Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Many Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea

The Many Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea
Oxidation gives rooibos its familiar reddish colour. (Photo by Smaku)

The herbal tea made from rooibos has been a popular drink in Southern Africa for generations. The plant, Aspalathus linearis, is grown only in a small area in the Western Cape province of South Africa, but during recent years rooibos has become popular in other parts of the world as well.

Though not technically a tea, the infusion made from oxidised rooibos leaves is commonly referred to as rooibos tea. Traditionally, it is enjoyed hot with a slice of lemon and sugar or honey, but iced tea versions and even a rooibos espresso made from concentrated rooibos are apparently gaining popularity.

While many people have acquired a taste for rooibos and know that it is considered something of a health drink, most of us are clueless as to what exactly the health benefits of rooibos are. In this post, we'll review what the studies say on rooibos tea.

The antioxidant activity of rooibos tea

Like regular tea, rooibos tea contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants. While the most beneficial flavonoids of green tea are catechins such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the main flavonoids in rooibos tea are aspalathin and nothofagin. One in vitro study found that aspalathin is even more effective at scavenging free radicals than EGCG (link) – a rather surprising result, given that just about everyone knows about antioxidants in green tea but not in rooibos tea. All in all, green tea still seems to beat rooibos tea in antioxidant activity, however (link).

The second flavonoid tested, nothofagin, was not as effective as quercetin but still potent. Oddly enough, an older study found that aspalathin and nothofagin can also act as pro-oxidants under certain in vitro conditions (link). The authors comment:

Fermentation (i.e., oxidation) of rooibos decreased the pro-oxidant activity of aqueous extracts, which was contributed to a decrease in their dihydrochalcone content. The in vitro pro-oxidant activity displayed by flavonoid-enriched fractions of rooibos demonstrates that one must be aware of the potential adverse biological properties of potent antioxidant extracts utilized as dietary supplements.

This is not a unique case, however. Vitamin C, probably the most famous antioxidant, has also been said to act as a pro-oxidant in some conditions in vitro; there is much less evidence to suggest it does so in vivo, however (link).

Feeding normal, healthy rats given rooibos tea instead of water had significantly higher serum superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels than the control rats (link). They also had less DNA damage, a result that confirms the findings of an earlier study (link). Futhermore, when the rats were given dextran sodium sulfate to induce colitis, the rooibos group had higher SOD levels, and the drop in hemoglobin levels seen in the control group was prevented. Thus, rooibos tea seems to be anti-inflammatory and have the potential to prevent DNA damage.

The cardiovascular benefits of rooibos tea

Due to their effects on vasodilation and vasoconstriction, angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and nitric oxide (NO) are used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure. In one study, the effect of green tea, black tea and rooibos tea on ACE and NO was compared in healthy human volunteers (link). None of the three had a marked effect on NO concentration, but both green tea and rooibos tea inhibited ACE activity, suggesting that they have cardiovascular benefits. This is in contrast to an earlier in vitro study which found that only green tea and black tea inhibited ACE (link).

Closely related to cardiovascular disease is diabetes. The good news is that that rooibos tea may help with this as well. In a mouse model of type 2 diabetes, aslapathin suppresses the increase in fasting blood glucose levels. It also improves glucose tolerance, apparently through stimulating glucose uptake in muscle tissues and insulin secretion from the pancreas (link). Drinking rooibos tea during a meal may not be a bad idea.

Rooibos tea for liver disease and respiratory problems

In rats, rooibos tea aids in liver tissue regeneration after prolonged intoxication. Compared to the rats receiving water during the regeneration period, the rooibos group had less fibrotic tissue in their livers and lower tissue malondialdehyde levels. The authors conclude that rooibos tea "can be recommended not only for the prevention but also as a co-adjuvant for the therapy of liver diseases."

Rooibos tea also has therapeutic potential for respiratory ailments. According to a study on rats, in addition to lowering blood pressure, rooibos tea is both a bronchodilator and an antispasmodic (link, link). This helps explain why rooibos tea is commonly used for gastrointestinal and respiratory problems. The flavonoid chrysoeriol seems to be mainly responsible for the bronchodilator and antispasmodic effect.

