One could argue that after The Big 5 and Table Mountain, South Africa’s biggest pride and joy is a good old cup of Rooibos. What appears to be a humble red leaf has gained status as rather miraculous. In fact, as I am writing this, I am sipping on a cup of Rooibos. Partly because I desperately need to destress and partly because lately, I have neglected my beloved tea for its arch-nemesis coffee. Besides its delicious semi-sweet flavours and calming effect, Rooibos boasts a variety of benefits. Here are reasons why once in a while you should skip the cup of joe (or black tea) and substitute it with Rooibos. Your body will thank you.



1. Caffeine free and low in tannins

Unlike black tea and green tea, Rooibos is naturally free of caffeine. Therefore, it does not need to undergo a decaffeination process, so it won’t lose any of its nutrients.

Aside from creating bitter after-taste, tannins bind to non-heme (non-meat sourced) iron, decreasing iron absorption. This can be problematic for people who don’t eat meat. However, opting for Rooibos eliminates this problem.


2. Aids digestion and colic

Health claims associated with Rooibos began in the 1960’s when Annekie Theron found that Rooibos tea soothed her baby’s colic. Although evidence is anecdotal, many South African physicians recommend Rooibos for infant colic. When I am bloated or have a stomach bug, I always have a cup of Rooibos with a drop of honey and always feel a ton better afterwards. This is because Rooibos has antispasmodic agents which ease stomach cramps and aid digestion.


3. Rich in antioxidants

Rooibos’s antioxidants have made the drink a miracle elixir. In a nutshell, antioxidants bind to oxidants (aka free radicals) before they damage the body. Free radicals have many damaging effects such as causing cancer and oxidising cholesterol which could lead to clogged blood vessels, heart attack and stroke. Rooibos tea is extremely rich in antioxidants and is the only natural source aspalathin.


Below are the benefits of antioxidants found in Rooibos:

4. Happier heart

Chrysoeriols is an antioxidant contained in Rooibos which aids blood circulation and lowers “bad” cholesterol. Human studies have shown that for people who are already at risk of heart disease, Rooibos tea can help lower cholesterol.


5. Just breathe

The antioxidants in Rooibos, namely aspalathin and nothofagin, have anti-inflammatory properties and therefore cardio-respiratory benefits. Rooibos tea is also a bronchodilator, increasing airflow by dilating the bronchi and bronchioles. This makes it easier to breathe, with some claiming the tea can help asthma.


6. Potentially prevents cancer

In vitro studies have proven that the antioxidants quercetin and luteolin, found in Rooibos tea, can kill cancerous cells and prevent them from multiplying to form a tumour.


7. Balances blood sugar

Animal studies have shown that antioxidants in Rooibos can help balance blood sugar and improve insulin resistance. Aspalathin has a hypoglycemic effect on the body, which could potentially prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.


8. Athlete’s friend

A team of scientists from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Prime Human Performance Institute are testing whether Rooibos could be beneficial to athletes. The idea is that because of its abundance of antioxidants, Rooibos can resist exercise-induced cell damage and reduce oxidative stress. This could lessen fatigue and improve performance. Thus far, results have been promising and a more comprehensive study is to follow.



9. A natural skincare regime

Rooibos refreshes and revitalises the skin. Drinking it can work, but to make sure the minerals and antioxidants reach an epidermal level you can also apply it directly onto the skin. The alpha hydroxy and zinc have the potential to reduce signs of ageing, heal wounds, and alleviate acne, pimples and sunburn. I can personally vouch for its revitalising effects. Being extremely fair-skinned, I have had a few too many bad encounters with the sun. After bathing in Rooibos, my sunburn is miraculously soothed, plus I smell delightful. Besides Rooibos baths, you can wash your face with lukewarm Rooibos and apply warm tea bags to the eyes for an extra pick-me-up. To treat acne, mix a cup of Rooibos, one teaspoon apple cider vinegar and two teaspoons of oatmeal. Once the mixture is cooled, apply it and wait 15 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm tea.


10. Softer, shinier, stronger locks

Because of the minerals and antioxidants found in Rooibos, it could help keep your hair soft and shiny. To make sure the hair receives the minerals, prepare your own Rooibos tea rinse. Steep the tea for about 30 minutes in boiled water and once cooled, pour tea over freshly washed or conditioned hair. Allow the tea to sit for 20 minutes before rinsing.
When I started reading up about the benefits of Rooibos tea, some seemed too good to be true, so I researched extensively. I found that it lived up to its claims but in order to reap some benefits you must drink between six and eight cups throughout the day. The good news is that it doesn’t matter whether you drink it hot or cold, meaning that you could substitute your bland water with the delicious tea. In the near future, concentrated versions may be developed as a tonic or tablet so that you can get your 6-8 cups in with one sip. I have also been creative in the past and made a fruity Rooibos and Gin cocktail – that counts too, right?


(RELATED POST: Tea – the wonders of an ancient brew)

SA Rooibos council: https://sarooibos.co.za/
HerbalGram, The Journal of the American Botanical Council

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