Rooibos Tea: A Caffeine-Free Tea That’s Bursting With Antioxidants

rooibos tea

Story at-a-glance -

  • Rooibos tea contains valuable nutrients, which may contribute to its wide array of health benefits
  • Rooibos tea is a traditional herbal tea from Southern Africa that’s slowly gaining popularity for being rich in antioxidants. Learn more about the health benefits that this delightful tea has to offer

Rooibos tea has been a popular herbal tea in South Africa for centuries. It's also recently gained popularity among tea drinkers worldwide for being a palatable alternative to green and black tea, which has a bitter taste. Another sought-after characteristic of rooibos tea is its ample antioxidants, which give it its valuable health benefits.

What Is Rooibos Tea?

Rooibos tea, also known as red tea or red bush tea, is an herbal tea that's derived from the Aspalathus linearis plant, a bush native to the mountainous region of Cederberg in South Africa.

The methods used to make organic rooibos tea today are still relatively similar to the processes used more than a hundred years ago. Only the young branches of the Aspalathus linearis plant are used to make the tea. After being harvested, the stems and leaves are then bruised and left to ferment and oxidize.1

The oxidation and fermentation processes give rooibos its distinct reddish brown color, hence the name "red tea." You should keep in mind, though, that there are other types of tea that are called red tea, even though they're entirely different from rooibos. This includes some black teas and hibiscus tea.2,3

This tea comes in an unfermented variant as well, which is characterized by its green color and grassy taste. Green rooibos is usually more expensive than the traditional red ones, since it contains higher amounts of antioxidants. Rooibos tea also contains other valuable nutrients, which may contribute to its wide array of health benefits.4

Get to Know the Many Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea

Traditionally used to treat different kinds of ailments, the healing properties of rooibos tea have been a subject of numerous studies over the past years. Results show that its high antioxidant content, together with certain minerals, may help provide numerous health benefits, which include:5,6,7,8

Protects cells against free radicals — Rooibos contains aspalathin and quercetin, which are powerful antioxidants that can help protect the cells against damage caused by free radicals.

Reduces the risk of cancer — Studies have shown that the antioxidants found in rooibos tea, particularly quercetin and luteolin, can help reduce your risk of cancer by killing cancer cells and inhibiting tumor growth.

Improves heart health — According to studies,9 rooibos tea may help improve heart health by inhibiting the angiotensin-converting enzyme. This enzyme causes blood vessels to contract, indirectly increasing blood pressure levels.

Rooibos tea may also help reduce the bad cholesterol in your body, which may further decrease your chances of developing heart diseases.

Regulates blood glucose levels — The aspalathin found in rooibos tea has an antidiabetic effect, which may help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Promotes healthy skin and hair — Since rooibos is rich in antioxidants, it can help protect the skin and hair against the negative effects of free radicals. It also contains alpha hydroxy acid, which is found to be helpful in alleviating skin conditions.10

Maintains healthy brain function — Research shows that regular intake of rooibos tea may help protect the brain against lipid peroxides, ultimately delaying brain aging and preventing deteriorating brain disorders like Alzheimer's disease.11

In addition to the health benefits mentioned above, rooibos tea is believed to be helpful in enhancing appetite, improving sleep, and alleviating allergies and headaches. Currently, only anecdotal reports are available to support these benefits, so further research is still needed to confirm them.12

Rooibos Tea Nutrition Facts

Rooibos is clearly on a par with other types of tea when it comes to antioxidants. As mentioned above, some of its free radical-fighting compounds include aspalathin, luteolin and quercetin. It also contains trace amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.13

What makes rooibos tea even better is that it has lower levels of tannins, which are linked to poor absorption of certain nutrients. It also does not contain oxalic acid, a compound that can increase the risk of kidney stones.14

Caffeine Content of Rooibos Tea

Even though caffeine is a natural stimulant that may provide positive effects to the body, it can cause palpitations, increased anxiety and other undesirable effects if consumed in high amounts. This is exactly why some tea drinkers are in the search for a type of tea that does not contain caffeine. So, the question is, does rooibos tea have caffeine?

The answer is that rooibos tea is naturally caffeine-free,15 which makes it an excellent alternative to green tea and black tea. People who are bothered with sleep problems when they drink caffeinated beverages can safely drink this tea before bedtime without sacrificing their good night's sleep.

And, because it's caffeine-free, you can also consume this tea without the risk of developing caffeine addiction, which is actually quite common and can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fatigue and decreased alertness.

How to Make a Good Cup of Rooibos Tea

The brewing process for rooibos is relatively similar to that of other teas. The only difference is that it may require a different steeping time and temperature. Here's a guide on how to brew a good cup of rooibos tea on your own:16,17,18

  • Use boiling water — Steeping rooibos tea in boiling water makes for a better taste. Make sure that you keep the water hot the entire steeping time. You can do this by placing the cup of tea near a hot surface, like the stove or burner that you just used.
  • Allow it to steep longer — Rooibos tea requires a longer steeping time than other types of tea, so it's best to steep it for at least five minutes.
  • Adjust the serving of tea according to your preference — It's generally recommended to add 1 teaspoon of rooibos tea per 8 ounces of water. However, this serving is not set in stone, and you may adjust the amount according to your taste.

