Have you ever heard of or considered trying rooibos tea? For many people, especially in the West, the idea of drinking tea is secondary. Instead, coffee is their go-to drink of choice. While coffee has its benefits, you might want to replace your beloved cup of joe with some tea. This will help you gain some extra incredible health benefits.
Unlike coffee, tea comes in many different types, with rooibos being one of them. This delicious beverage is slowly but surely gaining popularity around the world for its incredible uses and advantages. In this article we will take a look into what rooibos tea is, and some of the benefits of rooibos tea. We will also have a look at its side effects – if any – nutrition facts, and much more.
What Is Rooibos Tea?
Pronounced as ROY-boss, this drink is also referred to as ‘red tea’ or ‘red bush tea’. It comes from the Aspalathus linearis plant – a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa’s fynbos vegetation (9). While this tea has been consumed for generations in South Africa (its native place – specifically the western coast of SA), it is now consumed all over the world.
According to a study published in 2011, this beverage was being sold in over 37 countries worldwide with Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States of America being the biggest buyers and consumers (17).
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Rooibos Tea Nutrition Facts
When consumed without any additives, i.e., honey, dairy milk, sugar, lemon, plant milk, etc. rooibos tea is a zero calorie drink. It also has zero proteins, fats, sugars, fiber, and carbohydrates. If you are intermittent fasting, some plain rooibos tea would be perfect to consume during your fasting window as it will not take you out of ketosis or break your fast.
However, just because it has zero calories does not mean that it does nothing for your body. Other than its sweet flavor and ability to keep you hydrated, this drink also has some powerful antioxidants and minerals – like copper and fluoride which offer health benefits.
Rooibos Tea Health Benefits
Other than a fantastic taste, what is rooibos tea good for?
Here are some science-based potential rooibos tea health benefits to convince you to give this drink a try and maybe improve your health.
Its Caffeine Free
Did you know that caffeine is considered a drug and is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world today? Before you start freaking out and throwing out all your teas and coffee – low to moderate doses of caffeine are generally safe for most people.
However, more and more research findings are revealing that some caffeine users have become dependent on it and are unable to reduce consumption despite knowledge of recurrent health problems associated with its continued excessive use – a problem now classified as caffeine disorder by the World Health Organization (1).
Caffeine Side Effects And Benefits
Some of the side effects of consuming too much caffeine – from either coffee, energy drinks, or traditional teas – include the increased risk of anxiety, insomnia, heart disease or stroke, digestive problems, arrhythmia (rapid heart beat), rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown) and as mentioned above, dependence.
Because rooibos tea is not made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, it is naturally caffeine free and can be taken as an alternative for anyone looking to avoid or limit their daily caffeine intake. Please note that caffeine is not all bad. As previously stated, low to moderate amounts are generally safe and this ingredient has also been shown to help relieve pain, improve memory, and even give boosts of energy. However, the negatives may outweigh the positives if taken in excessive amounts (22).
Has Lower Tannin Levels
Unlike green, black, or oolong tea, this red bush tea has much lower levels of tannins and zero oxalates. For those who may not be aware:
- Tannins (aka tannic acid) – are water-soluble polyphenols that are present in many plant foods like tea. In human beings tannins have been reported to have physiological effects such as accelerating blood clotting, reducing blood pressure, decreasing the serum lipid level, producing liver necrosis, and modulating immune-responses.
However, some research has shown that they might be carcinogenic – increasing your risk of cancer, although it’s not clear whether this is an effect of the tannins themselves or some other component that they are often present with in the same foods or beverages.
They also can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients, such as iron. In light of this, people suffering from an iron deficiency or anemia could benefit from taking rooibos tea instead of regular tea (19).
Has No Oxalates
- Oxalates (aka oxalate acid) – like tannins, oxalates are a naturally-occurring compound in plants. They are also a waste product our bodies produce. In day-to-day life, the acid is used as a rust remover, radiator cleaner, and ink stain remover.
Unlike tannins however, oxalates seem to have no positives. An excessive amount of oxalate can combine with calcium in the urine and cause kidney stones and crystals to form – which in time can damage the kidney. Oxalates may also bind certain nutrients in the digestive tract and prevent you from absorbing them. Drinking herbal teas such as this one can help reduce the amount of oxalic acid you consume per day (14, 13).
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Rich In Antioxidants
One of the biggest rooibos tea’s health benefits is how rich it is in antioxidants. Mostly found in plant foods, antioxidants are natural molecules that help fight and neutralize harmful free radicals in our bodies. These free radicals are reactive oxygen species. They are waste substances our cells produce as the body processes food and reacts to the environment.
