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Complete Guide to Rooibos

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Rooibos is a very natural beverage with a distinctive color, flavor and aroma. The amber color develops during the post harvest fermentation or oxidation process, caused by the natural enzymes in the plant. The flavor, which might take some getting used to at first, is slightly sweet and fruity. The aroma is very satisfying. Almost everyone who tries rooibos tea finds its sweet, nutty taste to be irresistible but should you not enjoy the natural rooibos flavor, there are a variety of rooibos tea types, including ones infused with flavors like berry, caramel and mint, to choose from. Rooibos tea has so many health benefits. It is 100% natural with no additives, no preservatives and no chemicals while hydrating the body and boosting the immune system. And that is just the start.


This tea originates from South Africa where the rooibos bush is a member of the famous and unique fynbos family. Known as the Aspalathus Linearis plant, its common name of rooibos means red bush and it is actually not a true tea at all but an herb. The dried rooibos leaves are an herbal infusion.

Although Rooibos has been known as an herbal tea for centuries, it has only been grown commercially since the 1930s, became more widely known in the 1960s and today this pure and natural product is drunk by many around the world.

Rooibos is particularly unique because it is grown only in a small area some 175 miles north of Cape Town in the Cederberg district and no alternative source of supply of this product is available anywhere else in the world.

More than 300 years ago, the local inhabitants of the mountainous Cederberg discovered that the needle-like rooibos leaves could be used to make a refreshing brew. They bruised the leaves with hammers before leaving it to ferment in heaps and dry in the sun. The early Dutch settlers at the Cape started drinking rooibos instead of the more expensive black tea imported from the East via Europe. In 1904 a Russian immigrant to South Africa, Benjamin Ginsberg, recognised the potential of this unique "mountain tea" and started trading, becoming the first exporter of the tea. His family are still involved in the marketing of rooibos today.

In the early 20 th century, Dr Le Fras Nortier started researching its medicinal value and agricultural potential and by the 1930s, rooibos was grown as a commercial crop and its popularity steadily grew, boosted by Japan promoting it as an anti-aging product in 1984. Green rooibos was developed in 1995 by the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa while a new rooibos innovation in the form of an espresso (and the first tea espresso in the world) was introduced to coffee shops and retail outlets during 2006.

Today it is exported worldwide. Rooibos has an extensive shelf life so you can buy sufficient quantities to store for long periods without any deterioration in its quality, flavor or taste to enjoy no matter where you live in the world.


Rooibos tea has almost too many health benefits to mention but here are the most important:

  • The tea has no kilojoules or calories so it is the ideal beverage for those seeking to lose weight.
  • Rooibos tea leaves are filled with more potent antioxidants than those of black tea, preventing damage to cells by inhibiting free radicals in the bloodstream, repairing injured cells and of course maintaining good health.
  • Rooibos is the only known source of the antioxidant aspalathin that could play an important role in combating several lifestyle diseases. Aspalathin has positive benefits for health problems such as inflammatory conditions, diabetes, hypoglycemia, skin conditions. It can also contribute towards anti-aging.
  • While black tea doesn't have nearly as much caffeine as coffee, Rooibos tea is naturally decaffeinated, so ideal for anyone suffering from insomnia or anxiety and safe to drink as a soothing nightcap right before bedtime. This also makes the beverage very suitable for children and infants as well as pregnant and breast feeding mothers.
  • Researchers say that rooibos tea has anti-HIV activity, anti-tumor potential and may protect brain cells from damage by toxin while further research studies have proven cancer fighting properties. Such research is still ongoing.
  • The traditional medicinal use of rooibos in South Africa includes alleviating infantile colic, allergies, asthma and dermatological problems.
  • The tea has low amounts of tannin. Black tea leaves have high amounts of tannin, a substance that inhibits the body's absorption of important minerals like iron. With their much lower tannin amounts, rooibos tea drinkers are able to absorb more iron and feel much more energized.

No negative side effects of Rooibos have ever been recorded.


You may be wondering how to drink Rooibos tea?