Rooibos extract fights HIV

Rooibos tea extract seems to be helpful in antigen-specific antibody production by increasing interleukin-2 (IL-2) production in vitro and in vivo (link). According to the authors, rooibos tea intake "may be of value in prophylaxis of the diseases involving a severe defect in Th1 immune response such as cancer, allergy, AIDS, and other infections."

Another study found that an alkaline extract of rooibos tea leaves suppressed HIV-induced cytopathicity (link). Green tea extract, on the other hand, was ineffective. The authors conclude that HIV infection may be suppressed by the daily intake of the alkaline extract of rooibos tea. Note that the extraction mechanism is important here, because regular rooibos tea does not have anti-HIV activity (link). See the abstracts for details.

Rooibos tea, lipid peroxidation and brain aging

The uncontrolled oxidation of lipids, which can happen during cooking or inside the body, leads to the formation of advanced lipid peroxidation end-products (ALEs). The accumulation of such products is one of the types of damage that occurs with aging.

Lipid peroxides also accumulate in the brain. Rooibos tea may help prevent this damage, however. Rats given rooibos tea instead of water accumulate significantly less aging damage in the brain than rats given water (link). In fact, the 24-month old rats given rooibos tea for most of their lives had brains similar to young 5-week-old rats. This is quite a remarkable result.

One study found that out of the flavonoids tested, quercetin and EGCG (found in green tea) were the best inhibitors of lipid peroxidation, while aspalathin had a similar potency as catechin (link). Nothofagin was of no use here, however. Since polyunsaturated fats or PUFAs are especially prone to form ALEs, it seems like a cup of green tea or rooibos tea with a meal containing polyunsaturated fats might be useful.

The difference between red and green rooibos tea

Typically, rooibos leaves are oxidised before they are used to make rooibos tea. This process, which is not exactly the same as the fermentation process used in making black tea, gives them the familiar reddish-brown color and the slightly sweet taste. However, unoxidised rooibos tea is also available, if you know where to look. The color and taste are quite different; I personally prefer the red version, but green rooibos tea is not bad either.

Like in the case of regular tea, the oxidation process also affects the flavonoid content of the tea. Unoxidised rooibos tea contains more about twice as much total flavonoids as oxidised tea and 10-fold higher levels of aspalathin and nothofagin (link, link). In the studies that have directly compared the two, the unoxidised version seems to generally come out on top. For example, unoxidised rooibos tea seems to protect rats from liver cancer more effectively than oxidised tea (link). The antimutagenic activity of the two depends on the mutagen in question, however (link).


The health benefits of rooibos tea seem to be mostly due to the flavonoids aspalathin and nothofagin, although other compounds in rooibos may also play a part. Here's a summary of the benefits:

  • Acts as an antioxidant and increases SOD levels
  • Prevents DNA damage
  • Cardiovascular protection through ACE inhibition
  • Suppresses fasting glucose levels
  • Improves glucose uptake and insulin secretion after a meal
  • Aids in liver tissue regeneration
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Acts as a bronchodilator and antispasmodic
  • Inhibits lipid peroxidation and brain aging
  • Rooibos extract improves immune defects such as HIV

Since nothofagin and especially aspalathin are not really found in any other plant, rooibos tea looks like a valuable addition to one's health regimen. Even people who are not fans of green tea usually like the taste of rooibos tea. Since rooibos contains no caffeine, it can be also enjoyed in the evening.

For more information on various teas and health, see these posts:

Hibiscus Tea Lowers Blood Pressure
Tea, Coffee and Cocoa: All Good for Your Teeth
Yerba Mate Inhibits AGE Formation
Drinking 3 Cups of Green Tea Increases Plasma Antioxidant Activity in Humans by 12%

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64 kommenttia:

Anonymous April 8, 2010 at 8:23 AM  

Your regimen post is approaching 1 year (ok slightly exaggeration) I think it needs an update (or version 2.0!)!

