Rooibos Tea Benefits
South African Redbush Proven by Science?

Are rooibos tea benefits supported by science? Five health benefits you should know about.

Rooibos, often called Red Bush tea, is a beverage made from a South African shrub.

While South Africans have been drinking rooibos for both pleasure and medicinal purposes for centuries, it has become popular worldwide over the past decade.

Its makes a rich red tea with a naturally sweet taste. But does it contain any health benefits?

There is still much research to be done, but here is a list of possible health benefits, both traditional and supported by scientific study.

Rooibos Tea Benefits #1:
Potent Source of Antioxidants

Like green tea, rooibos is a rich source of antioxidants. However, its chemical makeup is quite different from that of tea made from Camellia Sinensis. Unlike green tea, it has no caffeine, and no EGCG, the antioxidant that makes green tea so good for you.

Instead, rooibos contains antioxidant compounds called aspalathin and nothofagin, along with vitamin C, quercetin, isoquercitrin, rutin, luteolin, orientin, iso-orientin, iso-vitexin and vitexin14.

How well do these antioxidants work at protecting your body from free radicals? Rooibos has been studied for antioxidant activity, and the results suggest that it does have a protective effect.

A 2009 study conducted by the South African Stellenbosch University compared the antioxidant activity of aspalathin and nothofagin with that of EGCG. They found that aspalathin was actually a little bit better at scavenging free radicals than EGCG, with an IC50 of 3.33 microM versus EGCG's 3.46 microM.

However, when it comes to the actual teas themselves, green tea seems to be more powerful than rooibos.

Another 2005 South African study performed by Medical Research Council found that while green tea, honeybush and rooibos were all able to inhibit the growth of tumors on mouse skin exposed to a carcinogenic substance.

Green tea was able to completely block the carcinogen, while processed rooibos only had an inhibition rate of 75%.

To quote from the study:“green tea E/A fraction exhibiting a 100% inhibition, unprocessed honeybush 90%, processed honeybush 84.2%, processed rooibos 75% and unprocessed rooibos 60%.”

In another 1997 study, the antioxidant activity of unfermented, semi-fermented and fermented rooibos was compared against green, black and oolong teas using two different testing methods.

Although all teas displayed antioxidant activity, green tea always came out on top, with rooibos coming in either 4th or 2nd, depending on the testing method used.

Rooibos Tea Benefits #2:
Cure Depression

Traditionally, rooibos has been used to treat depression and anxiety. But does this traditional use hold up to scrutiny?

There is no way to know for sure without scientific studies, and I was unable to find any studies that addressed this use of the herb.

If you are sad and anxious and having a glass of rooibos calms you down, there is certainly no harm in it, though, especially since it is caffeine-free.

Rooibos Tea Benefits #2:
Good for Skin and Hair

Rooibos has an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, so it is good for soothing rashes and acne.

In fact, according to a 2002 report written by Dr. Jane Tiedtke and Dr. Olaf Marks, children with allergic rashes are bathed in rooibos at Cape Town's Red Cross Memorial Hospital.

Annique Theron, the woman credited with “discovering” the healing properties of rooibos (although the local Khoisan people had been using medicinally for centuries), created a skin care line based on rooibos to treat inflamed and irritated skin.

One study of a rooibos extract called Herbasol® MPE Rooibos also found that it made hair grow faster than a placebo, although the study was conducted by the company that sells the extract, so you may wish to take the findings with a grain of salt.

Rooibos Tea Benefits #3:
Soothe Upset Stomach

Rooibos has also been used traditionally to soothe digestive issues.

A 2006 study found that some of the chemical constituents in rooibos helped to reduce intestinal spasms.

The study's authors concluded that “Rooibos tea possesses a combination of dominant K(ATP) channel activation and weak Ca(++) antagonist mechanisms and hence justifiGes its use in hyperactive gastrointestinal disorders.”

