Rooibos tea, also known as “red bush tea” or “African red tea,” is made from the fermented leaves of the aspalathus linearis shrub, a plant native to South Africa. While rooibos tea wasn’t produced for commercial export until the 1930s, Dutch settlers have been brewing it in South Africa since the 1700s.
Enjoyed as a caffeine-free alternative to green or black tea, rooibos is reddish-brown in color and has a sweet, earthy flavor. It’s most commonly consumed as a tea — sometimes with milk and sugar added or made into iced tea, espressos, lattes, and cappuccinos. You can buy rooibos as a tea, as an extract for flavoring, or as an additive in cosmetic products.
Rooibos is lesser known than green and black tea, but it has a number of health benefits. Rooibos contains polyphenols like aspalathin that are unique to the plant. It also contains antioxidants and chemical compounds that can reduce inflammation, promote weight loss, and prevent serious illnesses like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Caffeine — found in other forms of tea like black tea and green tea — is safe to consume in moderate amounts. However, too much can lead to side effects like anxiety, insomnia, heart palpitations, and headaches.
Rooibos is caffeine-free, making it a healthy alternative to black or green teas. It also has lower levels of tannins, which can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, like iron.
Weight Loss or Management
A cup of rooibos tea contains almost no calories, which makes it a good option for those trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. However, keep in mind that adding honey, sugar, or other sweeteners can increase the calorie count.
One study suggests rooibos tea may also help with weight loss or weight management by increasing levels of leptin. This hormone sends signals to the brain that can suppress feelings of hunger and regulate food intake. The same study also found that rooibos tea encouraged metabolism and limited the formation of new fat cells.
The antioxidants in rooibos can boost heart health. Drinking rooibos tea daily has been linked to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. These can protect against heart conditions, including heart attacks and strokes.
Studies show that rooibos tea can lower blood sugar levels. For those with diabetes, rooibos can help manage blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of complications.
The antioxidant aspalathin, which is present in rooibos, can also reduce inflammation resulting from high blood sugar. While early animal-based research shows that aspalathin has antidiabetic potential, it’s too soon to confirm if this is true in people.
While it's rich in antioxidants, there are few vitamins, minerals, or nutrients in rooibos. However, it does have amounts of:
Nutrients per Serving
An 8-ounce serving of rooibos tea has no calories, protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, or sugar. However, an 8-ounce serving of rooibos tea with nonfat milk contains:
- Calories: 80
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 16 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 16 grams
Because rooibos doesn’t have any calories, there is little to no risk of consuming too much plain rooibos tea. However, many people drink rooibos with added sugar, milk, cream, honey, or other sweeteners. These are high in calories, fat, and sugar, which can add up over multiple cups of tea.
Limit the amount of sweetener you use in rooibos tea and moderate your portions to keep from drinking too much.
How to Drink Rooibos Tea
Rooibos tea can be consumed hot or as an iced drink. Because it has no caffeine, you can enjoy a cup before bed without worrying about disrupting your sleep schedule.
Some teas will come in pre-packaged bags, while others will have recommendations for serving size on the packaging. Otherwise, you can use around 2 grams of loose leaf rooibos herb per 8 ounces of water.
Rooibos tea should be steeped in boiling water for at least 5 minutes, although some experts recommend steeping for up to 10 minutes to increase the effectiveness of the antioxidants. While other teas — like black and green — can become bitter if infused for too long, rooibos will only become stronger and more flavorful the longer it’s steeped.
Enjoy a cup of rooibos tea on its own, or add milk, cream, or a sweetener like honey or sugar.