Rooibos tea has long been used as a folk remedy in South Africa for conditions such as depression, asthma, nausea, and eczema. It has also been used to lower blood pressure, stimulate appetite, and improve bowel movement.[1,2] Researchers are now taking a closer look to better understand all of the rooibos tea health benefits.
Provides abundant flavanoids
Rooibos contains abundant flavonoids, including aspalathin, isoorientin, and nothofain. Flavanoids are antioxidants, meaning they protect our body from free radicals. They also have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral effects. Because of its antioxidant properties, rooibos has been implicated in protecting from neurodegeneration, cancer, stress-related diseases, and more.
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Improves cholesterol and triglyceries
In a small human study on adults at risk for developing cardiovascular disease, six cups of fermented rooibos each day for six weeks decreased LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and increased HDL cholesterol. The subjects also had improved redox status, meaning they had higher antioxidant capacity. These changes coincide with decreased risk factors for heart disease.
Protects against heart disease
Rooibos may also help protect against heart disease by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) activity. Activation of ACE leads to constricting of blood vessels, cell proliferation, and even cognitive and behavioral problems like depression and anxiety. ACE inhibitors are commonly used to treat cardiovascular disease. In a human study on healthy volunteers, ACE activity was inhibited 30 and 60 minutes following ingestion of 400 mL of rooibos tea. Therefore, part of the protective effect rooibos has against cardiovascular disease may be through inhibiting ACE.
The health effects of rooibos are quite diverse. One study following 20 women for four weeks found that a topical application of rooibos reduced wrinkles by almost 10%. This finding can likely be attributed to the anti-oxidant capacity of rooibos, as free radicals are the principle cause of wrinkles.
Laboratory studies in vitro and in rodents show that rooibos has the following effects:
- It’s anti-inflammatory.
- It reduces DNA damage from oxidative stress.[1,6]
- It is anti-mutagenic and protects against cancer.
- It modulates immune system mechanisms.
- It helps regenerate coenzyme Q, another important antioxidant.
Safety of rooibos tea
Unlike most other teas, like green and black tea, rooibos contains no caffeine. This makes it a good choice for those who don’t tolerate caffeine, children, and pregnant women. Rooibos tea also has low levels of tannins. While tannins can be beneficial in moderation, they have been considered anti-nutritive, as they interfere with digestion and block absorption of certain nutrients, like iron. Rooibos also contains valuable nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Rooibos tea has no adverse effects up to 6 cups per day are consumed. It does not alter iron levels nearly as much as other teas, if at all.[3,4]
Share your experience
Do you enjoy rooibos tea? How do you like to prepare it? Share your experience with this healthy beverage in the comments section below.