From its natural range in a small corner of South Africa, Aspalathus linearis has found its way over really just a few years to grocery shelves around the world. Harvested for its leaves just like green or black tea, the Rooibos or “redbush” plant is actually a legume adapted to arid climates. Its leaves are annually harvested and allowed to oxidize in heaps, just as with traditional tea (camellia), but the resulting red tea is naturally caffeine-free and offers rare antioxidants as well as quercetin, a number of other phenols, and several volatile oils.
While this locally treasured tea has been more broadly known since the 17th and 18th centuries, it may have been a South African woman, Annique Theron, who made the plant and its products genuinely popular by publishing a book in 1974 that extolled the health benefits children and adults could derive from Aspalathus linearis, particularly in the relief of allergies and skin conditions. Today, you can not only find Rooibos Tea in all sorts of varieties but also rooibos and its components in skin care and other health products.
Health Benefits of Rooibos
The medicinal components of Rooibos tea are especially valued as anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants, both of which are critical to everyone’s health. More specifically, Rooibos is valued as a natural remedy for acne, various other skin conditions, as part of a diet to prevent or mitigate diabetic conditions, and even as a potential cancer prevention remedy.
Major components of Rooibos tea are metabolized in the liver, so this herbal remedy is not recommended for those with compromised liver function. Additionally, Rooibos may have some limited estrogenic effects, which may be contra-indicated for those with estrogen-related cancers or other hormone-sensitive conditions.
Resources and Studies
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – Rooibos Tea medical overview
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2533719/ – Rooibos Tea reduces oxidative damage to the brain.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2871121/ – Polyphenols in Rooibos Tea modulate carbohydrate metabolism/blood glucose levels, reduce diabetes conditions.