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Rooibos Tea: Benefits, Side Effects and How to Make It

If you’re starting to get bored of your usual morning cuppa, why not try rooibos tea?

Not only does it have a unique, light, yet full-bodied flavour, but there are also several health benefits of rooibos tea that make it a great choice if you’re looking to reduce the amount of caffeine that you consume.

In this article we’ve discussed the pros and cons of rooibos tea as well as everything else that you need to know, including:

Before we begin however, if you enjoy taking care of what goes into your body, you might just be interested in our level 4 advanced sports nutrition course. Or, you can sift through our downloadable prospectus to learn more about how you can make a career out of your passion for health and nutrition.

Don't forget, you can download your free food diary below!

So, if you’ve ever wondered ‘what is rooibos tea good for?’, then keep reading to find out more! 

What is Rooibos Tea?

rooibos tea

Rooibos tea is a caffeine free, herbal alternative to black and green tea.

Interestingly, rooibos tea isn’t actually a tea, as it doesn’t originate from the Camellia Sinensis plant that black and green tea comes from. Instead, it is made using leaves from the Aspalathus Linearis plant, a flowering shrub which is grown on the western coast of South Africa.

Rooibos tea is made by firstly cutting and bruising the leaves and the stems of the plant, which are then fermented and left to dry in the sun. This is a process known as oxidation, which simply means to give the plant exposure to oxygen. 

Oxidation brings out the plant’s essential oils and helps the leaves to develop a rich red-brown colour, which is why rooibos tea is sometimes known as red tea, red bush rooibos tea, or simply red bush tea.

Rooibos vs Green Tea

rooibos tea benefits

Although black tea, green tea, and rooibos tea are three different types of tea, there is also a type called green rooibos tea, which is the unfermented version of red bush tea.

Green rooibos is created when the leaves from the Aspalathus Linearis plant are steamed and dried immediately instead of being left to undergo oxidation, which is what makes the leaves retain their green colour.

One of the benefits of green rooibos tea is that it has more antioxidants than red bush rooibos tea, as many are destroyed during the fermentation process. Green rooibos tea is also considered to have an even lighter and fresher taste.

If you’re a fan of green tea, or you’re thinking about trying it for the first time, read our article - green tea: benefits, side effects and dosage here.

What is the History of Rooibos Tea?

benefits of rooibos tea

Rooibos tea was first recorded in 1722 by botanists visiting the Cederberg Mountain region in South Africa after they were offered it by the local people.

It began being widely harvested for consumption as a cultivated crop in the 1930s, but had been consumed by the local people for centuries. The benefits of green rooibos tea, however, were not discovered until it was developed in the late 1990s.

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering ‘what is rooibos tea good for?’, then you may be surprised to know that powdered rooibos and rooibos extract were both developed in the early 2000s for use in cooking!

And although today it is exported to more than 31 countries across the world, South Africa remains the only country to produce red bush rooibos tea.

Rooibos Tea Nutrition

rooibos tea benefit

Before we explore some of the best rooibos tea benefits, as well as some of the side effects, we thought it would be useful to learn a little about its nutritional value.

When consumed in the traditional way, like black tea, rooibos tea contains 0 calories. However, some people do choose to add milk and sugar, which of course adds calories depending on how much you use.

Consequently, rooibos tea benefits weight loss for those who use it as a replacement for the higher calorie beverages that they would typically consume.

There are many claims that red bush tea benefits the immune system and processes in the body such as digestion, due to it being a good source of vitamins and minerals. However, these claims are not substantiated by scientific evidence.

Despite this, rooibos tea is packed full of antioxidants, which have tons of health benefits - read on to the next section if you want to learn more! 

Wondering how to incorporate nutritious foods into your diet? Read our article laying out the 25 best healthy high fat foods here.

Benefits of Rooibos Tea

Before we jump in, it’s important to note that although there are many health benefits of red bush tea, some of these benefits are not based upon strong evidence, and only a handful of studies can verify the information presented.

Most of these are test-tube or animal studies, so it is often unclear whether the benefits seen would have the same effects on humans. 

Those studies that have been conducted on humans often need further verification, as the pros and cons of rooibos tea are very much a new field of study.

#1 Caffeine Free

red bush tea benefits

To begin, we thought we’d address one of the most frequently asked questions: is rooibos tea caffeine free? Well, the answer to this is yes!

As a natural stimulant found in black and green tea, consuming moderate amounts of caffeine is safe. In fact, caffeine can be really useful in focusing the mind and improving our mood.

However, consuming excessive amounts, as so many of us do, can cause issues such as headaches, sleep problems, and even heart palpitations.