JLL April 8, 2010 at 12:14 PM  


Yeah, I know ;) I've been thinking of the best way to update the post. I don't know whether I should rewrite it entirely or just add the new stuff... but I'll get to it, soon.

Mike April 9, 2010 at 5:28 AM  

Killer post, loads of info on one of my fav teas. Actually just picked up some green rooibos the other day---didn't know about the oxidation differences.

yodasmith April 9, 2010 at 8:22 AM  

Great information! I still haven't tried my Wisdom of the Ancients rooibos...,but I may use it for my skin!

PhilipJTerry April 12, 2010 at 12:32 PM  

Excellent post JLL.

You mention the oxidation process makes it red, does that mean the green version has more flavonoids? Which one packs the biggest punch in terms of antioxidants? Can you recommend a brand?

Thanks a lot

JLL April 13, 2010 at 9:19 AM  


The brands I use are Finnish so can't help you there, production of rooibos is so limited anyway that any brand will probably do. And yes, the green version has more flavonoids and antioxidants.


Max December 28, 2010 at 9:26 AM  

Really nice post about the health benefits of rooibos tea.

There are lot of example that rooibos tea protect from many diseases. Rooibos is purported to assist with nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems.
Traditional medicinal uses of rooibos include alleviating infantile colic, allergies, asthma and dermatological problems.

A recent study says that Rooibos tea is beneficial in the treatment of acne.

Anonymous April 16, 2012 at 8:55 PM  

Great, informative post (even if you think you need to update it), as well as some helpful comments by others. I've wondered about Rooibos for years, but only just today took the time to look for stats! Thanks.

Anonymous May 25, 2012 at 9:13 PM  

When judging whether Rooibos or Green Tea is better it is not enough to simply ask which tea contains more flavonoids.

While it is true that Green Tea contains more flavonoids, Rooibos however does not contain any caffeine or tannin while Green Tea contains both. The absence of caffeine has obvious benefits. And the absence of tannin means this tea does not inhibit the absorption of iron or proteins even if you drink lots of it - a known disadvantage to drinking lots of Green Tea.

Sometimes one food/tea is better than another because of what it does NOT contain. Sometimes less is more.

Unknown July 6, 2012 at 7:43 AM  

Considering that there are a lot of the rooibos tea benefits, I think that everyone should really make it a staple drink.

srgoogle July 12, 2012 at 11:29 PM  

Another benefit reported elsewhere, which I've experienced first hand: sleepiness (for those insomniacs)

RE: anti-oxidant value: I have first hand experience of its value. I've witnessed three of my slow to heal skin wounds heal rapidly w/in 2hrs of drinking the tea (and that's just the red 'oxidized' version).

srgoogle July 12, 2012 at 11:37 PM  

my experience of benefits of RED rooibos tea (Trader Joe's brand: Rooibos Ruby Red Chai):

1) makes me sleepy for 45min (Good for those trying to get to sleep)

2) rapid healing of slow to heal skin wounds: 2 areas on my nose and 1 area on my knee healed within 2 hours of drinking 1cup of the tea
NOTE: My skin wounds heal slowly in summer due to a health condition - those wounds were open at least two weeks.

Unknown August 17, 2012 at 4:27 AM  

You have offered a lot of helpful knowledge on the advantages of drinking tea. Those people who have not started are depriving themselves of the organic rooibos tea benefits. Certainly, they should not wait any longer.

Anonymous October 12, 2012 at 7:30 PM  

Fermentation (i.e., oxidation) of rooibos decreased the pro-oxidant activity of aqueous extracts, which was contributed to a decrease in their dihydrochalcone content. The in vitro pro-oxidant activity displayed by flavonoid-enriched fractions of rooibos demonstrates that one must be aware of the potential adverse biological properties of potent antioxidant extracts utilized as dietary supplements.

PLEASE explain this in easy terms?

JLL October 15, 2012 at 12:21 AM  


It says that unfermented rooibos can be a pro-oxidant (as opposed to an antioxidant), at least in a test tube. But then, that's true of many antioxidants.


