What is in Rooibos and why does it matter?
Scientists around the world are investigating the complex composition, chemistry and bioactivity of Rooibos to help us understand how this unique herbal tea from South Africa promotes health and longevity. Since the mid-1950s, Rooibos researchers have published well over a hundred articles in peer-reviewed journals.

While the "standard" nutrients normally printed on food packaging (protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, mineral) are absent or nearly absent in Rooibos, the tea contains a complex mix of polyphenols. Scientists have confirmed that these compounds work synergistically to achieve favourable health effects, and that consumers should therefore be advised to drink the “whole” tea rather than a tablet containing just one of the compounds.

The key facts about the composition and known health properties of Rooibos can be summarised as follows:

  • The mix of Rooibos polyphenols is unique, because it contains aspalathin – to date only isolated from Aspalathus linearis (the botanical name for Rooibos).
  • Aspalathin is the major flavonoid of unfermented Rooibos. It decreases during fermentation and steam pasteurisation, but is still a major flavonoid constituent of fermented Rooibos (the tea with the characteristic red-brown colour and flavour).
  • Aspalathin is important, not only because it is a unique compound, but also because it is the most active antioxidant in Rooibos in many cases.
  • Rooibos also contains the rare flavonoid glucoside nothofagin. Other major phenolic compounds are orientin and iso-orientin, with smaller amounts of vitexin and isovitexin and many more compounds.
  • The flavonoid composition of Rooibos varies between different regions and seasons, probably due to different soil and climate conditions, as well as genetic variations in the seeds used to propagate the plant.
  • Rooibos does not contain caffeine.
  • It is considered a low-tannin beverage, especially when compared to Camellia sinensis (black) tea.
  • The antioxidant activity of teas is very important, because they can scavenge free radicals and so help to protect cells and lipids (fats) against oxidative damage. Rooibos extracts contain powerful free radical scavengers.
  • The flavonoids in Rooibos are also able to modulate (influence) the actions of carcinogens in the cell, thereby preventing or slowing down cancer. Both fermented and green teas show this effect.
  • The antioxidants in Rooibos also protect the liver against oxidative stress and it could have value for liver patients. Rooibos also has an anti-haemolytic effect (protecting blood cells), anti-ageing properties (slowing down brain degeneration and prolonging fertility) and longevity effects.
  • The bronchodilatory, antispasmodic, antiviral and blood pressure lowering effects of Rooibos, and its potential to stimulate the immune system, has been shown in some studies, but need to be further explored. 
  • Human studies have shown that taking Rooibos is an effective way to treat several skin conditions. It decreased the incidents of herpes simplex within a few days, helped for itching (associated with dermatitis), and could reduce sun damage and wrinkles.
  • Research has also demonstrated that Rooibos could have anti-diabetic and anti-obesity effects and that it can counter high cholesterol, heart disease and inflammation.
  • Rooibos extract contains trace amounts of minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. It does not contain measurable levels of Vitamin C or Vitamin E, and it very low in sodium.

Rooibos is naturally caffeine free. What does that mean and why is that good?
It means that there is no caffeine in Rooibos and it is therefore not necessary to decaffeinate it to get rid of caffeine. Caffeine-containing drinks can be decaffeinated, but, depending on the specific decaffeination process used, the end-product may contain potentially harmful traces of solvent residues. That is why many people prefer not to drink beverages that have been chemically decaffeinated.