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Rooibos—it sounds like ROY-boss—tea has been a popular beverage in Africa for centuries. Also known as red tea or red bush tea, the drink comes from a plant indigenous to the western coast of South Africa. People make the tea by crushing the leaves of a shrub called Aspalathus linearis. Red rooibos tea is fermented and has a sweetish honey taste and a rich red hue; green rooibos is greenish brown and has an almost bitter, grassy flavor that is similar to green tea. Both red and green rooibos teas are caffeine free and have low tannins—a substance that can trigger migraines or allergies in sensitive people.
To get the right strength and get rooibos tea benefits, drinkers seep a half teaspoon of the leaves in eight ounces of boiling water for five or six minutes. The tea will taste stronger and slightly bitter the longer you seep it, but it also releases more antioxidants as it sits. Experts aren’t certain if adding milk or soy milk to rooibos tea has any negative effects, but a study published in 2013 in the European Journal of Nutrition found that adding dairy and soy to green tea decreased the bioavailability of antioxidants, so it is probably best to proceed with caution before adding milk or soy if you are looking for rooibos tea benefits. Learn how tea can ease what ails you.
The history of rooibos tea benefits
While botanists first identified rooibos tea back in 1772, it wasn’t until 1968 that Dr. Annique Theron, who would soon become known as South Africa’s “Mother of Rooibos,” discovered it could calm and soothe her allergy-prone, colicky baby. Adele du Toit, a spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council, credits Dr. Theron with putting the spotlight on rooibos tea benefits. “Since Dr. Theron’s discovery, countless South African women have come to rely on the rare and unique herb for almost every ailment under the sun. Whether it’s having to soothe sunburn, calm a colicky baby, deal with breakouts or breakups, rooibos has been at the top of nearly every women’s go-to remedy,” says Du Toit.
Dr. Theron authored a book titled Rooibos: An Amazing Discovery, which detailed her findings on the tea’s anti-allergy properties. Annique Theron’s beauty company, Annique, currently sells over 250 rooibos-based products, such as tea, skin and body care, makeup, and even fragrances. In the 1980s, Japanese and American scientists found that rooibos tea contained super-oxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant. In 1995, Charles Marais, MD, and ARC Infruitec, a South African research company, discovered that rooibos tea had antiviral, antibacterial, anti-allergic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Rooibos tea benefits include reducing inflammation, which may help people suffering from aches and pains, and could also be beneficial for people suffering from autoimmune conditions like arthritis. Rooibos tea contains polyphenols and antioxidants that help to protect against free radicals, which can trigger inflammation and contribute to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. You can learn more about the power of antioxidants in tea here. Vitamin C is another potent antioxidant in rooibos tea. Vitamin C boosts your immune system, improves heart health and memory recall, and reduces blood pressure and dementia risk. And that’s just a few of the 15 health benefits of vitamin C.
Rooibos tea is rich in healthy bioflavonoids such as quercetin and rutin; these block the release of histamines that cause seasonal allergy symptoms like sinus congestion, watery eyes, and hay fever. A roundup of research published in Pharmacognosy Review indicates that quercetin blocks mast cells from releasing histamine.
Both red and green rooibos have the ability to prevent wrinkles, according to the findings of researchers at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The antioxidants in the tea seem to protect against the natural aging of cells. Rooibos may even make the list of 13 natural remedies that can help slow down aging.
Rooibos tea has antibacterial compounds, as well as vitamins and minerals such as fluoride, iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, which can help improve skin texture, quality, health, and elasticity. Acne and eczema sufferers have found that rooibos tea helped improve their skin disorders. Pediatrics International published a study suggesting rooibos could reduce levels of inflammation.
Weight loss may be one of many rooibos tea benefits. One cup of rooibos tea has just 2.4 calories, yet proponents claim that drinking it can help fight off hunger between meals. Naturally honey-flavored and sweet, rooibos tea can help satisfy cravings and be a great substitute for sugary drinks. Drinking rooibos tea can help improve sleep, and lack of sleep and chronic tiredness can lead to poor dietary choices and overeating. Learn about 10 nighttime habits that can make you gain weight.
Unfermented rooibos contains aspalathin, a flavonoid, which at least one study published in Phytomedicine suggests has been found to have glucose-lowering effects, so rooibos may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Potential side effects
While side effects from drinking rooibos tea are extremely rare, there are several cases of people suffering liver damage when they drink numerous cups a day. Some research suggests that certain compounds in rooibos could raise estrogen levels, so people with hormone-sensitive conditions like breast cancer may want to choose an alternative beverage. Researchers aren’t sure if the tea is safe for women who are pregnant, so use caution—talk to your doctor before trying the tea. And if rooibos tea isn’t right for you, try one of these other superfoods healthy women should add to their diet.
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