What is Rooibos Tea?

rooibos tea

Have you heard of rooibos tea? It’s not surprising if you haven’t, and part of the reason for this is that, technically, rooibos tea isn’t really tea at all.

Tea comes from the tea shrub, which scientists call Camellia sinensis. But rooibos tea is actually a type of herbal tea, meaning that it doesn’t come from the tea shrub.

Instead, it comes from the Aspalathus linearis plant, which is a shrub that usually grows on the western coast of South Africa. Some people also call rooibos tea by the term “red bush tea”, or just red tea in some cases.

Traditionally, preparing rooibos tea leaves involves fermenting the tea leaves. This step is why the “tea” leaves are reddish brown in color.

But then you also have the green rooibos tea variant, which leaves the tea leaves unfermented. In this case, the antioxidants are preserved and the flavor is somewhat grassier. Green rooibos tea is also usually more expensive.

So why drink green rooibos tea, if it’s technically not tea at all? Well, some do like how it tastes. In addition, each cup of rooibos tea can offer the following health benefits:

Naturally Caffeine-Free

According to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), it’s generally safe to consume up to 400 mg of caffeine. But some people don’t react well to even low levels of caffeine. They may feel jittery, end up with headaches, or have their sleep messed up.

If you’re one of those who don’t react well to caffeine, then you may want to go with rooibos tea for your morning beverage. That’s because rooibos tea doesn’t contain any caffeine at all.

It also doesn’t contain oxalic acid, which can increase the risk of kidney stones. You also get lower levels of tannins (compared to black tea and green tea), which may interfere with how your body absorbs nutrients such as iron.

Lots of Antioxidants

Like regular tea, rooibos tea is packed with antioxidants. So, why does this matter?

It matters because human bodies have free radicals, which can make your body more susceptible to diseases like cancer and heart disease. Free radicals are associated with various symptoms of aging.

But antioxidants fight off free radicals. Drinking traditional red rooibos tea can boost your antioxidant levels in your blood by 2.9%. Green rooibos tea can even get up to 6.6% increase in antioxidant levels.

Reduces “Bad” Cholesterol

If you’re overweight, you’re probably more likely to get heart disease compared to those within the proper weight level. You probably have a high level of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, with a low level of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

However, one study involving overweight adults showed that drinking 6 cups of rooibos tea daily can reduce the bad cholesterol while also increasing good cholesterol levels.

Helps with Type 2 Diabetes

Rooibos tea is the only known natural source of aspalathin. This is an antioxidant that, according to some studies involving lab animals, can help to fight off type 2 diabetes. In these studies, the aspalathin in rooibos tea helped to balance blood sugar levels and also reduced insulin resistance.