Once these free radicals are produced, they should then be quickly processed and removed from the body. Failure to do this leads to oxidative stress which damages our cells and harms normal body function if out of balance (10).
Oxidative stress has been linked to numerous illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases, sarcopenia, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, and much more (15, 16).
Studies On Antioxidants
Some studies on rooibos tea benefits have shown that this beverage has some positive effects on antioxidant levels in the body:
- One study published in 2010, showed that this tea can increase the amount of antioxidants in humans. The study participants who drank the red rooibos had their blood levels of antioxidants increased by 6.6 percent while those who drank the green unfermented variety of this herbal tea experienced a 2.9 percent increase (23). These effects, however, are small and last for a short while.
- Another study published in the journal of Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, found that in rats, a rooibos-derived supplement and the green unfermented tea improved the antioxidant status of the liver which is great for fighting oxidative stress (5).
Improve Heart Health
Studies have shown that improving your heart health may be another one of the benefits of rooibos tea. It might do this in the following ways:
Reducing Your Blood Pressure
A study done in 2010 found that this drink can inhibit the activity of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) (7).For those who do not know, ACE can produce angiotensin II which can increase your blood pressure by narrowing the blood vessels and making the heart pump faster. Inhibiting the enzyme prevents this.
Reducing Your ‘Bad’ Cholesterol Levels
A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that in just a matter of weeks, this beverage can significantly and positively change your cholesterol levels.
In the study, 40 participants were had to drink about 6 cups of rooibos tea a day. At the end of the study, researchers found that not only had the participant’s “bad” LDL cholesterol and triacylglycerols gone down, but also that their “good” HDL cholesterol had increased (8).
Weight Loss And Management
An in vitro study in the Phytomedicine Journal found that this tea may have the potential to help prevent obesity by inhibiting fat cell development and accumulation (6). This tea is also naturally calorie free.
Keeping You Wrinkle Free
A clinical trial in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that cosmetics infused with a combination of regular and rooibos tea worked to reduce the appearance of wrinkles (3).
Rooibos Tea Side Effects
Despite its many potential benefits, some rooibos tea side effects are worth mentioning.
This is the medical term for damage to the liver caused by a medicine, chemical, or herbal or dietary supplement. Some of the medicines most commonly associated with this condition include amoxicillin-clavulanate, flucloxacillin, diclofenac, sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim, isoniazid, Ibuprofen, etc. (11).
One case, however, directly linked the large consumption of this tea to liver failure. The patient in question recovered his liver function after stopping the South African herbal tea (20). This is very rare, however and unlikely to occur with moderate rooibos intake.
Increased Estrogen Levels
A 2017 study in the South African Journal of Botany, saw that this tea seemed to exhibit some estrogenic activity in rats (4). While this can be a good thing in some cases, LiveStrong and Heathline warn that people with hormone-related cancers, such as breast cancer, should be cautious about drinking the tea.
The Bottom Line
If you are looking for a tea to improve your health then the above possible rooibos tea benefits should convince you to give this herbal drink a try. A world of caution to pregnant and breastfeeding women – since there is no information about how this tea could affect you, please speak to your doctor first before drinking it.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Chemistry of color formation during rooibos fermentation (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Clinical efficacy comparison of anti-wrinkle cosmetics containing herbal flavonoids (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effect of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) on the female rat reproductive tract and liver and kidney functions in vivo (2017, sciencedirect.com)
- Effects of Consumption of Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and a Rooibos-Derived Commercial Supplement on Hepatic Tissue Injury by tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide in Wistar Rats (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of fermented rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) on adipocyte differentiation (2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of green tea, black tea and Rooibos tea on angiotensin-converting enzyme and nitric oxide in healthy volunteers (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) on oxidative stress and biochemical parameters in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Fact Sheet on Rooibos Tea (2015, researchgate.net)
- Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Hepatotoxicity by Drugs: The Most Common Implicated Agents (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Influence of processing stages on antimutagenic and antioxidant potentials of rooibos tea (2001, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Oxalate content and calcium binding capacity of tea and herbal teas (2002, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Oxalate Content of Different Drinkable Dilutions of Tea Infusions after Different Brewing Times (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) beyond the farm gate: From herbal tea to potential phytopharmaceutical (2011, sciencedirect.com)
- Selective bronchodilatory effect of Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) and its flavonoid, chrysoeriol (2006, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Tannins and human health: a review (1998, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Tea not Tincture: Hepatotoxicity Associated with Rooibos Herbal Tea (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Safety of Ingested Caffeine: A Comprehensive Review (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Unfermented and fermented rooibos teas (Aspalathus linearis) increase plasma total antioxidant capacity in healthy humans (2010, sciencedirect.com)