Although rooibos is already semi-sweet, some people still prefer to serve it with milk and sugar. I suggest that you leave out these ingredients, especially sugar, if you're after the health benefits of rooibos tea.

Try This Homemade Rooibos Iced Tea Recipe

Now that you know how to brew a delectable cup of rooibos tea, try to make this homemade rooibos iced tea recipe the next time you're looking for a healthy and refreshing drink:

Invigorating Rooibos Iced Tea Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 teabags of organic rooibos tea
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 20 mint leaves
  • 1 gallon boiling water
  • Stevia, to taste

Procedure:

  1. Place the teabags, lemon, mint leaves and stevia in a large pot. Pour boiling water over them and let them steep.
  2. Stir occasionally until cold.
  3. Remove the teabags when the tea is cold, and then refrigerate.

(Recipe adapted from Genius Kitchen19)

The recipe above takes only five minutes to make, and can serve up to 12 people. As mentioned earlier, you can tweak the amount of rooibos tea that you want to brew depending on how strong you prefer your tea.

How You Should Store Rooibos Tea

Just like other types of tea, rooibos must be handled and stored properly to retain its flavor and nutrients. Store it in a clean, dry area that's not exposed to sunlight.20 It's best to keep it away from other foods with strong odors, such as coffee and spices.

You should also put it in an opaque, airtight container to keep it from absorbing odor and moisture from the air. Avoid using plastic containers, as they can transfer chemicals and odors into the tea. Use glass, tin or aluminum containers instead.21

Possible Rooibos Tea Side Effects and Interactions That You Should Be Aware Of

While rooibos tea is generally very safe to drink, since it has low levels of tannins and is free of caffeine and oxalic acid, there are still a few reported cases wherein it caused undesirable effects, which include:22,23

  • Increased liver enzymes — According to a case study, consuming high amounts of rooibos tea daily may increase liver enzymes, which can lead to liver problems. If you have a form of liver disorder, talk to your doctor first before drinking rooibos tea.
  • Estrogenic activity — The compounds in rooibos tea may stimulate estrogenic activity, so it's not recommended for people who are at a higher risk of developing hormone-sensitive cancer, such as breast cancer.

There is not enough evidence to determine if rooibos tea is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Remember that it's always better to be on the safe side, so if you have any doubts regarding the safety of this tea, consult your doctor first before drinking it to avoid any adverse effects.24

Choose and Prepare Your Rooibos Tea Properly to Prevent Bacterial Infection

According to a study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture in 2014, the processing methods of rooibos tea may predispose it to salmonella contamination.25 Salmonella is one of the leading culprits behind foodborne illnesses, and it may even cause death in extreme cases.26

Currently, ozone treatment and salmonella-specific bacteriophages are being used to control salmonella contamination in rooibos tea. If you're planning to include this tea in your diet, make sure to purchase it from manufacturers that use these preventive methods to ensure your safety.

You can also prevent falling victim to the life-threatening health issues caused by salmonella by following the proper boiling instructions for rooibos tea. Always use boiling water to kill any harmful microorganisms in the tea.27

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Rooibos Tea

Q: Is rooibos tea caffeine-free?

A: Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free herbal tea, which makes it a good alternative to the "true teas" that contain caffeine such as green tea and black tea.28

Q: Is rooibos tea good for you?

A: Rooibos tea is undoubtedly good for your overall health, thanks to its abundant antioxidant content. These antioxidants not only help fight the effects of free radicals, but also deliver numerous health benefits, such as:29,30,31,32

  • Lower blood pressure levels
  • Improved heart and bone health
  • Reduced risk of diseases, such as cancer and diabetes
  • Healthier skin and hair
  • Stronger immune system

Q: What does rooibos tea taste like?

A: The traditional red rooibos tea has a naturally sweet, nutty taste, whereas its green variant has a strong malty and slightly grassy flavor.33

Q: Is rooibos tea acidic or alkaline?

A: Rooibos tea is considered an alkaline, since it doesn't have caffeine. Plus, it contains small amounts of alkaline minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and manganese.34,35

Q: Is rooibos tea a diuretic?

A: Rooibos tea is a natural diuretic, so it may help cleanse your body, flush out toxins and promote weight loss.36

Q: Is rooibos tea safe to drink during pregnancy?

A: Further research is still needed to determine whether rooibos tea is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women or not. Because of the insufficient evidence to confirm its safety, you should consult your doctor before drinking this tea.37

Q: Does rooibos tea stain your teeth?

A: Rooibos tea will not stain your teeth, since it doesn't contain teeth-staining ingredients like tannin.38

Q: How do you use rooibos tea for treating acne?

A: Regularly drinking rooibos tea may help alleviate acne, since it contains antioxidants and alpha hydroxy acid, which can promote healthy skin. You may also opt to apply the brewed tea directly on your skin after it cools down to room temperature.39

Q: Where can you buy rooibos tea?

A: Rooibos tea is widely available in most groceries due to its rising popularity among tea drinkers. Make sure that you buy trusted organic brands to guarantee that it underwent safe and unadulterated production methods.

+ Sources and References