Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free herbal tea brewed from the leaves and stems of South Africa’s rooibos bush, which is known scientifically as Aspalathus linearis. Green rooibos is made with unfermented leaves, while red rooibos is brewed using fermented plant materials. Rooibos teas are loaded with antioxidant-rich phytonutrients, including quercetin, aspalathin and nothofagin. Whether green or red, rooibos tea is a beverage that will not only refresh you but also offer some impressive health benefits.

Rich in Antioxidants

If you’d like to get more of the antioxidants that help combat illness and age-related cell damage, rooibos tea may be just what the doctor ordered. Eric Braverman, M.D., author of “Younger Brain, Sharper Mind,” says rooibos teas have 50 percent more antioxidants than the widely touted green tea made from the dried leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant. Braverman, professor of integrative medicine at New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College, recommends brewing rooibos tea with cinnamon for an added nutritional boost.

In an article for, ethnobotanist Chris Kilham notes that rooibos teas are particularly rich in quercetin, a plant-based compound with potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The teas also contain significant amounts of two lesser known antioxidants -- aspalathin and nothofagin. Aspalathin helps to regulate blood sugar levels and eases the workload of the adrenal glands. Both nothofagin and aspalathin have neuroprotective properties and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Rooibos teas may also help you to combat inflammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis and gout. A team of Japanese researchers conducted an animal study to assess the anti-inflammatory properties of rooibos tea. Since oxidative stress is believed to cause inflammation, the research team was particularly interested in learning how successful the tea’s high levels of antioxidant-rich aspalathin and nothofagin would be in reducing inflammation. Researchers divided laboratory rats into two groups: one was given rooibos tea and the other received water. Colitis-like symptoms then were induced in the test animals. Colitis is an inflammatory colon disorder that causes bloating, pain, chills, bloody stools and the constant urge to have a bowel movement. Writing in the October 2009 issue of “Pediatrics International,” researchers reported that animals that received rooibos tea showed less signs of DNA damage and inflammation than those that got water.

Bolsters Immune Function

Research indicates that drinking rooibos tea may help strengthen your immune system so it can more effectively fight off infection. Bioscience researchers at South Africa’s University of the Western Cape did in-vitro testing to determine how rooibos tea affected immune function by either ramping it up or toning it down. Researchers introduced extracts of rooibos tea into samples of whole blood cultures that had been immune-stimulated as well as cultures that had not been stimulated. In reporting their findings in a 2010 issue of “Journal of Immunoassay & Immunochemistry,” researchers said that rooibos tea showed an ability to regulate immune cell activity both up and down depending on the body’s needs as reflected in blood-culture activity.

Hypoglycemic Properties

If you or a family member suffers from diabetes, rooibos tea might be an additional tool to help control blood sugar and increase insulin levels. Japanese researchers found evidence that the aspalathin in rooibos tea has beneficial effects on the metabolism of glucose in mice in which Type 2 diabetes had been induced. Writing in the May 2009 issue of “Phytomedicine,” researchers reported that diabetic mice fed aspalathin displayed improved glucose intake in muscle tissues and increased secretion of insulin from pancreatic beta-cells.

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