Honeybush tea comes from the Cyclopia plant, a shrub that grows only in the coastal and mountainous areas of the Western and Eastern Cape regions of South Africa. There are more than 20 species of the plant but only a few are used commercially to make tea.
Its yellow flowers smell like honey, hence its name. It's closely related to rooibos or red bush tea and has a similar, but sweeter taste. The two are often blended to make rooibos honeybush tea.
Honeybush tea has been used for centuries in South Africa but has only become more widely available internationally since the late 1990s.
In South Africa, honeybush tea has been traditionally used to treat coughs and symptoms of menopause, as well as aid digestion. However, there have been few human studies on the benefits of honeybush tea so far. Early research shows its potential for the treatment of several major diseases.
Researchers are interested in polyphenols, which are antioxidant-rich micronutrients found in honeybush. Lab studies have shown that these have the potential to manage type 2 diabetes but few clinical trials have been carried out so far.
In one human study, researchers found an improvement in insulin resistance, which is when cells stop using insulin effectively and can lead to an increased risk in developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Early research has shown that honeybush's polyphenols (antioxidants) have the potential to be anti-inflammatory and beneficial to heart health. Some research on polyphenols has shown its potential to increase good cholesterol (HDL) and improve the function of the inner lining of blood vessels. They may also increase anti-platelet activity, which stops blood cells from sticking together and forming clots.
Honeybush tea contains a modified sugar called pinitol which is an expectorant (promotes secretion of saliva and mucus) and helps with coughs and phlegm.
Some studies have shown that honeybush extract cream has the potential to smooth and hydrate skin. In one study, honeybush extract was shown to improve skin elasticity, wrinkles, and protect against aging.
Honeybush tea doesn't have many nutrients, but it contains trace amounts of the following minerals:
Nutrients per Serving
A cup serving of honeybush tea contains:
Honeybush tea is caffeine-free and low in tannins, which give other teas a bitter flavor. As tea is made by steeping leaves, flowers, and stems in hot water, it contains almost no calories, however, adding milk and sweeteners will increase the calorie count.
As honeybush tea doesn’t have any calories, there is very little risk of consuming too much of it. However, many people drink their tea with added milk or cream, and sweeteners, such as honey, sugar, or simple syrup. These additions are high in calories, fat, and sugar. This can add up over multiple servings of tea.
How to Prepare Honeybush Tea
Honeybush tea can be found in loose-leaf form or as pre-packaged tea bags at some grocery and health food stores, as well as tea stores. Most honeybush tea is made from dried fermented leaves, flowers, and stems, but an unfermented green tea is also available.
As honeybush tea has no caffeine, it can be enjoyed before bedtime. To prepare the drink, add 1 teaspoon of the tea leaves to about 250ml (about 8 oz) of freshly boiled water. Steep for about 5 to 7 minutes. Some experts recommend steeping it for 10 minutes to release more antioxidants. As it’s low in tannins, it won’t become astringent. You can drink it with or without milk and sweetener.
Here are some ways to use honeybush tea in recipes:
- Infuse milk with the tea leaves to make a honeybush tea ice-cream
- Make a honeybush iced tea with lemon zest
- Add milk and spices like cinnamon, ginger, clove, and cardamom to make honeybush chai