Benefits of Rooibos Tea

Benefits of Rooibos Tea

Herbal teas have many benefits and there are endless ways to use herbs and teas as drinks, in natural remedies, and even in foods. One of my favorites is Rooibos Tea or Red Bush tea from the South African Rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis).

What is Rooibos Tea?

A beautiful fragrant red herbal tea with a naturally sweet taste and floral aroma, Rooibos grows exclusively in the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa and on a bush that is very unlike traditional tea plants. The Red Bush (Rooibos) grows about 3 feet tall and has needle-like leaves similar to a pine tree.

Though almost all commercially available Rooibos tea is naturally fermented and dried to reach its deep red color, the Rooibos leaves are green when harvested and this un-fermented tea is available in some specialty places and is higher in antioxidants.

Rooibos tea hasn’t yet gained the popularity that green tea and mate tea have, but it turns out that Rooibos may have just as many benefits, if not more, than these well-known teas. It is important to note that Rooibos is technically an herbal tea and not a true tea.

It is naturally caffeine-free, mildly sweet and delicious with a taste reminiscent of honey and roses. Rooibos also boasts some other substantial benefits:

Antioxidants & Polyphenols

Polyphenols are compounds known for their antioxidant activity in the body. Rooibos tea has up to 50% more polyphenols and antioxidants than Green Tea (1) and can be a great alternative with recent concerns about radiation levels in green tea.

It is especially high in two unique polyphenols, including one that is only found in Rooibos called Aspalathin. It was also recently identified as a source of super oxide dismutase, a very powerful antioxidant. Research shows that these antioxidants may protect against the effects of free radicals. In fact, the South African Cancer Association has named Rooibos Tea as a leading source of anti-cancer compounds. (2)

Nutrient Content

Rooibos tea is considered a good source of minerals like Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Copper, Zinc, and Magnesium. In many parts of the world, Rooibos is consumed for skin, hair and bone health because of its high mineral and alpha hydroxy acid content and is even given to children who are intolerant to dairy as an alternate calcium source.

Rooibos tea contains many minerals and nutrients in synergistic balance so they work together for better absorption. For instance, it contains magnesium to balance and help the absorption of calcium, copper to balance and help absorption of zinc and others.

Despite many claims about its Vitamin C content, I was unable to find any source that showed that Rooibos tea is a good source of Vitamin C at all, but it is a great source of other nutrients and antioxidants. Interestingly, Rooibos tea is synergistic with Vitamin C and when taken together, they may both be better absorbed.

Quercetin

Rooibos has also been identified as a source of the flavonoids luteolin and Quercetin, containing about 1.5 mg per cup. In lab tests, these flavonoids seem to have a protective effect against certain types of cancer and cause cancer cell death in lab studies. (3)

Iron Absorption

Rooibos is often recommended during pregnancy and for those who are anemic because it may help with the absorption of iron and other nutrients.

No Caffeine

Rooibos tea is naturally caffeine free, making it an excellent drink choice and antioxidant source for those avoiding caffeine and who can’t drink coffee or other teas. It is also low in tannins, which although they are considered beneficial, some people can’t tolerate them. The lack of tannins is also why Rooibos does not have a slightly bitter taste like some other teas do.

No Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is a naturally occurring compound in teas, chocolate and some fruits and vegetables like raw leafy greens. When the body is functioning optimally, oxalic acid is naturally eliminated through urine, but it can combine with minerals in the body to create oxalates, a type of salt crystal.

These oxalates can build up in the body and may contribute to kidney stones, bladder stones and other problems. Those who struggle with these problems are often told to avoid teas, and Rooibos is considered a safe alternative because of its lack of Oxalic acid.

Chrysoeriol

Rooibos contains a compound called chrysoeriol which has been found to improve circulation. There is some emerging evidence that it may be useful in supporting circulation related things like blood pressure and heart health. (4)

Better Sleep

Rooibos also has naturally soothing properties that work on the central nervous system to promote relaxation. This is one reason it is often given to children in South Africa, but many also turn to it as a natural sleep aid and to help relieve insomnia. Another reason it may promote quality sleep is that it is often used as a caffeine-free substitute for traditional coffee and tea, since removing caffeine also helps improve sleep quality.

How to Brew Rooibos Tea

Since Rooibos tea is never bitter and has a naturally sweet taste (but is zero calorie), it is great hot or cold. It should be brewed for a longer time than other teas since its lack of tannins prevents it from becoming bitter, even after long brew times.

To Brew Hot Rooibos Tea:

Place 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon of loose leaf organic Rooibos tea in a tea infuser and place in a mug. Boil 8 ounces (1 cup) of water and pour over infuser in glass. Steep at least 5 minutes but up to 15 minutes to desired flavor and aroma. You can sweeten with honey or natural sweetener if desired.