Mike December 26, 2012 at 1:10 AM  

This post is very informative and provided me with all the info I was looking for on Rooibos.
On point and also a very good read.
Thanks for that!

Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 4:48 AM  

I've been drinking rooibos tea just because I like it but I am absolutely in love with the benefits I just found out that it has. I will start recommending this to my family and friends and coworkers and patients. Thank you so much for the information may God continue to bless you.

Anonymous December 27, 2012 at 1:33 AM  

Since historically rooibos tea is the red version, hundreds of years of use have confirmed its efficacity. Also its the interaction of all of the active ingredients together that creates this wonderful BREW. I love it!

Anonymous February 13, 2013 at 2:25 PM  

I've been on a binge for rooibos lately after I purchased some online and instantly fell in love. I googled the health benefits of rooibos tea and found this blog which really opened my eyes to just how amazing rooibos tea actually is. It sort of inspired me to write a small list of reasons why rooibos is such a great here:

This was a great article and I hope more people start drinking rooibos tea.

Cid Young February 14, 2013 at 3:45 PM  

One suggestiin fir your articke would be ...pronunciation of Rooibos.

I heard someone say "Ru-bi-ous" yesterday, but that just seemed wrong to me.

Unknown February 24, 2013 at 3:17 AM  

Rooibos is a Dutch term. "Rooi" being sort of a slang word for "red" (actual Dutch word is "rood")and "bos" being the Dutch word for "woods" or "forest." To pronounce it the Dutch way would be to say Roy-bos, with both words being quite sharply truncated and while rolling the "R."

Anonymous March 3, 2013 at 9:28 AM  

How to pronounce Rooibos: Roy-boss.

Anonymous March 3, 2013 at 9:28 AM  

you pronounce it 'Roy-Boss.'

Anonymous March 9, 2013 at 3:00 AM  

please explain its estrogenic properties I have seen mentioned somewhere.
I have had breast cancer and would not want to do the wrong thing.
Thank uou

Anonymous March 12, 2013 at 5:53 PM  

I used to have problems with constipation but taking 3 cups a day of roobois tea sorted the problem I don't know how, I take it with no milk and no sugar. I didn't start taking it for that purpose though just realised it. I wonder how it does that, but I am grateful for it .

Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 7:56 PM  

I have had Rooibos tea stop heart palpitations within 5 min after drinking a cup of tea. It has happened several times then later, it did not seem to have any effect, so there is some variable that affects whether or not it works.

Victoria March 25, 2013 at 3:53 AM  

I've just started to drink rooibos tea .. each time - about 15 mins after drinking a cup I get a "caffine-like" rush. Any ideas about what may cause this effect?

Anonymous April 7, 2013 at 9:16 PM  

It's amazing how God placed all the wonderful, life giving, life supporting resources in Africa for the people. He had a great plan originally.

JLL April 7, 2013 at 11:48 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous April 26, 2013 at 12:08 PM  

Rooiboss is great i am in ireland and i only drink rooiboss tea

Anonymous April 27, 2013 at 8:51 AM  

I just started drinking rooibos tea a week ago. I got the organic green and red mixed together. it packs a powerful punch. I drink 2 cups a day and also use it on my skin. I highly recommend you drink this tea. so many health benefits and it does not have any caffeine.

Anonymous April 30, 2013 at 4:34 AM  

I purchase my rooibos tea online through republic of tea, its red tea pomegranate vanilla, it also has hibiscus extract all which lowers blood pressure, its a suggestion for anyone looking for a wonderful health benefit tea and a dekicious fruity vanilla taste

Anonymous May 9, 2013 at 5:29 PM  

I love Rooibos tea, like it better iced than hot. Haven't tried green yet so I will have to get some. I went online looking for health benefits and found this article - Lots of great information! But one thing I was wondering about is, does Rooibos tea have any affect on kidney stones?

JLL May 12, 2013 at 5:14 PM  


I haven't seen evidence that it prevents kidney stones; the reason it is sometimes recommended to people suffering from them is because rooibos tea doesn't contain oxalic acid (which can cause kidney stones).


