Roo-what? Rooibos (pronounced roy-bos) is a bush indigenous to the shrubland of South Africa. The red leaves can be used to make a naturally caffeine free herbal ‘tea’ that has a deep reddish-brown colour, and almost nutty taste. While rooibos has been drunk in South Africa for centuries, it has only recently started to become popular the world over thanks to its numerous health properties - and we for one couldn't be happier with its rising popularity! So much so, that we've put together 6 amazing health benefits of our favourite South African brew:
1. caffeine free to help you sleep
We often get asked why we don't sell a 'decaf' black tea, and quite simply, the decaffeinating process isn't for us. In order to create decaf tea, harsh chemicals are used to strip the tea leaves of their naturally-occurring caffeine. Traces of this solvent might remain on the leaves, affecting their colour, quality and taste - something we're definitely not on board with. That's why we always reccomend a naturally caffeine-free herbal ‘tea’ like rooibos - It can be enjoyed at any time of day and can be drunk with milk as an English Breakfast replacement for those with a night-time craving!
2. three powerful antioxidants
Rooibos is rich in polyphenols, microscopic antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory and antiviral, helping to fight colds and infections and boost the immune system. With winter just around the corner, check out our previous post on immune-boosting teas.
Rooibos also contains aspalathin, a miracle worker for your blood sugar that can help balance glucose levels, improve insulin resistance and boost insulin secretion. These factors can reduce your chance of contracting type II diabetes and help those who are already sufferers. (A friendly word of advice: drinking rooibos sadly does not mean you can eat that whole pack of donuts)
Finally, rooibos contains quercetin, your heart’s secret weapon. It is anti-inflammatory and can help reduce blood pressure and prevent a wide variety of heart conditions.
Phew! Are we back in biology class? The key message to take away is that the powerful antioxidants found in rooibos tea can help with your immune system, blood sugar levels and overall heart health. We'll take a gallon thanks!
3. high nutritional values
Rooibos is hella healthy. It contains high levels of a variety of minerals, including iron, calcium, potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese and zinc. This mineral mocktail has myriad health benefits, as we will see below.
4. strong bones and teeth, lush hair and young skin
While beauty sleep can be hard to come by nowadays, a cup of rooibos tea each day could help offset all those late nights. Rooibos is high in calcium, manganese and fluoride, which help to improve bone health and strengthen teeth. High levels of zinc and alpha hydroxyl help to fight wrinkles and other signs of premature aging, and the potent combination of zinc, calcium, copper and potassium can keep your hair long and lush by strengthening hair fibres. Just don’t forget to brush it 100 times before bed, too.
5. makes your stomach happy
The sciencey bit: rooibos is rich in antispasmodic agents, which activate potassium ions in the body. (Yeah, we didn't really get it either - Activated potassium ions sound like something out of a personal trainer’s diet plan.) All you need to know is that potassium can help to ease stomach cramps, alleviate abdominal pain, and aid digestion. Hurrah!
6. breathe easy
Rooibos naturally causes your bronchi and bronchioles (the tubes found in your lungs) to dilate. This can increase airflow to the lungs, making breathing easier. Rooibos has often been recommended to people suffering from allergies, including hay fever.
With all these health benefits, it’s no wonder this humble red bush is beginning to take over the world. We recommend drinking it plain or with a splash of milk if you prefer a slightly smoother, creamier taste. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try it with a squeeze of honey, or check out rooibos creme caramelwhich contains real chunks of caramel in - YUM!
WHAT IS IN ROOIBOS AND WHY IT MATTERS
As far back as 1830 botanists at the Cape made sketches of the Rooibos shrub and published their work. Since then scientists around the world have published their Rooibos research findings in a wide variety of leading scientific journals.
In 2008 Professor Lizette Joubert of the Agricultural Research Council and Professor Wentzel Gelderblom of the Medical Research Council, along with two more collaborators, published an overview of existing knowledge about the history, cultivation, traditional uses and biological activity of Rooibos and other South African herbal teas. Their 37-page review article was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.*
Rooibos contains a complex mix of many flavonoids.
Its composition is unique, because it contains aspalathin – to date only isolated from Aspalathus linearis (the botanical name for Rooibos).
Aspalathin is the major flavonoid of unfermented rooibos. It decreases during fermentation, but is still a major flavonoid constituent of fermented rooibos (the tea with the characteristic red-brown colour and flavour).
Aspalathin is important, not only because it is a novel compound, but also because it is the most active antioxidant in Rooibos in many cases.
Rooibos also contains the rare flavonoid glucoside nothofagin.
Other major phenolic compounds are orientin and iso-orientin, with smaller amounts of vitexin and isovitexin and many more compounds.
The flavonoid composition of Rooibos varies between different regions and seasons, probably due to different soil and climate conditions, as well as genetic variations in the seeds used to propagate the plant.
Rooibos does not contain caffeine.
It is considered a low tannin beverage, especially when compared to Camellia sinensis tea.
The antioxidant activity of teas is very important, because they can scavenge free radicals and so help to protect cells and lipids (fats) against oxidative damage. Several studies have shown that Rooibos extracts contain powerful free radical scavengers.
The flavonoids in Rooibos are also able to modulate (influence) the actions of carcinogens in the cell, thereby preventing or slowing down cancer. The major flavonoids in Rooibos (and possibly also other Rooibos compounds that are still unknown) demonstrate antimutagenic properties. In some studies green (unfermented) Rooibos is a more potent antimutagenic agent, while other studies found that fermented Rooibos has a higher antimutagenic effect. The type of mutagen (cancer causing substance) also has an effect.
The antioxidants in Rooibos also protect the liver against oxidative stress and it could have value for liver patients. Studies on Japanese quails have shown that Rooibos also has an antihemolytic effect (protecting blood cells) and anti-ageing properties (slowing down brain degeneration and prolonging fertility).
The bronchodilatory, antispasmodic and blood pressure lowering effects of Rooibos, and its potential to stimulate the immune system, has been shown in some studies, but needs to be further explored.
Human studies have shown that taking Rooibos is an effective way to treat several skin conditions. It decreased the incidence of herpes simplex within a few days, helped for itching (associated with dermatitis), and could reduce inflammation and sun sensitivity of the skin.