To Brew Iced Rooibos Tea:

Double the amount of loose leaf rooibos (up to 2 Tablespoons) and place in an infuser. Pour 8 ounces of boiling water over the tea and let steep and cool for at least 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey or other natural sweetener if desired. Pour over ice and serve immediately.

To Brew by the Gallon:

Boil 1 gallon of water in a large stockpot. Add 1/2 cup loose leaf Rooibos and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out tea leaves and store in a pitcher in the fridge until ready to use. Lasts 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

Where to Get Rooibos Tea

Thanks to its growing popularity, there are several good brands of Rooibos available. Look for an organic and fair trade certified variety.

Loose leaf Rooibos Tea (and all teas) are typically more cost effective. I order mine in bulk here and have recently started adding it to my Raspberry Leaf Pregnancy Tea for its sweet taste.

Amazon also carries organic loose leaf rooibos and pre-made organic rooibos tea bags.

Bottom Line

Rooibos tea may have many benefits related to its antioxidant concentration but it is also a delicious and naturally sweet calorie free alternative to other teas or coffee. Research is still in early stages about the potential health benefits of Rooibos, but for now it is considered safe to consume and I enjoy it as a refreshing and delicious drink.

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Reader Comments

  1. i love this tea. got it from the south african section in the international market. took a minute to get used to it but then it grows on you

  2. and it must be noted that Rooibos is endorsed by Mma. Ramotswe of the famed #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. She will not entertain serious analytical thought without the aid of a pot of “red bush” tea

    • yes! was going to mention that as well! 🙂

    • “That is well known.” (Quoted from “The # 1 Lady’s Detective Agency.” ?

  3. Thanks for this highly informative article. It’s just chock a block with info. Now, I think I’ll go have a cup of the stuff.

  4. Is it true that Rooibos is estrogenic? Would it be safe to drink if you are slightly estrogen dominant?

    • As I understand things, estrogen dominance is associated with poor liver function. It’s the job of your liver to detoxify and remove any excess estrogen. There’s lots of liver formulas that might be able to help you. Good luck! – Samia.

  5. Is this tea estrogenic? Is it safe to consume if you are slightly estrogen dominant?

  6. My local tea store sells some really yummy loose Rooibos. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the root beer one (yes, tastes JUST like root beer, just without the fizz). The Lemon Meringue is pretty good too. (Just a couple flavors that I like!) It does take a little to get used but as @Von says, it does grow on you!

  7. As a South African I free up with Rooibos tea. I was in my 20’s when I realized there were other tea than Rooibos. ??

    Both my kids grew up with Rooibos from a very young age. They were both on baby formula from 2 weeks and instead of mixing it with water, I mixed it with Rooibos tea.

    Here is a link to a well known woman in South Africa. She makes beauty products with the Rooibos and used Rooibos for colicky babies
    http://annique.com.au/the-rooibos-story/

  8. Ooh! I really enjoy the Yogi Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea which includes rooibos and it really seems to help me relax and get sleepy when it’s time for bed but my mind is still on.

    Root beer tea sounds AMAZING!!!

  9. I found this tea at our natural grocers store. They have a whole side of an ilse dedicated to organic bagged teas, oats, spices, dried fruits etc. I love hot teas and i was curious about this tea which had red leaves. So i googled it quickly and found it to be caffiene free and healthy for your liver. I drink it with honey yet i drink coffee with honey. This tea has a natural sweetness to it… It is delicious and healthy!!!! Just fixing to have a cup… No caffiene!

  10. Friends who lived in South Africa introduced is to this tea, and we loved it. Drinking a cup every night promoted better sleep! And our friends shared that South African mothers would use it for diaper rash. We tried it, and loved it! We use it in our solution for cloth/homemade baby wipes.

  11. I also love this tea for relieving the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. I have used it for this reason for many years. Thanks for the information on the rest of its health benefits!

  12. Hi

    Just got some of this and it tastes great – especially with coconut milk. However, did a bit of research on the internet and found that it contains fluoride (a natural source – calcium fluoride – but opinion on the internet seems to be divided on whether that is much safer or just as harmful).

    Do you have any thoughs?

    • This is so interesting!!! Great question!

    • It is a great question. Would love to hear others’ thoughts…

  13. Recently I was introduced to this delicious tea at a wonderful restaurant in Portland Oregon. It was delicious but I had no idea there were so many +’s to drinking it. As I love tea, I’ll def add it to my assortment! Thank you for the information 🙂

  14. Myself and my mom have drank it all of our lives and love it! The taste is unusual but once you get used to it then it is soooo good! Definitely worth trying and very beneficial if you have struggles sleeping!

  15. When I gave up coffee, I invented my own Rooibos latte…
    * 1/4-1/2C almond milk (I make my own)
    * 1T coconut oil
    * pinch stevia (I use raw green, adjust the amount to taste)

    Once I brew the rooibos, I add a bit of it to the above ingredients and blend it all up. Then I pour it back into my 2C jumbo mug and sprinkle with organic cinnamon. Delish!

