It only grows naturally in a part of South Africa, a country known for its unique plant life that is different from pretty much the rest of the world.
Like with most "super foods", rooibos health claims start out on a level that's perfectly reasonable:
- Organic — true, only one country and company supply it and they pledged to be organic.
- Caffeine-free — though most herbal teas are.
- Full of antioxidants — true, many things are. The two studies looking at the antioxidant levels gave vastly different results. One stated rooibos had 50% more than green tea, and the other a good bit less than green tea. Antioxidants can be beneficial, but more is not necessarily better (i.e., in the the case of very high doses).
- It can be consumed by people who have problems with regular tea (tannins/oxalic acid) — Just like many herbal teas.
In areas with sketchy water infrastructure, drinking tea brings the added benefit of forcing you to boil the water, which kills many water-borne pathogens.
Unsurprisingly, the health claims quickly start diverging into the bizarre:
- There are claims (mostly New age type) that it's an old Japanese secret to long life — Of course, no one had seen this product before the 18th century, when it started being used as a substitute for black tea by poor Dutch settlers in South Africa. It doesn't grow anywhere else, and it doesn't ship well. It hadn't started being produced commercially (or even seen in Japan) until 2000 and after Apartheid ended.
- Toxin cleanser — Researchers have found correlations for anti-fungal effects for skin infections on 11 dart frogs. It wasn't taken internally.
- It contains healthy minerals — There are no listings of mineral contents of rooibos tea outside of a nutritional supplement label or crank websites. Each seems to have its own list of what is in the tea.
- Protects the immune system — Nothing supports that, so: studies or it doesn't happen.
- Supports and cures gastrointestinal issues — Nothing supports that, so: studies or it doesn't happen.
- Protect against cardiovascular disease and diabetic vascular complications — Nothing supports that, save the figments of people's imagination.
- Protects against cancer — Hell, what super food doesn't (claim to)? There is insufficient evidence for this claim.
- It is used to prevent HIV infection, but there is insufficient evidence for this.
- It is used to prevent age-related dementia, but there is insufficient evidence for this.
- It is safe for infants and pregnant women — Okaaaay, and many other things aren't?
Put on the kettle
Like with most non-toxic herbals; if you like it, enjoy it for that reason.
Drinking Rooibos tea likely won't hurt (if consumed in moderation, assuming no prior health problems), and it might even be good for you. Just keep in mind that supposing so requires a leap of faith.
One sore part of you guaranteed to take a hit from this tea is located in the wallet region — there's no such thing as a free
And whatever you do, don't expect Rooibos (or any tea, for that matter) to perform any miracles.
- Rooibos Tea Benefits Powerful Antioxidants Flavonoids (archived from November 19, 2011)
- The Tao of Tea: Tempest in a Teapot (June 4, 2001) WebMD. Rooibos appears to be matching and possibly besting the health benefits claimed for other more established teas
- Antimutagenic and Cancer-modulating Properties of Two Unique South African Herbal Teas, Rooibos and Honeybush The South African Medical Research Council (archived copy from March 15, 2005). South African country supplying the world
- Comparison of the antioxidant activity of rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) with green, oolong and black tea by A. Von Gadow et al. Food Chemistry, Volume 60, Issue 1, September 1997, Pages 73–77.
- For athletes, antioxidant pills may not help performance: Some supplements can blunt the positive effects of exercise training by Laura Beil, Science News (February 24, 2015).
- The Republic of Tea, Get Clean Tea, 36-Count Amazon.com (archived from February 11, 2017). "This gentle naturally caffeine-free herbal detox blend helps the body help itself as it stimulates the liver*, one of our natural cleansing mechanisms"
- Exotic frogs reared in redbush tea in Gloucestershire (7 June 2010) BBC.
- Red Bush Tea: It's Hot: African Rooibos Tea – Health Benefits by Winston Craig. Vegetarian Nutrition Info.
- Red Bush Tea WebMD