As a great alternative to caffeine-heavy drinks such as coffee, red bush tea benefits those who can’t tolerate the stimulating effects of caffeine, or those who are simply looking to cut down on the amount of caffeine that they consume daily.

If you’re looking for a natural alternative to get the same energy boost as coffee, head over to our article on the best natural energy drinks here.

#2 Lower Tannin Levels

health benefits of red bush tea

One of the benefits of rooibos tea is that it is much lower in tannins than black or green tea.

Tannins are natural compounds found in plants, seeds, bark, wood and leaves, as well as in plant foods, including black and green tea.

When consumed, tannins interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the human body, such as iron. Iron is important as it helps to build red blood cells, these cells are which carry oxygen around the body and are essential for growth and development.

As well as being one of the key health benefits of red bush tea, having lower tannin levels means that rooibos carries a much less bitter taste than black or green tea. This also makes it a great option for those who may encounter digestion problems as a result of consuming drinks that are rich in tannins.

#3 Full of Antioxidants

what is rooibos tea

Rooibos tea is packed full of antioxidants, such as Aspalathin and Quercetin. These are unique polyphenols, which are compounds found in plants that are made from simple bonds of oxygen and hydrogen molecules.

One of the benefits of these antioxidants is that they are anti-inflammatory and help to protect cells from damage by free radicals. Research has shown that, in the long term, this may reduce the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Although there is evidence to suggest that drinking rooibos tea benefits us by increasing antioxidant levels, further research is needed to confirm the impact and longevity of these effects on the human body. For instance, it is unclear whether the body is actually able to absorb these antioxidants efficiently.

Furthermore, studies up to this point have only been completed in test tubes, so need to be tested on humans in order to collect more accurate evidence. Whatsmore, you can pair your tea with your picks from the 25 best antioxidant foods that you can read about here.

#4 Increases Cardiovascular Health

red bush rooibos tea

As well as potentially helping to reduce the risk of the aforementioned diseases, one of the health benefits of red bush tea is that the antioxidants present within its leaves have been linked to healthier hearts.

These antioxidants have been shown to inhibit the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which causes blood vessels to contract and increases blood pressure. Having a high blood pressure puts extra strain on your organs, and in the long-term can increase your risk of life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, heart attacks, or stroke.

What's more, a 2011 study showed that consuming rooibos tea can help to lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) within the body. In the study, 40 people at risk of cardiovascular disease were asked to drink 6 cups of rooibos tea a day for 6 weeks.

It was found that their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, known as ‘bad’ cholesterol, were significantly reduced, whereas their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, ‘good’ cholesterol, were increased when compared to the control group. Overall, this helped in lowering their risk of developing heart disease.

To help you reach optimal cardiovascular health, read our article on cardio & aerobic exercise: benefits, risks and frequency here.

#5 May Improve Bone Health

what does rooibos tea taste like

Research suggests that drinking rooibos tea benefits those with weak bones as it can help to build and maintain bone strength.

This is because it has been proven to inhibit osteoclast activity, which are the cells that break bone down. There have even been reports of positive effects on osteoblasts which, in contrast, are the cells that help to build bone.

Consuming rooibos tea could therefore benefit those most at risk of developing conditions such as osteoporosis. This is a degenerative condition that weakens bones, making them more susceptible to fractures.

However, as with many of the benefits and side effects of rooibos tea, there is more evidence needed to confirm these links. 

#6 Aids Weight Management

is rooibos tea caffeine free

As a calorie free beverage, rooibos tea is a great drink for those trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight. This is because it is a great substitute for sugary, higher calorie beverages.

A 2014 study that explored drinking rooibos tea for weight loss showed that it may also benefit weight management by increasing levels of leptin in the body.

Leptin is the hormone that helps to regulate food intake, by sending signals to the brain that it has had enough food. The study also found that it stopped the formation of new fat cells and encouraged quicker fat metabolism.

This highlights the link between drinking rooibos tea and weight loss, and suggests its potential in preventing and treating obesity. For more information on how else to encourage weight loss, read our article on the 17 best herbs for weight loss here.

#7 Helps to Manage Type 2 Diabetes

can you drink too much rooibos tea

Studies have suggested that the antioxidant Aspalathin, present in rooibos tea, may help to balance sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance, and protect against the oxidative damage associated with diabetes. 

One of the health benefits of red bush tea, therefore, is that it helps to reduce the risk of complications for those who have, or are at risk of developing, diabetes.

It is believed that rooibos tea helps to reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, conditions which are associated with diabetes. This is because it may help to reduce the risk of vascular inflammation that comes as a result of high blood sugar levels.

Rooibos tea is also believed to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which is when the arteries narrow and harden due to a build-up of plaque around the artery wall.