Rooibos Tea Benefits #4:
Protect Liver

Rooibos tea has also been shown to protect the liver from damage caused by toxins.

In a 2004 study conducted by Comenius University, rooibos was able to help rats recover from administration of carbon tetrachloride, a poison that causes liver damage.

The study concluded that “the consumption of rooibos tea as a rich source of natural antioxidants could be recommended as a market available, safe and effective hepatoprotector in patients with liver diseases.”

Rooibos Tea Benefits #5:
Soothe Allergies

Rooibos has also traditionally been used to soothe allergies and asthma. Here, the research is conflicting.

A 2006 study did find that rooibos has a bronchodilatory effect, meaning it could be useful in treating asthma. Also, a 2001 study found that rooibos modulates the immune system in a way that might be helpful for treating allergies.

However, a 1982 study that tested rooibos to see if it could prevent an allergic reaction on skin found that it had no effect.


Too much caffeine can interfere with your sleep and turn you into a nervous wreck. Rooibos is caffeine free, so if you want a cup of something hot and soothing before you go to bed, it is a good choice.

It also tastes naturally sweet without any calories - a bonus if you are trying to replace a nightly cup of hot cocoa with something healthier!

More research needs to be done to verify most of the health claims that are made for rooibos.

However, the fact that it is a safe, caffeine-free, antioxidant-filled beverage makes it a healthy beverage choice that provide additional benefits in some circumstances.


Snijman PW, Joubert E, Ferreira D, Li XC, Ding Y, Green IR, Gelderblom WC (2009). Antioxidant activity of the dihydrochalcones Aspalathin and Nothofagin and their corresponding flavones in relation to other Rooibos ( Aspalathus linearis ) Flavonoids, Epigallocatechin Gallate, and Trolox. J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Aug 12;57(15):6678-84.

Marnewick J, Joubert E, Joseph S, Swanevelder S, Swart P, Gelderblom W (2005). Inhibition of tumour promotion in mouse skin by extracts of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia), unique South African herbal teas. Cancer Lett. 2005 Jun 28;224(2):193-202. Epub 2004 Dec 10.

A. Von Gadowa, E. Joubertb and C. F. Hansmann (1997). Comparison of the antioxidant activity of rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) with green, oolong and black tea. Food Chemistry Volume 60, Issue 1, September 1997, Pages 73-77

Tiedtke, Jane and Marks, Olaf (2002). “Rooibos: The New White Tea For Hair and Skin Care.” Published by Oleo Chemicals, June 2002

Baba H, Ohtsuka Y, Haruna H, Lee T, Nagata S, Maeda M, Yamashiro Y, Shimizu T (2009). “Studies of anti-inflammatory effects of Rooibos tea in rats.” Pediatr Int. 2009 Oct;51(5):700-4. Epub 2009 Mar 27.

Gilani AH, Khan AU, Ghayur MN, Ali SF, Herzig JW (2006). Antispasmodic effects of Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) is mediated predominantly through K+ -channel activation. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2006 Nov;99(5):365-73.

Kucharská J, Ulicná O, Gvozdjáková A, Sumbalová Z, Vancová O, Bozek P, Nakano M, Greksák M (2006). Regeneration of coenzyme Q9 redox state and inhibition of oxidative stress by Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) administration in carbon tetrachloride liver damage. Physiol Res. 2004;53(5):515-21.

Khan AU, Gilani AH (2006). Selective bronchodilatory effect of Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) and its flavonoid, chrysoeriol. Eur J Nutr. 2006 Dec;45(8):463-9. Epub 2006 Nov 1.

Kunishiro K, Tai A, Yamamoto I (2001). Effects of rooibos tea extract on antigen-specific antibody production and cytokine generation in vitro and in vivo. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2001 Oct;65(10):2137-45.

PB Hesseling and JR Joubert(1982). The effect of rooibos tea on the type I allergic reaction. Sa Mediese Tydskrif. December 1982 p 1037.

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