What is generally referred to as rooibos tea is in fact an infusion made from the oxidised leaves of the rooibos plant. Technically it’s not even a close relative of tea.
Recently, rooibos has gained popularity in Western countries thanks to its amazing health benefits.
Its strong and pungent taste can be off putting for some. Nonetheless, its reputation has steadily continued to climb, especially among health-conscious consumers (like us!).
Rooibos tea contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants: aspalathin and nothofagin.
These two compounds are very effective in scavenging free radicals in the human body.
According to some studies the antioxidant activity of rooibos is almost up to par with that of green tea. In this respect, some evidence has lately emerged that the antioxidant activity of rooibos tea has a protective effect on DNA strand scission.
Rooibos is also good for heart health. One study clearly demonstrated its cardio-protective properties via the inhibition of apoptosis.
Lastly, rooibos tea was found to have cardiovascular effects through inhibition of ACE activity.
Helps with diabetes
Rooibos tea can be beneficial for people with diabetes. According to a recent study aspalathin - one of the main compound found in rooibos - is responsible for suppressing the increase in fasting blood glucose levels. It also improves glucose tolerance, through the stimulation of glucose uptake in muscle tissues and insulin secretion from the pancreas.
In other words, drinking rooibos tea with your meals could help keep glucose levels under control.
Fights brain aging
Rooibos compounds may also fight against damage to the nervous system that naturally occurs with aging. These are the results of a study carried out on rats, that provided the researchers with valuable data that can be translated to humans.
Other potential health benefits
Rooibos is purported to assist with nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems.
Traditional medicinal uses of rooibos include alleviating infantile colic, allergies, asthma and dermatological problems. It has also been reported that rooibos tea may be beneficial in the treatment of acne.
However, no published studies have backed these claims with scientific evidence yet.
Red or green rooibos?
Typically, rooibos leaves are oxidised before they are used to make rooibos tea. This process gives them the familiar reddish-brown color and that characteristic tangy taste. However, unoxidised rooibos tea is also available. They’re green in color and have a quite different taste.
Personally I’m a sucker for the red version, but I can’t say that the green one is bad. Just less special.
There’s a downfall though. The oxidation process affects the flavonoid content of the rooibos. The green-unoxidised version contains almost twice the flavonoids of the red-oxidised one, and about ten times more antioxidants. This means that if you value health benefits over taste you should definitely choose green rooibos.
I like to enjoy rooibos after dinner. It not only aids with digestion, but more importantly makes me sleepy. I really like this, as from time to time I suffer from insomnia.
All in all, rooibos is definitely a health wonder. If you haven’t tried it yet. You really should, it’s that good for you.
The Iron You