South Africans tend to drink it much the say way as ordinary tea as a hot beverage either with or without milk and if preferred, sweetened with sugar or honey. Elsewhere, Rooibos is often drunk as a hot or cold drink without milk but sweetened to taste.

Brewing rooibos tea is simple – just follow these easy instructions:

  • Take about 4 "pinches" of the loose leaf tea and add to a teapot
  • Pour hot water into the teapot and let steep for about 5 to 7 minutes
  • Pour individual cups from the teapot and enjoy
  • Any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, making an excellent and healthy iced tea

You can also brew your rooibos in a heavy-duty coffee maker like those found in offices

  • Take a regular coffee filter, and fill with sufficient loose leaf rooibos tea to cover the entire filter surface
  • Begin the brewing process as you would with coffee
  • Pour and enjoy
  • As before, any leftovers can be stored in the fridge to use as iced tea

Rooibos tea leaves are so economical as you can use them up to 3 times to re-brew before having to replace with new leaves.


South Africa's rooibos tea has been receiving lots of celebrity endorsements. For examle, Oprah Winfrey is on record as saying she likes to drink rooibos tea because it is caffeine free while Dr. Oz promotes his Iced Rooibos Tea Recipe for strong, youthful nails, pointing out that rooibos contains a range of minerals such as calcium and zinc to help nails grow in stronger and healthier. He recommends brewing rooibos tea as normal before cooling down over ice and serving cold.

The dedicated South African Rooibos Council awards grants to local researchers, but encourages them to collaborate with experts around the world. Their spokesman says: “Due to the growing interest in the health properties of natural products and specifically herbal teas, there are many more top biochemists around the world investigating Rooibos. During the past few years we have seen exciting and promising results about Rooibos and topics such as heart health and diabetes emerging from Sweden, Italy, Spain and Germany. Locally, SA Rooibos Council funding has contributed to major advances in our understanding of the health-promoting properties of Rooibos – specifically its ability to slow down and prevent various forms of cancer, as well as its potential to protect heart health in individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease."

Effectiveness and Citations

There have been two recent studies in South Africa – one conducted by the Medical Research Council's Promec Unit and a second by the Oxidative Stress Research Centre at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Although both studies received funding from the afore-mentioned South African Rooibos Council, they have revealed that the rooibos plant's polyphenols (already known to be anti-inflammatory) moderate the immune system. This in turn could prevent the immune system's aggressive response to UVB that could lead to tumors.

In their research, professor Jeanine Marnewick and her team studied the effect of extracts of the herbal tea on UV-induced skin tumors in mice. Their main objective was to ascertain whether rooibos (and another herbal plant called honeybush) reduced the amount, the size and the volume of tumors. Their results were satisfyingly conclusive with “green" rooibos producing a reduction of the number of tumors by 75% and “crushed" rooibos coming in at 91%. Honeybush was also successful with 86% and 64% respectively. And both herbs shrunk any tumors by nearly 100%.

These studies found that the polyphenol-rich exttracts from rooibos (and honeybush) have anti-tumor and photoprotective properties. Further research and development are now needed to discover and harness the potential in these properties to prevent and treat cancer.


Scientists around the world are working on the components of rooibos to gain a better understanding of this unique, South African herbal tea. While some researchers are investigating the health benefits of rooibos and its potential to combat a range of diseases, others are trying to get to the bottom of how exactly the bioactive components in rooibos work.

Scientific articles published over the last decade prove the therapeutic ability of rooibos to fight cancer, protect the liver against disease, boost the immune system, as well as to relieve allergies and treat digestive disorders. As a result of their research, scientists generally recommend using the complete rooibos extract (tea) rather than taking individual, isolated compounds.

In the meantime, you cannot do better for your own health than to drink this herbal tea yourself. Tea is always a good addition to any diet but this treatment guide has provided some of the reasons why Rooibos tea is the healthier option over black tea:

If you're looking for a delicious decaffeinated tea with loads of antioxidants, you should choose rooibos tea. You will find that Rooibos tea is available in many countries and with its indefinite shelf life, you can stock up and store your own supply. You may be wondering how much you should drink for optimum results? Well the expert opinion is to drink 6 cups of rooibos tea daily with consumption spread out over the day.






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