Rooibos, meaning "red bush"; is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa's fynbos. Rooibos tea (also called bush tea or redbush tea) is made from the leaves of the rooibostee, a shrub of 6 feet in height with bright green needle-shaped leaves.

Rooibos is grown in the shadow of the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa - and nowhere else in the world, and is one of the few indigenous plants that have become an important commercial crop.
This remarkably tough plant has evolved to thrive in a fairly inhospitable environment – very little rainfall and sandy, acidic soil. This is another important difference between conventional teas – which are widely treated during and after harvest with a range of pesticides and fungicides.
Part of the reason for the robustness of rooibos lies in the plant’s very long taproot, which can penetrate up to two metres into the ground. This means the plant can reach deep down into the soil for water, and as such can withstand very dry conditions.
As a legume, the rooibos plant can also bind its own nitrogen through bacteria on its roots which take nitrogen from the air and ‘fix’ it in the plant. This means that rooibos needs no irrigation or fertilisation, and so is cultivated today much as it always been.It grows in a symbiotic relationship with local micro-organisms, and past attempts to grow it outside this area, in places as far afield as the United States, Australia, and China, have all failed. Scientists speculate that climate change may threaten the future survival of the plant, with claims that increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall may result in the extinction of the plant within the next century.

Rooibos tea remained virtually unheard of for centuries, known only to the Khoisans, a tribe of South African Bushmen. It was used for at least 300 years by these people as an herbal remedy for a wide range of ailments. The secret of this delicious herb nearly vanished into oblivion due to the environment and landscape, as the isolated tribe dwindled away and eventually disappeared. Luckily, Rooibos tea was re-discovered in 1772 by Swedish botanist Carl Humberg. Due to the difficulties buying and shipping black tea from war-ridden Asia during World War II, the demand for a substitute beverage was urgent. Since Rooibos tea was such a fitting alternative, Rooibos' popularity rapidly rose. By the 1900s, Dutch settlers of the Cape refined the curing process to make African red tea, employing similar methodologies of green tea processing. Rooibos tea has expanded from a small herb indigenous to a select region of South Africa, known only to a small group of tribesman, into one of the most consumed and well-known herbs in the world. The wonderful flavor and startling versatility make Rooibos worth the praise it has received, a mainstay for the converted and a must-try for the not-yet enlightened.

Rooibos tea is finely chopped, bruised and left to ferment in heaps. It is then left to dry in the African sun, where it changes from a vivid green to a deep mahogany red, the unique color which Rooibos tea is known and adored. Rooibos grades are largely related to the percentage "needle" or leaf to stem content in the mix. A higher leaf content results in a darker liquor, richer flavour, and less "dusty" aftertaste. Unoxidized "green" rooibos is also produced, but the more demanding production process for green rooibos makes it more expensive than traditional rooibos. It carries a malty and slightly grassy flavor, somewhat different from its red counterpart.

In South Africa, it is common to prepare rooibos tea in the same manner as black tea and add milk and sugar to taste. Other methods include a slice of lemon and using honey instead of sugar to sweeten.  Several coffee shops in South Africa have recently begun to sell red espresso, which is concentrated rooibos served and presented in the style of ordinary espresso. This has given rise to rooibos-based variations of coffee drinks such as red lattes and red cappuccinos.  Iced tea made from rooibos has recently been introduced in South Africa, Australia, and the United States. A variant of the drink London Fog, known as a Cape Town Fog, can also be made using rooibos steeped in steamed milk with vanilla syrup.

In cooking, Rooibos tea has been shown to be an effective meat tenderizer and a wonderful marinade.  Rooibos is also being used as a dye, a vitamin, a spice and just about anything that could be imagined.

