Perhaps the most important benefit of this iconic tea is the extraordinarily high amounts of antioxidants it contains. Coupled with its potent anti-inflammatory attributes, Rooibos can protect cells from free radical damage and reduce inflammation – the root cause of almost every disease.
It is especially rich in the flavonoid aspalathin which is uniquely found in the Rooibos bush. Powerfully protecting against free radical damage, aspalanthin works together with another plant flavonoid, nothofagin, to protect the nervous system. It has been shown to decrease the production of certain adrenal hormones, such as cortisol, which helps to reduce stress levels and promote feelings of tranquillity.
Aspalanthin has been extensively studied and whilst its antioxidant effects are strong, it has also been shown to be powerfully anti-inflammatory which in turn boosts the immune system.
Type 2 Diabetes
Aspalanthin is a rare and potent antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by increasing muscular glucose absorption and the amount of insulin secreted by the pancreas. This, along with reducing excessive fat production, helps to balance blood sugar and improve insulin resistance, making the body less susceptible to type-2 diabetes.
Another plant flavonoid, chrysoeriol, found in Rooibos benefits the heart by increasing blood circulation and helping the body to correct imbalances that lead to conditions such as high blood pressure. Again, the wonder compound aspalanthin, plays a part in reducing the risk of hypertension through hormone regulation. It can also help to prevent vascular inflammation that can restrict blood flow to the heart and protect the heart against oxidation.
Rooibos is rich in antispasmodic compounds that activate potassium ions in the body, helping to ease stomach cramps, pain and aid in the digestive process. In a research study published in “Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology Journal”, Rooibos was shown to contain the phytonutrients; quercetin, orientin and vitexin which helped to relax the digestive system and relieve feelings of discomfort.
Rooibos is also a safe, natural remedy for treating colic in babies with the added bonus that it will promote better digestion and peaceful sleep.
Rooibos is a mineral rich plant due to its extremely long taproot that digs minerals deep out of the ground (up to a depth of 2 metres). Calcium and manganese increase the production of osteoblast cells which build up the bone matrix, whilst two of the plant flavonoids - luteolin and orientin –have been shown to increase the mineral content in bones.
Folklore and history
The Rooibos shrub is unique to South Africa - specifically, a place called Clanwilliam, a mountainous region that is 250 km from Cape Town. It is thought that the unique microclimate of this geographical region is the key to its successful cultivation in this area.
Whilst references to Rooibos tea can be found as early as 1772, it's popularity around the world really took off in 1902 when a Russian immigrant by the name of Benjamin Ginsberg began to export it under the name "Mountain Tea". It was particulary popular during World War II when Asian black tea was virtually impossible to get hold of, giving Rooibos the chance to shine.
From its humble beginnings as a herbal remedy and delicious tea used by the local Khoisan Tribe, Rooibos has gained in popularity with health conscious tea drinkers the world over. Known in its native South Africa as “red gold”, Rooibos was traditionally used for a number of maladies, including stomach problems, digestive issues and arthritis.
Rooibos is a spiny shrub whose needle-like leaves were bruised, fermented then left to dry in the harsh South African sun by the local tribes. It is this process that gives the resulting plant material its characteristic red colour, creating a soothing tea with a sweet and nutty taste that is naturally caffeine free and low in tannins.
Prepare a cup or pot of tea by putting 1 teaspoon of Leaf per person into a teapot or mug, or tea strainer. Pour on boiling water and drink with milk the English way or with lemon and honey the South African way.
Rooibos contains phenolic compounds, flavanols, flavones, flavanones, and dihydrochalcones. It also contains Aspalathin, Nothofagin, Caffeic acid, Rutin and polyphenols.