Rooibos tea is a flavorful red tea from South Africa which has gained worldwide popularity over the past decade. Many people drink it as a healthy, caffeine-free herbal alternative to black or green tea.
The tea contains several antioxidants, which may explain some of the reported health benefits, such as protecting against stroke, cancer, and heart disease. It even helped to shrink a tumor in one Earth Clinic reader's dog, when combined with Milk Thistle and Reishi mushrooms!
This article explains rooibos tea's health benefits and possible side effects.
What is Rooibos Tea?
The Rooibos or "redbush" plant is actually a legume adapted to arid climates.
Rooibos tea is produced from the fermented leaves of the Aspalathus linearis shrub from South Africa.
Its leaves are annually harvested and allowed to oxidize in heaps, just as with traditional tea (camellia), but the resulting red tea is naturally caffeine-free and offers rare antioxidants as well as quercetin, a number of other phenols, and several volatile oils.
Unfermented green rooibos tea is also popular among herbalists.
While this locally treasured tea has been more broadly known since the 17th and 18th centuries, it may have been a South African woman, Annique Theron, who made the plant and its products genuinely popular by publishing a book in 1974 that extolled the health benefits children and adults could derive from Aspalathus linearis, particularly in the relief of allergies and skin conditions.
Today, not only is it available in many tea varieties but rooibos is now also found in supplements, skincare, shampoo and in gin!
Potential Health Benefits
Research on Rooibos tea's health benefits is gaining traction over the past decade with 583 cited studies on PubMed.
1. Caffeine and Oxalic Acid-Free
Rooibos tea is naturally free from caffeine, making it an excellent alternative to green or black tea.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in black and green tea.
Caffeine does have health benefits, such as sports performance, concentration, and enhancing mood. However, too much caffeine can cause side effects like insomnia, anxiety, and heart palpitations (1)
Rooibos contains no oxalic acid, which is found in black tea.
Oxalic acid is considered an antinutrient; a plant compound that reduces the body's ability to absorb essential nutrients.
Consuming high amounts of oxalic acid can increase your risk of kidney stones. This makes rooibos a very good option for those with kidney problems.
2. High in Antioxidants
Rooibos tea contains dietary antioxidants, such as flavonoids, dihydrochalcone glucoside, and aspalathin. Green rooibos tea contains higher levels of antioxidants than red. (2) Antioxidants are thought to protect cells from damage by free radicals.
Research has shown that drinking rooibos tea increases the body's levels of antioxidants, but unfortunately the effects are minimal and wear off quickly. In one small study, the boost in antioxidants lasted only 5 hours after participants drank 500 ml containing 750 mg of a rooibos leaf tea. (3)
Another study showed no significant effects on blood antioxidant levels after consuming rooibos tea. (4) One reason for this might be because rooibos is inefficiently absorbed by the body. (5)
3. May Improve Heart Health
Antioxidants can help heart health, which is why the cardiovascular benefits of rooibos tea may be useful.
One promising study with 40 people at risk of cardiovascular disease drank 6 cups of rooibos tea each day for 6 weeks. By the end of the research period, participants had significantly reduced their bad cholesterol levels and significantly increased their good cholesterol levels, when compared to the control group.
Rooibos may also improve heart health by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). ACE can increase your blood pressure by causing blood vessels to contract.
One study showed that rooibos tea inhibited ACE activity 30–60 minutes after consumption. (6)
4. Type 2 Diabetes Management
Rooibos tea may help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels.
One animal study showed that the antioxidant aspalathin, which is found in rooibos tea, has anti-diabetic potential and reduced insulin resistance. (7)
Rooibos is generally considered to be a safe herb. Side effects are rare.
Major components of Rooibos tea are metabolized in the liver, so this herbal remedy is not recommended for those with compromised liver function. (8)
Additionally, Rooibos may have some limited estrogenic effects, which may be contra-indicated for those with estrogen-related cancers or other hormone-sensitive conditions. (9)
The medicinal components of Rooibos tea are especially valued as anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants, both of which are critical to everyone's health.
More specifically, Rooibos is valued as a natural remedy for acne, various other skin conditions, as part of a diet to prevent or mitigate diabetic conditions, and even as a potential cancer prevention remedy.
Continue reading below for feedback from Earth Clinic readers on Rooibos benefits!