A 2006 study investigated the effects of rooibos tea on the prevention and treatment of oxidative stress in diabetic rats. The study concluded that antioxidant compounds in rooibos tea partially prevent oxidative stress, and therefore the beverage can be recommended for the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

Furthermore, according to diabetes.co.uk, obesity is believed to account for 80-85% of the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. As rooibos tea benefits weight loss, drinking it could therefore help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

For some great nutrition resources, check out the following articles:

#8 Good for the Skin

rooibos tea weight loss

As well as drinking rooibos tea for weight loss and other health benefits, applying it directly to the skin may help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve overall skin appearance.

Some research suggests that the antioxidant Quercetin, which is prevalent in red bush rooibos tea, has anti-inflammatory properties. This means that it helps to soothe the skin, especially if you suffer from conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis or acne.

Also, rooibos tea benefits the skin as it is rich in alpha hydroxy, which is one of the main ingredients in skin treatments such as chemical peels. It also contains high levels of zinc, which has shown potential to help treat common skin conditions such as eczema and acne. 

Both alpha hydroxy and zinc are important nutrients for healthy skin, so before heading to the beauty counter for the most expensive treatment, take a shot at rooibos tea! And for more benefits for the skin, be sure to head to our article: Collagen: benefits, side effects and dosage here.

#9 Helps to Improve Concentration

negative side effects of rooibos tea

One of the most interesting benefits of rooibos tea is that it is particularly useful during stressful situations, such as during exams or busy work periods.

Drinking rooibos tea has been shown to reduce the effects of oxidation and cell damage in the body, which helps to stimulate increased concentration and focus.

This is because oxidation is caused by an increase in free radical production, which occurs when cortisol, the stress hormone, is elevated. This inhibits your ability to learn and retain information.

Therefore, red bush tea benefits your mental abilities for a longer period of time than coffee, which often causes a caffeine crash after a temporary energy boost. If you’re skeptical, before your next big meeting or exam, drink some rooibos tea and see if it differs from your typical coffee buzz.

Negative Side Effects of Rooibos Tea

There have been very few negative side effects of rooibos tea observed, and so drinking it in any quantity is generally considered to be safe.

However, it is important to discuss both the potential pros and cons of rooibos tea, even if these ‘cons’ are considered to be very rare.

May Cause Liver Problems 

how to drink rooibos tea

Although this claim requires further research, one case study did suggest a link between rooibos tea and liver damage. It was found that consuming excessive amounts of rooibos tea daily caused an increase in liver enzymes, which is indicative of liver problems.

In this particular case, a 52-year-old male presented at hospital with signs of liver failure and acute hepatitis, which was soon linked with his consumption of rooibos tea. His liver function was later recovered after he stopped drinking rooibos tea.

Despite the observed link between rooibos tea and liver damage, it’s important to consider that this was the one and only case study where the link was identified.

Stimulates the Production of Oestrogen

what is rooibos tea good for

It has been suggested that certain compounds present in rooibos tea can stimulate the production of oestrogen, the female sex hormone.

This means that people with hormone-sensitive conditions, such as breast cancer, may want to avoid drinking rooibos tea.

However, it's important to remember that you would need to consume an excessive amount before seeing these kinds of negative side effects of rooibos tea!

How to Drink Rooibos Tea

does rooibos tea contain caffeine

As the caffeine content of rooibos tea is 0, it can be consumed at any time of the day! If you are aiming to reduce your caffeine intake, you could therefore replace your regular drink of coffee or tea with a cup of red bush rooibos tea.

You may think you know how to drink rooibos tea, but did you know that it can also be used to create iced teas, espressos, smoothies, and even cocktails?

It can also be added to food, both sweet and savoury, to intensify the natural flavours; simply use it as a substitute for water or milk in any recipe, or use rooibos tea extract. As a great natural tenderiser, rooibos tea can even be used as the base for meat marinades!

For more healthy nutrition suggestions, read our article on the best 37 foods for energy now!

How to Make Rooibos Tea

rooibos tea liver damage

To experience the health benefits of red bush tea for yourself, simply add freshly boiled water to your tea bag and allow it to brew.

One of the great benefits of rooibos vs green tea or black tea is that it won’t get more bitter the longer it’s left to infuse - in fact, it will get only more flavourful!

Also, there are suggestions out there that leaving rooibos tea to infuse for 10 minutes or more actually promotes an optimal antioxidant-rich brew.

Once brewed, you can then either just drink the tea as it is, or add milk and sugar to taste. To enjoy as an iced tea, infuse the tea in boiling water, allow it to cool, then pour it over ice.

FAQs

What Does Rooibos Tea Taste Like?

health benefits of rooibos tea

After reading all about it, you may now be wondering ‘what does rooibos tea taste like?’ Well, we’re going to do our best to answer this question for you!