As fresh leaf, rooibos has a high content of ascorbic acid, as well as containing at least thirty-seven natural antioxidants. Rooibos tea is said to contain rare nutrients like Quercetin and Bioflavanoids that assists in good blood circulation and obstructs hemorrhaging. Rooibos contains polyphenols, including flavanols, flavones, flavanones, dihydrochalcones, aspalathin, and nothofagin. The processed leaves and stems contain benzoic and cinnamic acids. Rooibos tea is rich in mineral content of iron, calcium, potassium, copper, fluoride, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid. It also contains antioxidants like aspalathin and nothofagin, and extremely potent and versatile phenolic compounds. Rooibos tea does not contain caffeine and has low tannin levels compared to black tea or green tea. 

The medicinal attributes of rooibos have been confirmed by The US Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, which has affirmed that red rooibos tea is capable of reducing cancer, heart disease, premature aging and other serious conditions. In 2003 the American Botanical Council said there is no other natural resource that has as many antioxidants as rooibos. Rooibos is a source of two comparatively rare antioxidants, aspalathin and nothofagin. Aspalathin helps to modify hormones in the body and reduces the output of adrenal hormones specifically, thus reducing stress and helping to inhibit metabolic disorders. Aspalathin also helps to regulate blood sugar and therefore can play a role in reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes and excessive fat production. The antioxidant nothofagin also demonstrates significant anti-inflammatory activity and, along with aspalathin, may help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Both appear to protect nerves  Research conducted in Japan shows that rooibos possesses antimutagenic, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral activity. Translation – it is powerfully protective. Rooibos is especially rich in the super-antioxidant compound quercetin. A titan among the antioxidants, quercetin imparts benefits to the heart, helps to reduce the risk of various types of cancers, fights viruses and is significantly anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is part of all known chronic degenerative diseases. The anti-inflammatory activity of quercetin means that it helps to reduce the risk of many types of health disorders.

Aspalathin

Aspalathin

Nothofagin

Nothofagin

BENEFITS OF Rooibos FOR SPECIFIC HEALTH CONDITIONS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING: 

Rooibos tea is known to relieve stress, nervous tension and hypertensive conditions. Through its ingredients, you become calmer and more relaxed. Your cortisol levels (hormone that makes you stressed) are also kept lower after just one cup.  

Rooibos tea is a bedtime favorite among South African herbalists, consumers, and even physicians.  It is likely that rooibos helps to induce sleep both directly, by affecting the metabolism of acetylcholine in the brain and preventing excessive firing of the neurons that cause wakefulness, and indirectly, by blocking hormonal reactions that cause inflammation and pain. Aspalathin helps muscle cells use glucose more effectively, and maintain normal blood sugar levels. It is just one flavonoid among a wide spectrum of bioactive phenolic compounds. The phytonutrients are believed to aid stress-related symptoms linked to metabolic diseases. A study was done to see if rooibos could help maintain hormonal homeostasis to help prevent numerous clinical conditions such as hypertension, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistant type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Rooibos' aspalathin and nothofagin were investigated for their inhibitory effects on adrenal steroidogenesis and found to significantly reduce aldosterone and cortisol precursors, helping to balance hormones and reduce stress.

Rooibos also has anti-aging effects in terms of cognitive ability, because it reduces the impact of oxidative byproducts in neural pathways, stimulating concentration and focus.  

Red rooibos tea is rich in calcium, manganese and fluoride minerals that assist in maintaining good bone structure and stronger teeth. By increasing the bio-availability of minerals in your system, you can reduce your chances of developing conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, and chronic joint pain. Manganese actually works on an even deeper level, and stimulates the enzymes which are required top build new bones and repair damage.

The alpha hydroxy acid and zinc content of red tea are very good for the skin. You can also try applying some red tea powder directly to the skin to relieve acne, pimples, sunburns or related skin conditions. Alpha-hydroxy acids are not found naturally from too many sources, but in terms of cosmetic products, it has become very popular, particularly because it can reduce the signs of wrinkles and other premature aging symptoms. Also, they are commonly found in chemical peels, which revitalize the skin and leave it fresh and invigorated with a healthy glow. However, there has been some controversy about commercial uses of alpha hydroxy acid, so it is always better to get it from a natural source, like red rooibos tea.  When added to lotions, Rooibos has been shown as an effective herbal remedy for skin ailments such as eczema and acne.  Many parents will apply this tea to their babies if diaper rash is present as it should reduce the itchiness and irritation caused by a rash and lead to fast relief.