Anonymous June 18, 2013 at 6:25 AM  

I was introduced to Rooibos tea recently by my teacher, who was told by a Chinese health practitioner that if your going to drink any tea, drink Rooibos tea. Ever since then I haven't stopped drinking it. Furthermore I was still sceptical on the health benefits, but this article helped clarify everything for me. Thank you!

Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 12:04 PM  

In terms of how to pronounce rooibos, I'm South African, and it is a very common tea here. Although it is traditionally an Afrikaans word, pronounced by both English and Afrikaans speaking South Africans, it sounds more like 'roy-baws' as opposed to 'boss', with the 'baws' having a similar sound to the word 'horse', although said quite quickly and sharply.

Jamie July 16, 2013 at 7:36 AM  

Just started drinking this tea because I thought it couldn't hurt due to my cirrhosis of the liver. Now that I have read the other benefits, I am very pleased. I ordered mine from Puritan's Pride, a great herbal resource. I was wondering if the extract is as effective as drinking the tea. Although, I like the tea a lot.

Mira-Belle July 22, 2013 at 9:11 PM  

I make my own iced tea from Rooibos & my children love it. I also pack it in for school instead of unhealthy cool drink's. I mix 500 ml's fruit juice & 500 ml's Rooibos that have cooled down. It's really refreshing!

Brisbane Wholesale Food July 24, 2013 at 11:51 AM  

Nice Blog..thanks for share!

Anonymous July 29, 2013 at 11:33 PM  

I'm southafrican n I grew up drinkng rooibos/bush tea.I had no idea how great it is for my health.I love it!

crea7ion September 18, 2013 at 7:59 AM  

Great article! You hit about every benefit I could think of with Rooibos tea. Can't stress enough about Rooibos tea acne benefits! At least for me, it was a great help!

dogsmother November 19, 2013 at 7:07 PM  

I'm fairly new to this tea, but I'm hooked! I can recommend it with a splash of unsweetened almond milk too. My only worry is (as someone else posted) whether it has any oestrogen in it as I'm on tamoxifen following BC - does anyone know if its ok?

Christopher December 10, 2013 at 7:14 PM  

Great article
Rooibos Tea tastes great on top of all the health benefits.
@JLL - @dogsmother (Nov 19th) and @anonymous (March 9th) were both interested whether it has any oestrogen in it. Is it safe to drink whilst taking tamoxifen, (or similar) following breast cancer? Are you able to answer?

JLL December 11, 2013 at 2:06 PM  


According to some sources, rooibos contains polyphenols that are similar to estrogen. If you want to avoid everything that might function like estrogen then I guess you wouldn't want to take rooibos. I haven't read of rooibos tea reducing the effectiveness of tamoxifen, but who I don't know for sure.


Anonymous December 15, 2013 at 9:11 AM  

So much great information & resources. Thank you!

Unknown February 3, 2014 at 4:42 PM  

...and Rooibos increased my penis size by 3 inches after just two cups.
Also, I was able to throw away my tri-focal glasses because the tea gave me back my old 20-20 after 30 years of glasses!

Anonymous February 5, 2014 at 7:30 PM  

You aren't serious!

Anonymous April 26, 2014 at 1:18 AM  

Now that is a little far fetched....or is it? Is that why Africans are stereotypically larger?

Unknown May 17, 2014 at 1:33 PM  

Während viele Professoren gelernt haben Hoffnung, jemals die Wahrheit zu entdecken, hinter Rooibos aufgegeben, ich für ein Gefühl, dass es immer noch eine gute Sache für die Prüfung. Es gibt viele Faktoren, die die Entwicklung Rooibos beeinflusst. Es ist zwar immer ein heißes Thema für die Diskussion ist es wichtig, sich daran zu erinnern, dass "was geht, müssen unten kommen." Oft ist es sowohl als Hilfe und im Weg, um so genannte "Babys", die nur nicht gerne gesehen Art der Sache.