When comparing rooibos vs green tea or black tea, the first thing to mention is that it has a clearly distinctive taste. This is mainly because it has a lower level of tannins which, as discussed, can give green or black tea a bitter taste if you brew it for too long.

In fact, the longer that you brew rooibos tea, the more full-bodied and richer the flavour becomes!

Generally, the flavour can be described as smooth, light and earthy, with a natural sweetness and a slightly nutty taste.

One of the benefits of green rooibos tea is that it has a slightly more delicate, lighter and sweeter flavour than the red version.

Is Rooibos Tea a Diuretic?

pros and cons of rooibos tea

Diuretics promote the formation of urine, which enables the excretion of excess fluids from the body.

As they are prescribed when the body retains too much fluid, diuretics are often given to patients with heart failure, liver disease, high blood pressure or kidney disease.

By reducing the amount of sodium and water in the body, diuretics are able to lower blood pressure. This is because the lower the volume of fluid in the bloodstream, the less pressure there is on the walls of the arteries.

Green and black tea are both considered to be natural diuretics, as they help the body to excrete excess fluid. However, they should not replace a prescription diuretic.

Although some people have reported mild diuretic effects, there is little evidence to suggest that rooibos tea has widespread diuretic properties.

Does Rooibos Tea Make You Sleepy?

rooibos vs green tea

Though there is no strong evidence to suggest that red bush tea benefits sleep, it has been suggested that it can help to reduce stress levels, which plays a huge role in alleviating insomnia. 

Furthermore, rooibos tea does contain magnesium and calcium, both of which are linked to sleep quality. 

The brain uses calcium to make melatonin, the sleeping hormone, which can enhance the quality of your sleep. In addition to this, having a magnesium deficiency can lead to chronic insomnia, and whilst there is no evidence that the body absorbs magnesium through drinking rooibos tea, magnesium is still prevalent in rooibos tea.

Rooibos tea is caffeine free as we know, so choosing to drink it instead of beverages that are higher in caffeine may help if you’re struggling to sleep since caffeine is a natural stimulant for the brain.

If you are working out and are starting to feel more sleepy than usual, read our article on the importance of rest days and how many you need here.

Can You Drink Too Much Rooibos Tea?

rooibos tea benefits weight loss

Put simply, the answer to this question is no, as the negative side effects of rooibos tea are rare.

Although, as previously discussed, there was a case study linking rooibos tea and liver damage, there is not enough research to confirm this link.

As with any other food or drink, we would recommend rooibos tea to be consumed in moderation, though there is nothing to suggest that consuming many cups a day will harm you!

In fact, the South African Rooibos Council recommends you to consume 6 cups a day for optimal refreshing of critical antioxidants.

Before You Go!

We hope you’ve found our guide to the best rooibos tea benefits and side effects useful, and that we’ve provided you with all the information you need to make the perfect cup.

Although studies are scarce, the little research available suggests that there are many health benefits of red bush tea. Of course, making it a great alternative to black or green tea, particularly if you’re looking to reduce your caffeine intake.

So next time you’re about to get your coffee fix, why not try a cup of rooibos tea instead? If you enjoyed learning about rooibos tea benefits, why not take a look at our level 4 advanced sports nutrition course? Or, download our course prospectus now to view all of our fitness courses we offer.

References

  • Jeanine L. Marnewick et.al., ‘Effects of Rooibos (Aspalathus Linearis) on Oxidative Stress and Biochemical Parameters in Adults at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease’, in Journal of Ethnopharmacology, (Jan 2011, Vol. 133, No.1), pp.46-52
  • Micheline Sanderson et.al., ‘Effects of Fermented Rooibos (Aspalathus Linearis) on Adipocyte Differentiation’, in Phytomedicine, (Jan 2014, Vol.21, No.2), pp.109-117
  • Olga Ulicna et.al., ‘Rooibos Tea (Aspalathus Linearis) Partially Prevents Oxidative Stress in Streptozotocin-induced Diabetic Rats’, in Academia Scientiarum Bohemoslovaca, (Feb 2006, Vol.55), pp.157-164
  • Michael Engels et.al., ‘Tea Not Tincture: Hepatotoxicity Associated with Rooibos Herbal Tea’. In ACG Case Reports Journal (Oct 2013, Vol.1, No.1), pp.58-60

Written by Rebecca Felton

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Graduating from the University of Liverpool with a first-class degree in English, Rebecca’s combined passions for fitness and writing are what brought her to OriGym. Rebecca is a keen gym-goer and specifically enjoys lifting weights. Outside of fitness and writing, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, and watching the football.

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