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Updated 10 February 2014

Rooibos - why it's good for you

Made from the red bush trees that grow in the Cederberg, the medicinal value of rooibos is seemingly endless.

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Made from the rooibos shrubs that grow in the Cederberg, the medicinal value of rooibos is seemingly endless.

Rooibos tea (also known as red bush tea) is an excellent source of antioxidants: it's packed with health-boosting polyphenols and contains a unique antioxidant called aspalathin.

Lab studies and studies done with animals show that the tea could possibly slow the ageing process (including the progression of dementia), prevent certain forms of cancer (particularly skin, liver and oesophageal cancer) and lower the risk of heart disease. However, almost no research has been done in humans to confirm these proposed benefits.

Rooibos can also help fight allergies by boosting the production of cytochrome P450, an important enzyme that helps to metabolise allergens. Japanese researchers have found that when rooibos is consumed regularly as a beverage, it helps to improve allergy status as a result of the increased levels of this enzyme in the body.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that rooibos:

  • acts as a digestive aid and anti-spasmodic, thereby relieving stomach cramps and colic in babies
  • soothes skin irritations when applied directly to the affected area
  • boosts the immune system

Furthermore, rooibos tea:

  • has a low tannin content (only1-4%), which means that it doesn't inhibit the absorption of iron (something that black tea does)
  • contains no caffeine
  • is virtually kilojoule-free (that's without sugar and milk, of course)
  • contains no colourants, additives or preservatives

No side effects

Researchers know of no side effects associated with the use of rooibos tea, so it can be drunk freely. It is also safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, and young children.

Made from the Aspalathus linearis bush, which grows on the slopes of the Cederberg mountains and found nowhere else in the world, rooibos is one of South Africa's best export products. Our rooibos tea is exported to countries such as Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and even Kazakhstan.

Rooibos tea was traditionally brewed by the Khoi people of the Cederberg mountains, who believed that it had health benefits.

It is classified as a herbal tea, which means that rooibos is made from "a flowering plant without a woody stem". Herbal infusions can include flowers, herbs, fruit and spices. These infusions are caffeine-free, unlike all other types of tea.

Herbal teas don't contain tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant and therefore cannot be technically classified as a tea. However, this does not mean that herbal teas don't have health benefits. They have many, but these differ from those of "real" tea.

The market for green rooibos tea (i.e. unfermented rooibos tea which contains higher levels of antioxidants) is steadily growing. Green rooibos extract has now become a popular ingredient in various functional-food and cosmetic products - also in the international market.

Many innovative rooibos products are now available to South African consumers. Rooibos espresso is one of the sexier products that has recently hit our shop shelves. Also be on the lookout for rooibos-infused carob treats, rooibos nougat, and skin and hair products that contain the tea.

For more information, visit www.sarooibos.org.za.

(Compiled by Birgit Ottermann, Health24)

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The health benefits of rooibos

 
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