to lower cholesterol.
Besides, rooibos tea has also been proven to be excellent for blood pressure. This is due to the effect that drinking rooibos has on the angiotensin converting enzyme (or ACE), an enzyme that causes blood vessels to contract, thereby raising blood pressure.
As this study indicates, individuals who drank rooibos experienced lower ACE activity between 30-60 minutes after drinking the tea, leading to a decrease in blood pressure. As such, rooibos could be a great choice for anyone trying to better their cardiovascular function.
3 - Great For Diabetes Management
The tea’s levels of aspalathin also mean that it may help for those looking to use it for diabetes management - particularly individuals with type 2 diabetes. In animal studies, aspalathin is helpful in the management of blood sugar levels, suppresses the vascular inflammation that can occur from having too-high blood sugar; the study also shows that it seems to reduce insulin resistance.
While further studies need to be done on humans, of course, this is a promising sign. Also, due to its high level of polyphenols - micronutrients that we ingest through plant-based foods that are chock-full of antioxidants - rooibos tea may further prevent free radical and oxidative damage that can come with diabetes.
4 - Could Reduce Cancer Risk
Due to the tea’s powerful antioxidants, it’s a superb drink for several health reasons - but as cancer is frequently associated with free radicals, drinking a tea that contains ingredients that actively work against this is a smart move. Along with aspalathin, the tea also contains quercetin and luteolin which have been shown in test tube studies to kill cancer cells and halt tumor growth.
It’s important to remember, though, that human studies are needed in this area - and, indeed, that amounts of quercetin and luteolin are much higher in some fruits and vegetables than in rooibos tea, reiterating the need for a healthy, nutritious, and balanced diet. Regardless, drinking a tea that has great antioxidant qualities such as red or green rooibos can be an excellent accompaniment to any meal or diet plan to help reduce cancer risk.
5 - Low In Tannins
In traditional black or green teas, there’s generally a fairly high amount of tannins - a type of natural biomolecular compound that can affect your body’s ability to absorb iron. Tannins can also cause various side effects to the body such as nausea, vomiting, stomach irritation, and even liver damage - so even though they’re naturally occurring, too much of them can hurt.
Rooibos tea, however, is very low in tannins - meaning that it’s possible to drink it without any worry of these nasty side effects. A study in 2013 showed that individuals who drank six cups of rooibos tea per day showed that it did not affect their iron levels.
Fun fact: tannins are also present in red wine, and cheaper manufacturers often put synthetic tannins in a bottle - which can cause a worse hangover. Maybe next time, try a cup of rooibos tea instead!
6 - Could Benefit Bone Health
Due to rooibos’ high amount of antioxidant, it can also be excellent for bones. Consuming more antioxidants means that the anti inflammatory effects of the compounds reduce inflammation in the body - an aspect that is essential to maintaining good bone health.
In particular, luteolin and orientin - two compounds present in rooibos tea - have been shown to increase mineral levels in bone-related cells: higher mineral levels mean that bones are healthier and more robust, and less likely to fracture.
Rooibos also contains calcium and magnesium, which are essential for bone health - however, most teas only contain trace levels of these minerals and so rooibos tea is not considered to be an adequate source of either of these. Regardless, the antioxidants in rooibos mean that it can benefit bones in different ways.
Further Rooibos Tea Benefits
Although the main benefits of rooibos tea have been well-studied and scientifically proven, some benefits have been claimed which have yet to be studied properly or verified.
Rooibos tea is often claimed to be a sleep aid, for example - and while this may be true from a psychological point-of-view (a tea at the end of the day is often relaxing) and it’s certainly true that it won’t inhibit sleep due to containing any caffeine, there have been no studies that have proved this. Most of the evidence in this respect is anecdotal. The same goes for things such as digestive problems, headaches, allergies, or colic.
Rooibos tea is also claimed to be useful for weight loss. Although the tea contains zero calories, it doesn’t seem to have any specific weight loss effects in itself or causes the body to burn more calories. However, drinking rooibos tea instead of other, more calorific drinks can certainly be a good choice for those looking to lose weight.
Are There Any Risks To Drinking Rooibos Tea?
Any problems due to drinking rooibos are highly rare, and the drink is considered to be a very safe choice.
There have, however, been occasional instances in which individuals have experienced side effects from drinking the tea. For example, rooibos has specific compounds in it that can stimulate the production of estrogen, according to this study. While this may not be a risk in itself, individuals who experience cancer that’s sensitive to estrogen should seek medical advice before drinking it.
There has also been a case report of one individual who, after drinking a substantial amount of rooibos tea per day, then experienced liver damage. Although this is an isolated case and it’s only possible that the rooibos tea was directly responsible, it’s a useful consideration for those with any pre-existing liver conditions.
Generally though, for most people, rooibos is a very safe choice for a drink.
How Many Cups Should I Drink A Day?
It may surprise you that the number of cups recommended per day for rooibos tea is quite high: most experts recommend drinking around six cups of rooibos tea per day to experience its full beneficial effects. Although this seems like a lot, spaced out throughout the day it’s easy to do - just make one big pot in the morning and sip as the day goes on.
It’s worth bearing in mind, too, that you’ll still experience some health benefits from rooibos if you choose to drink less - so drinking six cups per day is by no means a requirement to receive its antioxidant powers!
To make rooibos tea, simply make as you would a black or green tea: add leaves to a strainer and add hot water, and leave to brew. The longer it brews, of course, the stronger the flavor will be. Rooibos also comes pre-measured in tea bags for convenience.
The Bottom Line
Rooibos tea - or red bush tea - is a delicious and highly nutritious drink. Zero calories, caffeine free and high in unique antioxidants, either red tea or green tea could be an excellent addition to a daily diet, and rooibos tea may offer a range of health benefits for the heart, bones, blood sugar levels, and more.
Although some side effects have been reported, for the vast majority of people, drinking rooibos tea daily is perfectly harmless and rooibos tea benefits are vast. So grab a box of South African rooibos and see what all the fuss is about!