The Health Benefits of Rooibos

Unproven Health Claims Boost This Tea's Popularity

rooibos (red bush) tea
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If you prefer a diet of "natural" foods and beverages, you may have heard of rooibos (pronounced roy-bos). Rooibos "tea" is a caffeine-free herbal infusion made from the South African plant Aspalathus linearis.

Unlike black, green, and white teas, rooibos does not contain leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. So it isn't technically considered a tea, even though it's prepared the same way that tea is prepared.

Health Benefits

Long used in alternative medicine in South Africa, rooibos has been suggested as a natural remedy for many conditions. These health claims remain unproven—that is—these claims are not supported by results of clinical studies:

To date, very few clinical studies have tested the potential health benefits of drinking rooibos tea, and none of them involved humans. However, some animal research and test-tube studies have shown that rooibos may have certain beneficial effects on health. Here's a look at several study findings:

Inflammation

Rooibos may help fight inflammation, as suggested by the results of a 2009 study on rats. The study also appeared to show that rooibos may help protect against DNA damage from free radicals, possibly due to its antioxidant content.

Immunity

In addition to offering antioxidant benefits, rooibos may help strengthen the immune system. That's the finding of a 2007 clinical study that reviewed previously published animal studies of rooibos and its biological effects. The review's authors also found that rooibos is a rare source of several potent antioxidants, including dihydrochalcones, aspalathin, and nothofagin.

Cancer

There have been no clinical studies of rooibos and cancer in humans, so it should not be used for cancer-related purposes. Rats have been studied for this purpose, however, and a 2009 clinical trial showed some early promise. 

Possible Side Effects

According to most sources, rooibos is considered "likely safe" when consumed orally as a beverage. However, one medical. source notes that rooibos tea may cause liver damage, although the warning is based on a single case report.

There is insufficient evidence to determine if the tea drink is safe for pregnant or lactating women.

Dosage and Preparation

Rooibos is prepared by pouring a hot liquid over the leaves (infusion). Usually, eight ounces of water is poured over 1-2 teaspoons of tea leaves. Let the tea steep for up to six minutes.

What to Look For

Rooibos is often referred to as "red tea" and is typically sold in the tea section of grocery and health-food stores. You'll also find rooibos tea sold online and at some home goods stores.

Although there's no research support for any claims that rooibos can enhance human health, you may enjoy drinking it simply because it tastes good and is pleasantly fragrant. If you're thinking of cutting back on your consumption of caffeine, you might want to try rooibos as an alternative to coffee.

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Article Sources

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