Unknown May 20, 2014 at 6:15 PM  

Teegenießer finden bei eine riesige Auswahl unterschiedlichster Teesorten. Exklusive Tees aus den besten Anbaugebieten der Erde sorgen für uneingeschränkten Trinkgenuss. Eine Teestunde mit yourtea entspannt und gehört zu den erholsamen Pausen im Alltag. Im yourtea-Shop findest du eine Fülle von exklusiven und interessanten Teemischungen. Manche Tees ergänzen sich hervorragend in ihrer Geschmacksnote und werden von uns mit viel Erfahrung komponiert. Grüner Tee, weißer Tee oder Rooibos, alle diese Mischungen sorgen für Abwechslung und für einen runden und vollmundigen Geschmack. Manche Sorten schmecken so fein, dass sie ohne Zucker ihr Aroma am besten entfalten, andere Nuancen lassen sich mit Zucker oder Kandis hervorragend abrunden.

buy canadian celebrex June 13, 2014 at 1:37 PM  

It is very good remedy for treating acne.

zazy August 18, 2014 at 2:20 PM  


I love rooibos. It has a weedlike effect on me (really really relaxing and it gives me a "spiritual" feeling- don't really have a other way to describe it, it gives me a newfound meaning) I know it sounds strange. Nothing relaxes me like rooibos does. One times I drank 5 cups and at night I fell in a coma like sleep for 12 hours.
Do you maybe have an idea why this could be ? What compounds could contribute to this ?
I have not found anything about rooibos being so extremely relaxing so maybe it is just my body that reacts like this.

JLL August 22, 2014 at 2:08 PM  


I find it very relaxing and calming too. Not sure which compound is responsible for the effect, but it's definitely there.


Anonymous October 11, 2014 at 12:19 PM  

I am scheduled for surgery and I am wondering if rooibos is at all contraindicated because of any effects on clotting. My surgeon said to dispense with using garlic for this next week as well. Thanks for any info.

Anonymous November 14, 2014 at 12:25 PM  

My mom had a cup of this tea and went right to sleep at the dining table. she fell asleep watching tv. This tea is potent. Rubios tea made by twining a. So strong! I was sort of worried because it was so potent. I hope that it is safe to drink. She is 83>

Unknown November 26, 2014 at 12:09 PM  

I have heard of this technique before but have yet to try it. I will definitely add it to the list of benefits my green tea already provides. Thanks!

Anonymous May 22, 2015 at 12:23 AM  

HELP please - I suspect rooibos tea for painful breast - swelling - I had no problem and as soon as I drink it - it starts to hurt a few hours later ???
thank you hope someone is able to explain this ??

Unknown May 29, 2015 at 8:06 AM  

A great brand of Rooibos teas an other rooibos products is Annique, I am a consultant for them and use the teas myself, you may contact me for information or orders,

Anonymous July 6, 2015 at 5:11 PM  

why do i get a headache when i take roibos?

Unknown November 4, 2015 at 10:01 AM  

I have a couple questions: Is there a right or wrong way to brew rooibos tea? Is one type more nutrient-packed than another? Recently I've bought green, pure red, tiramisu, orange spice, and lemon hibiscus rooibos here. Thanks in advance.

Thomas November 24, 2015 at 8:31 AM  

Regards from, Enjoying Tea

Rooibos Tea (Aspalathus Iinearis) is grown at the altitude of 2000 feet above sea level in South Africa. Research has shown Rooibos tea to be a rich natural source of antioxidants with a high level of flavonoids. The absence of caffeine makes rooibos an ideal drink, even at night.

Unknown December 15, 2015 at 8:33 AM  

Superb!! I have already bookmarked your blog!! Aljaz

Unknown April 9, 2016 at 5:52 PM  

Rooibos tea lowers blood pressure in some individuals so this could explain the headaches. I can pass out if I have more than two cups a day due to low blood pressure.

Anonymous May 24, 2016 at 12:32 PM  

This tea has stopped an annoying form of insomnia where I would wake up after three hours and not get back to sleep.
It also gives me a calm feeling in my back/kidney area.
I tried so many herbs and products for insomnia before accidentally discovering this effect one evening - it has so improved my quality of sleep, therefore quality of life.

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