Rooibos, the new health drink

By Johanna Amselem

Rooibos, which is very popular in South Africa, has also attracted the attention of the Western world. Its benefits for the whole body make it a high sought-after health drink.
Stop the green tea, leave the black tea in the cupboard, forget the tea infusions and welcome the red tea! Also called "Rooibos", this plant only grows in South Africa and takes its name from the red colour released during the fermentation of the leaves.

The various benefits of Rooibos make it an ideal health drink. "Rooibos has interesting antioxidant properties," emphasises's Florence Foucaut, a dietician and nutritionist, and member of the French Association of Dieticians and Nutritionists - AFDN. It contains various antioxidant substances, in particular polyphenols such as aspalathin, the only natural source of this polyphenol. These antioxidants scavenge free radicals and fight the development of cardiovascular disease. They also fight the onset of bad cholesterol and cellular ageing.

The antioxidants in Rooibos are beneficial in the fight against cancer, especially skin cancer. In addition, South African researchers have shown that the external application of Rooibos can shrink the skin tumours of mice.

A relaxing drink

In 2006, the European Journal of Nutrition published a study that described the effective action of chrysoeriol, an active component in Rooibos that causes blood pressure to drop. To date, no scientific studies have validated the use of Rooibos in relieving digestive disorders even though Rooibos is often used for this very purpose.

Rooibos contains no caffeine. It is therefore not as uplifting as coffee or other teas. Anybody can drink it, any time of the day. "To feel the benefits, it is recommended that you drink three cups a day, in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening," says Florence Foucaut. Rooibos, which is an ideal bedtime drink, promotes sleep and enhances the quality of sleep.

No side effects

Rooibos has a low concentration of tannins, which are responsible for the astringent taste of tea. The low tannin content of Rooibos gives it a mild flavour, which many consumers in Western countries find appealing. Rooibos also contains interesting anti-allergy properties. Japanese researchers have found that the uptake of a Rooibos enzyme in the liver metabolises allergens.

To date, no side effects have been associated with the consumption of Rooibos. This red tea can be served according to taste, which means it can be enjoyed on its own or it can even be served with milk and sugar or fruit flavours.