While rooibos does not contain the anti-cancer antioxidant Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) found in abundance in tea it does contain two other antioxidant flavonoids, quercetin and luteolin, have been shown to have cancer fighting properties.There have been two recent studies in South Africa – one conducted by the Medical Research Council's Promec Unit and a second by the Oxidative Stress Research Centre at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). Although both studies received funding from the afore-mentioned South African Rooibos Council, they have revealed that the rooibos plant's polyphenols (already known to be anti-inflammatory) moderate the immune system. This in turn could prevent the immune system's aggressive response to UVB that could lead to tumors.  In their research, professor Jeanine Marnewick and her team studied the effect of extracts of the herbal tea on UV-induced skin tumors in mice. Their main objective was to ascertain whether rooibos (and another herbal plant called honeybush) reduced the amount, the size and the volume of tumors. Their results were satisfyingly conclusive with “green” rooibos producing a reduction of the number of tumors by 75% and “crushed” rooibos coming in at 91%. Honeybush was also successful with 86% and 64% respectively. And both herbs shrunk any tumors by nearly 100%.  These studies found that the polyphenol-rich exttracts from rooibos (and honeybush) have anti-tumor and photoprotective properties. Further research and development are now needed to discover and harness the potential in these properties to prevent and treat cancer.A study published in 2009 by Japanese scientists looked at the abundant antioxidants in rooibos tea and found that aspalathin and nothofagin have a strong anti-inflammatory activity that may prevent DNA damage and inflammation by its antioxidant activity.  Another 2009 study demonstrated that topical application of polyphenol-rich extracts of rooibos prior to UVB exposure inhibited the formation of tumours, suggesting the benefits of including rooibos in skin care products as part of the strategy for preventing skin cancer.  The powerful antioxidants in roobios protect living cells from oxidative damage, which also slows or prevents cancer. Rooibos may also help the body remove cancerous cells that already have damaged DNA. Studies suggest rooibos may switch on certain genes that help to break down carcinogens stored in the body tissues for elimination.  A study on herbal tea as a cancer preventative found total esophageal papilloma size in rats to be reduced by unfermented rooibos.

Aspalathin is one of the rare antioxidants that are found in rooibos tea, and it has a number of unique qualities. It can help to balance blood sugar, improve insulin resistance, improve the glucose absorption by muscles, and boosts the insulin secretion from the pancreas. This all results in an ideal defensive shield against developing type II Diabetes,one of the most widespread and dangerous conditions that is currently sweeping the world. By balancing blood sugar, rooibos tea can also protect people that already have diabetes by preventing the spikes and drops of blood sugar that are so detrimental to their overall health.

In many parts of South Africa, red tea is used as an effective curative to treat allergies like eczema, hay fever and allergy-related bronchitis. It has anti-inflammatory qualities, thanks to its phenolic content, and this is why it is also prescribed for asthma and topical allergic reactions of various types throughout the body.

In Asia, rooibos is known as "Long Life" tea.  The antioxidants present in rooibos tea slow down the human aging process and they also boost the strength of the immune system. Antioxidants seek out the free radicals that damage skin, hair, bones, and other organ systems by making them vulnerable to disease and degeneration. Rooibos tea is one of the most potent beverages in terms of antioxidant content.

Even people with kidney stone problems can drink as much red rooibos tea as they want as there is no oxalic acid in the beverage. Many times, people with kidney stones are discouraged from drinking too much tea of other varieties because of that exacerbating ingredient. Oxalic acid is a crystal-forming substance, so it can make the presence of calcium stones or other painful growths in the kidney even worse by making them larger. That won’t be a problem with rooibos tea.  Quercetin has also been shown in clinical trials to relieve the painful symptoms of urinary system diseases such as prostatitis and cystitis.

