Literally, red bush tea, rooibos tea is a popular drink that originated in South Africa. The tea is made by fermenting the leaves of a plant called Aspalathus linearis, which is what gives it the red hue. The unfermented green tea has more antioxidants and is more expensive. Mandarin rooibos is a flavored version of the fermented tea that includes bits of dried Mandarin orange and orange peel.
What gives rooibos tea an edge over regular tea or coffee is its low caffeine and tannin content. Coffee produces side effects like jitteriness and palpitations, whereas tannin inhibits iron absorption.
Rooibos contains several types of polyphenols like aspalathin (unique to rooibos), rutin, isoquercetin, hyperoside, quercetin, luteolin, chrysoeriol; phenolic acids like caffeic acid, ferulic acid, p-coumaric acid, phydroxybenzoic acid, vanillic acid, and protocatechuic acid; phenols like nothofagin.
While the unprocessed leaf contains vitamin C, the processed leaves and stem contain benzoic acid and cinnamic acid. It also contains essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, and manganese.
Most benefits associated with rooibos tea are anecdotal, but preliminary animal studies and human studies show rooibos to be promising.
Why It’s So Great
1. Protects the Liver
Your liver is the main detox organ in your body. It removes toxins from everything you ingest – from food to smoke – but the process of detoxification itself generates cell-damaging free radicals. Your body has a store of antioxidants like glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase to deal with them, but sometimes, it may not be sufficient. Alongside other healthy foods, rooibos tea antioxidants could lend them the much-needed support.
The only challenge is that the effect of rooibos antioxidants seem to last for about 5 hours in the body. So you would have to drink quite a few cups every day to gain the antioxidant benefits rooibos offers.
While rooibos tea cannot exactly be called a stimulant, it could improve your energy levels by reducing the toxin load on your liver.
2. Helps Maintain Weight
Maintaining your weight can become a bit of a challenge once you are past a certain age and your metabolism slows down naturally. Alongside a proper diet and exercise, rooibos tea might help.
- It could reduce the production and maturation of fat cells. It decreases the production of proteins (PPARγ, PPARαSREBF1, and FASN) at the gene level.
- It could also reduce the levels of leptin. Leptin is the satiety hormone that signals your body to stop eating. In obese people, the body often stops responding to leptin, which makes them overeat. The body continues to release more leptin to deal with the food. The cycle continues. By reducing the levels of leptin, rooibos could help the body find its leptin balance.
3. Helps the Heart
In small-scale studies, rooibos tea has shown promise for the heart. It could reduce the bad LDL cholesterol and increase the helpful HDL cholesterol. The effects, however, are more visible in people at risk of heart diseases.
Rooibos tea could help in another way too. Often, when LDL cholesterol lodges inside the blood vessel and gets oxidized, immune agents rush to the site to control the damage. This results in inflammation, which could quickly get out of hand and create trouble for the heart. Aspalathin and nothofagin could help further by containing this inflammation.
- They block the activation of genes (like TLR4) and proteins (like NF-κB) that carry forward the cycle of inflammation.
- They reduce the number of glue-like molecules (CAM) that help immune cells travel and stick to the site of injury, triggering off inflammation.
Mandarin rooibos tea is available in teabags. Steep a bag in a cup of boiling water for 5 minutes. You could also try iced tea. No side effects are known. Some recommend drinking up to 6 cups of rooibos tea in a day.