What is Rooibos?
Rooibos is a caffeine-free herbal infusion made from the South African plant Aspalathus linearis. Unlike black, green, and white teas, rooibos does not contain leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant (and therefore cannot technically be considered a tea). However, rooibos is often referred to as "red tea" and typically sold in the tea section of grocery and health-food stores.
Uses for Rooibos
Long used in traditional medicine in South Africa, rooibos is touted as a natural remedy for the following conditions:
Benefits of Rooibos
To date, very few studies have tested the potential benefits of drinking rooibos. While there is a lack of clinical trials on rooibos and its health effects, some animal research and test-tube studies indicate that rooibos may possess certain beneficial properties. Here's a look at several study findings:
Rooibos may help fight inflammation, suggests a 2009 study on rats. The study also showed that rooibos consumption may help protect against DNA damage induced by free radicals, possibly due to its antioxidant content.
In addition to offering antioxidant benefits, rooibos may help strengthen the immune system. That's the finding of a 2007 report, which reviewed previously published animal studies on rooibos and its biological effects. The review's authors also found that rooibos is a rare source of several potent antioxidants (including dihydrochalcones, aspalathin, and nothofagin).
Rooibos may help hinder the development of cancer, according to findings from a 2009 study on rats. However, since these findings have yet to be explored in larger studies, drinking rooibos cannot be recommended as a means of cancer prevention.
Should You Drink Rooibos?
Although research for any claims that rooibos can enhance human health is limited, there is no health-related reason to avoid drinking rooibos.
Baba H, Ohtsuka Y, Haruna H, Lee T, Nagata S, Maeda M, Yamashiro Y, Shimizu T. "Studies of anti-inflammatory effects of Rooibos tea in rats." Pediatr Int. 2009 Oct;51(5):700-4.
Joubert E, Gelderblom WC, Louw A, de Beer D. "South African herbal teas: Aspalathus linearis, Cyclopia spp. and Athrixia phylicoides--a review." J Ethnopharmacol. 2008 28;119(3):376-412.
Marnewick JL, van der Westhuizen FH, Joubert E, Swanevelder S, Swart P, Gelderblom WC. "Chemoprotective properties of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia) herbal and green and black (Camellia sinensis) teas against cancer promotion induced by fumonisin B1 in rat liver." Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 47(1):220-9.
McKay DL, Blumberg JB. "A review of the bioactivity of South African herbal teas: rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia)." Phytother Res. 2007 21(1):1-16.