  16. I’m a big rooibos tea drinker. Especially now that I live in South Africa. I have a question – does adding almond or coconut milk (or regular milk) deminish the potency of the antioxidants or other benefits?

  17. Being allergice to caffeine, and living in South Africa, I have only drunk Rooibos for the past 30 years. I read that Japanese research shows that by drinking 2 cups per day, the tea enhances the memory! I can attest to that and it also contains mild diuretic properties. I can’t drink anything else.

  18. This is a popular, tasty, red-colored tea sold in many herb stores and health food stores. However, it is quite high in a toxic form of nickel and a toxic form of lead. Please completely avoid drinking this tea!

    • I’ve only seen tests indicating the high levels of metals in rooibos from India and not ever from the ones from South Africa.

  19. Growing up in South Africa, I have grown up with Rooibos tea.
    My mother also used the tea on her face. She had a big jar, used about five tea bags and filled with water. She added this to her water she washed her face and then after that used it as toner.

  20. Rooibos Chai is my go-to beverage as a sub for coffee (I love good coffee but as a singer it’s not the best thing for me). The brand I get is Davidson’s (available on Amazon). Unbelievably good. Has quite a bit of cinnamon, but I like that.

  21. I enjoy Rooibos from time to time. I am still a coffee lover, but enjoy trying different teas. Rooibos has an unusual but enjoyable flavor. I feel by rotating different teas I can enjoy the various health benefits.

  22. Rooibos tastes even better when you add liquorice root and lemon grass to it in the following recipe:

    I ltr of water
    2 rooibos teabags
    2 heaped teaspoons of Liquorice root
    1/2 teaspoon of lemongrass

    I let this brew for about 15 mins and then drink
    Not only does this concoction improve the flavour of the tea it also enhances the healing properties – especially for the liver which is the vital filter for our bodies.

  23. The special taste of Rooibos makes a perfect base for spicy chai and fruity ice teas. I am a South African and I remember my mom used to brew the tea leaves in milk on the stove, sweetened with sugar. Rooibos does not become bitter from standing. In fact, don’t be shy with drawing time, the taste just becomes more intense and better. In South Africa we also enjoy Red cappuccinos at coffee shops, served and enhanced with a drizzle of honey.

  24. Isn’t roobios tea naturally high in fluoride though? This is the reason why I don’t drink it often. Is that not true?? I love roobios tea but that bit concerned me.

  25. Hi I have a question regarding postpartum. Is this something a nursing mother can consume? Really look forward to some feedback on this. Thanks!

    • We South Africans specifically have lots and lots of rooibos tea when breastfeeding, it just keeps the milk coming and coming.

  26. I really like your post! I’m a big Rooibos drinker and I found it very informative. I would just like point out that Annetjie Tron (founder of Annique cosmetics) from South Africa has actually done extensive research for decades now. But thank you for your great post!

    • Kate, Would Annetjie Tron have any knowledge of the concerns that others have brought up regarding its estogenic properties and flouride content?

      Thanks for you help!

      • Fluoride?
        Though I am no expert, I can say that our soil, across the country, is naturally high in fluoride. That’s why the rooibos has it. However, it is the natural kind of fluoride, quite different from the stuff they put in the water. Natural fluoride is safe.
        I have perfect teeth, a clear mind.
        Don’t worry about the fluoride.

  27. I was drinking vanilla Rooibos tea and then saw this! Thank you for this great article, I never knew about the health benefits!

  28. Great post. I can affirm it’s effect on blood pressure, lowering it specifically, because I’m pretty sensitive to anything that is readily available in nature for consumption that lowers blood pressure (I can’t drink passion fruit juice anything because it lowers my blood pressure tremendously where I feel like I’m going to pass out!) I’ve been drinking rooibos tea for a few years now, and had no such effects until the day I let it steep for over an hour and drank it rather quickly (it had already cooled down). Mind you I had already eaten, but in a minute or so after that I started feeling weird and like I was going to pass out. I didn’t ( I stopped drinking it once the effects started)
    So for those of you sensitive or with naturally low blood pressure. Don’t oversteep…

  29. I have used Rooibos tea to make Kombucha. It works great. I didn’t know it had so many health benefits.

  30. Just picked up an herbal tea called,’ Spiced Dragon Red Chai. Combination of Cinnamon, rooibos, ginger root and clove. Yum. Yum, yummy! I added some milk to it and what a treat. Just read all the wonderful benefits of rooibos. Good stuff!

  31. There was a time when my colleague at work was drinking iced rooibos tea and I asked her to taste it…then she gave me, it was nice and I loved it and I didn’t know about iced Rooibos tea that time…hmmm you were not there, plus or minus 30 minutes I become drowsy, very drowsy and I asked her if she put something like sleeping tabs inside… I do believe that Rooibos tea makes you sleepy, if I have insomnia I drink it.

  32. Can you use Rooibos tea as the started in Kombucha? Or in the second fermentation?