Rooibos tea: the benefits of the South African tea

Take a break from your regular teas and give a chance to this South African variety

rooibos tea
Source: Sterre

Despite the hype around it, rooibos tea is not the superfood many claim it is. Nevertheless, it is still worth it to have a good cup for its antioxidant content and because a warm, natural and healthy beverage always soothes the heart and the mind, even if it doesn’t have the properties to do so.

What is rooibos tea and what does it taste like?

rooibos tea what taste
Source: NaturaLife

Rooibos tea is not actually a tea but an herb-infusion prepared with a South African broom-like bush. Due to its color is also often called bush tea or red bush tea.

This bush is fermented to create a tea and it’s the oxidization that gives its characteristic red tint.

The flavor is very hard to describe as it is not similar to any other teas. Normally, people either love it or hate it. It is very bland, but at the same time, it has a dash of caramel and tobacco flavors as well as an earthy undertone.

It is often sweetened with vanilla and/or milk.

Health benefits of rooibos tea

Despite the many claims that this tea is a game changer when it comes to healthy beverages, few have been scientifically researched and fewer even were proven true. Moreover, most studies to date were performed in vitro or using animals, so these claims might not present themselves in humans too.

The clinical trials performed so far were also very small in scope and the results work solely as indicators until more extensive trials can corroborate them.

No oxalic acid

rooibos tea oxalic acid
Source: Joekels

A high intake of oxalic acid increases the risk of kidney stones. Both black and green teas contain this acid, albeit in very small amounts. The rooibos variety, on the other hand, contains no oxalic acid.

It may prevent cardiovascular disease

In a 2001 study, 40 volunteers consumed 6 cups of traditional rooibos tea daily for 6 weeks. At the end of this period, the subjects presented a significantly improved lipid profile and redox status, two important risk factors of cardiovascular disease. A bigger clinical trial is still required to confirm the validity of these findings.

In 2011, researchers also found indications this tea can offer cardiac protection against ischemia, at least in rats. No clinical trials were performed to date to confirm this effect in humans.

It’s rich in antioxidants

This South African tea is packed with high-quality and healthy antioxidants. These compounds help to prevent early decay of healthy cells by free radicals scavenging, thus helping to prevent age-related diseases too.

The true effects of these antioxidants and the daily intake required to produce these have yet to be researched.

It may help with type-2 diabetes

diabetes rooibos tea

Rooibos tea contains an antioxidant called aspalathin that has been linked to an anti-diabetic effect.

However, so far, all studies were performed in animals. It is unknown if this effect can be transposed to humans too. 

Benefits for your skin

The high content in antioxidants of this tea is very beneficial to the skin, as it prevents free radicals from scavenging healthy cells and promoting early aging signs. The unique combination of antioxidants of this tea plays a big role in preventing the oxidative fragmentation of collagen, according to a 2004 study.

While studying the effect this tea in the preservation and redistribution of fat, South African researchers have also discovered that its efficiency can help prevent aging signs. According to them, as people age the fat tissue is displaced and becomes concentrated in areas where it shouldn’t (think of the abdominal pouch) while disappearing from where it is needed.

Through the way it affects this displacement, this tea can help maintain a healthy level of fat tissue in the face and next to the most superficial layers of skin, thus stretching it and preventing wrinkles.

The extra intake of water also supports a plumper, stronger and healthy looking skin.

Does it help you lose weight?

rooibos tea weight loss

Rooibos tea only has 2 calories per 8-ounce servings and it has a very pleasant and distinctive flavor. Therefore, switching you regular sodas and sugary drinks for this tea can already result in a big cut of calorie-intake that will help you lose weight.

There are some indications, mostly from animal studies, that this tea can also affect the metabolism and, in a 2014 study, the researchers suggest it may potentially help prevent obesity.

Aside from these early indications, this tea is similar to any other regular infusion and it doesn’t contain any specific component that promotes weight loss directly.

What is its caffeine content?

Rooibos tea doesn’t contain any caffeine. You can then drink it at any moment of the day to enjoy a warm and tasty beverage without fearing any jitters.

This feature also makes this tea a favorite to increase the intake of antioxidants, as most teas with a similar content also have caffeine.

Is it safe during pregnancy?

pregnancy rooibos tea
Source: Boston University

To date, there is no indication that this bush tea could affect the mother or the baby when drank in moderation. However, there are also no scientific studies proving its safety either.

Given that a potential side effect of this tea is the ability of phytoestrogens mimicking estrogens, pregnant women should raise the issue with their doctor before trying out rooibos tea.

How to make the perfect cup of rooibos tea

Preparing a good cup of rooibos tea is easy and it’s also fundamental to enjoy all its antioxidants. The tea leaves tend to be more nutritive than the bagged versions, so you should prefer them if you have the chance.

The basic rule is 1 1/2 teaspoons of dry leaves for 8 oz. (236 ml) of water. Pour the boiling water over the leaves and let the tea steep for 5 to 6 minutes to enjoy a good cup of bush tea. Leaving it to steep for longer has barely any effect over the flavor or nutrition.

Although you should ideally drink it warm, some people also enjoy a more cooled version too.

If you want to really step outside your comfort zone, you can also give it a try and prepare a rooibos expresso. The nutritional content of these beverages is unknown, but it will be a different experience at least.