Antioxidants found in the tea can protect your liver against damage caused by t-BHP. Furthermore, rooibos was shown to reverse some of the initial damage caused to the liver and helps to repair this organ even further.The study has only been conducted on mice, but it has already been recommended as a supplemental form of liver treatment that works well combined with other medicinal options.

There’s also the inclusion of catechins which have been linked to fat burning processes. Even switching out one 8-ounce cup of coffee with a tea per day will lead to 7.5 pounds of weight reduction over a year. Low in calories – Without adding extra sugar, this beverage has just 2 calories. Drinking tea versus 100+ calorie sodas will automatically reduce your daily caloric intake.  Worried about not having sugar? Rooibos is naturally sweet, so it’s a good choice for losing excessive pounds.

The luteolin and vitexin in rooibos was found to be one of the edible plant extracts that had anti-viral activity strong enough to treat diarrhea caused by rotavirus infection. The tea is rich in antispasmodic agents, which can ease severe stomach cramps and abdominal pains. This is mainly due to the activation of K+ (potassium ions) in the body without antagonizing the activities of Calcium. Together, this can reduce the presence of hyperactivity in the gastrointestinal tract, preventing diarrhea and other intestinal issues.

Rooibos tea can be useful for small children who suffer from colic or stomach pains. You may add some sweetened milk to the tea to improve the flavor and make it more palatable. This is actually what first began rooibos tea as a well-known health aid. Various South African women claimed that this plant was very soothing for their colicky infant. Word began to spread and rooibos tea was suddenly being thrown at any number of health issues to see what else it could help. 50 years later, the world knows all about this powerful little herb. The exact mechanism by which it soothes colic and stomach pain is unknown, but the general anti-inflammatory properties of the herb are most likely responsible.

Hypertension is more commonly known as high blood pressure, and rooibos tea is known as a brochodilator, which not only relieves respiratory conditions, but generally reduces blood pressure, which can lead to dangerous cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and atherosclerosis.  Quercetin, a powerful antioxidant found in rooibos tea, has been linked to preventing a wide variety of heart conditions. It is anti-inflammatory, which reduces blood pressure, and it also scavenges free radicals like other antioxidants. It promotes an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and inhibits the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from binding to the walls of arteries and blood vessels. This means added protection against various heart conditions, including atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.  Another antioxidant in rooibos is chrysoeriol. It is an effective bronchodilator, helps lower blood pressure, relieves spasms, and helps prevent and treat vascular disease by inhibiting the cause of hardening of arteries.  The cardioprotective effects of the main polyphenolic compounds in both red and green rooibos tea were evaluated in a study using rat hearts. Results showed that rooibos extracts had the highest amount of flavonols and significantly improved aortic output recovery and decreased apoptosis. Another study found green tea and rooibos to inhibit ACE activity. Other ways rooibos keeps the heart healthy is by preventing oxidation of fat molecules in blood, enhancing glutathione, improving blood lipid profiles, and lowering LDL cholesterol. It also inhibits the angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE, which is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease including hypertension and heart disease.

Antioxidants prevent oxidative stress, which causes degenerative problems on a cellular level to a variety of tissues, from organs to sperm. One study compared the effects of red rooibos, green rooibos, Chinese green tea, and commercial rooibos and green tea supplements on rat sperm. Sperm count and motility were found to be significantly higher for rats on red and green rooibos than any of the other groups.

In cooking, Rooibos tea has been shown to be an effective meat tenderizer and a wonderful marinade.  Rooibos is also being used as a dye, a vitamin, a spice and just about anything that could be imagined.

Caution:  Like black tea, it inhibits the absorption of iron from food, although rooibos has a lesser effect than does black tea.  People with iron-deficiency conditions should avoid both beverages.  In one study, rooibos leaves as a tea demonstrated estrogenic activity, so patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should use caution before using it. Some reports of liver toxicity have been reported, so speak to your doctor before using rooibos if you have hepatic issues.  Rooibos may interfere with many chemotherapy drugs.  

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