A frothy, hot mug of milky rooibos tea is my idea of a perfect start to any morning. I had to (mostly) give up caffeine and limit my black tea intake, so rooibos has become my morning go-to.
It's not just a stand-in, though. I've loved rooibos since I first tried a vanilla rooibos latte at a café years ago. The tea blends I drink throughout the day and in the evening also often contain some rooibos. Considering how much I drink, I started to wonder “what were the pros and cons of rooibos tea?”
What is Rooibos?
Rooibos isn't truly tea at all, in that it doesn't contain any of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. Instead, it is the fermented green needles of the Aspalathus linearis, or red bush, which is grown in Africa. Rooibos, also known as red tea, is considered an herbal tea, and therefore caffeine-free. Rooibos is a deep red in color with a sweet vanilla and earthy flavor that is often paired with vanilla or fruit in tea blends.
Rooibos is low in tannins, which means it doesn't have a bitter taste and can be steeped for a long time if you wanted a richer cup. I like to do this with spiced rooibos blends like Vanilla Sugar Cookie, to really get a strong spicy flavor.
There are two kinds of rooibos, red and green. Red is rooibos that has been fermented and tastes closer to a black tea, while green rooibos is unoxidized and tastes closer to a green tea. These flavor profiles make them a perfect substitute for caffeinated tannin- and oxalate-heavy teas.
Pros and Cons of Rooibos Tea
Rooibos is full of antioxidants, which have a long list of health benefits, with green rooibos containing a higher dose than the more processed red rooibos. Rooibos also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acid, and free radical-fighting polyphenols. Overall, it’s a tasty tea with a lot of health-boosting elements.
Rooibos has zero calories and no sugar, so it is a good drink of choice for those with diabetes or who are trying to lose weight. Like several herbs, the polyphenols in rooibos have been shown to possibly help people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels and increasing glucose tolerance. An animal study from Tokyo in 2013 showed promising results.
Rooibos is also good for your skin. The zinc, alpha hydroxy acid, and antioxidants found in rooibos tea can help improve skin, by alleviating redness, fine lines and wrinkles, and helping to produce healthy skin cells that keep us looking younger. The polyphenols also help keep us looking young by fighting off nasty free radicals.
Did you know that rooibos can help alleviate pain? The anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants can ease pain in the body. Rooibos is also an antispasmodic, working by activating potassium ions in the body to help ease muscle spasms. This means red tea can help ease cramps in the body such as muscle cramps, menstrual cramps, and stomach cramps.
Flavonoids found in red tea help ease allergies by working as an antihistamine, stopping the allergy response before it starts. It also works as a bronchodilator, helping ease respiratory ailments.
The same bronchodilator effects can also help lower blood pressure and improve circulation in the body. Antioxidants work to lower bad cholesterol. A polyphenol found in rooibos can improve hormone regulation leading to reduced hypertension and prevent vascular inflammation. These two actions together can help fend off cardiovascular disease and heart attacks. It’s definitely good for the heart.
The minerals and flavonoids in rooibos help build strong bones, which could fend off osteoporosis and arthritis.
The gentle flavor of rooibos makes it a good pairing with most things, making it an easy cup to brew and drink alongside your tea treat. This week, I chose chocolate cardamom tea cakes to go with my morning red tea.
Are There Ever Any Cons to Drinking a Cup of Tea?
Well, sometimes. Some people just don't like the taste of rooibos and others are looking for that missing caffeine to perk up their day. While there is a long list of benefits from drinking rooibos tea, these won't be achieved with drinking a cup now and again. To allow a substantial long-term positive effect, herbs must be drunk regularly and often.
There are also negative properties of herbs that can interfere with the body system or medications to consider. Rooibos has been shown to increase estrogen in the body, which can be an issue for people with breast cancer, endometriosis, or other hormone-sensitive diseases.
It's best to consult your doctor before using any herb as part of medical treatment. While it is a personal decision what herbs to bring into our lives, in the balance of pros and cons of rooibos tea, I see a lot more benefits to drinking this herb regularly.