Rooibos tea, also known as “red bush tea” or “African red tea,” is made from the fermented leaves of the aspalathus linearis shrub, a plant native to South Africa. While rooibos tea wasn’t produced for commercial export until the 1930s, Dutch settlers have been brewing it in South Africa since the 1700s.
Enjoyed as a caffeine-free alternative to green or black tea, rooibos is reddish-brown in color and has a sweet, earthy flavor. It’s most commonly consumed as a tea — sometimes with milk and sugar added or made into iced tea, espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos. You can buy rooibos as a tea, as an extract for flavoring, or as an additive in cosmetic products.
Rooibos is lesser known than green and black tea, but it has a number of health benefits. Rooibos contains polyphenols like aspalathin that are unique to the plant. It also contains antioxidants and chemical compounds that can reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, and prevent serious illnesses like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Rooibos is caffeine-free, making it a healthy alternative to black or green teas. It also has lower levels of tannins, which can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, like iron.
Weight Loss or Management
A cup of rooibos tea contains almost no calories, which makes it a good option for those trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. However, keep in mind that adding honey, sugar, or other sweeteners can increase the calorie count.
One study suggests rooibos tea may also help with weight loss or weight management by increasing levels of leptin. This hormone sends signals to the brain that can suppress feelings of hunger and regulate food intake. The same study also found that rooibos tea encouraged metabolism and limited the formation of new fat cells.
The antioxidants in rooibos can boost heart health. Drinking rooibos tea daily has been linked to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These can protect against heart conditions, including heart attacks and strokes.
Studies show that rooibos tea can lower blood sugar levels. For those with diabetes, rooibos can help manage blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of complications.
The antioxidant aspalathin, which is present in rooibos, can also reduce inflammation resulting from high blood sugar. While early animal-based research shows that aspalathin has antidiabetic potential, it’s too soon to confirm if this is true in people.