Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Rooibos Tea?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on August 14, 2023
4 min read

Rooibos (say "roy-boss"), or Aspalathus linearis, is a plant native to South Africa whose fermented leaves can be made into tea. Rooibos means "red bush" in Afrikaans, one of South Africa's official languages. Despite the name, the rooibos plant actually has green, needle-like leaves and tiny yellow flowers. When you pick, bruise, and ferment the leaves to make tea, they turn a reddish color, giving the tea its name. You also can pick and dry the leaves without fermenting to make green rooibos tea.

This traditional South African brew is also called "African red tea" or "red bush tea." Today, rooibos tea has fans worldwide. 

Doctors in South Africa have used rooibos tea for medicinal purposes for centuries, and now scientists are looking into its health benefits. 

Rooibos tea taste

Tea lovers seek it out for its smooth and sweet flavor, which has a hint of vanilla. In fermented form, the drink has honey, earthy, floral, and fruity notes. It also blends well with other ingredients.

You can enjoy rooibos tea hot or iced.

Does rooibos tea have caffeine?

No, since it's an herbal tea. That makes rooibos a tasty caffeine-free alternative to black or green teas. Sipping rooibos tea before bed shouldn't affect your sleep. Also, unlike green and black tea, rooibos has no tannins, which can be bitter and can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb iron and certain nutrients. 

Rooibos tea has zero calories if you drink it without milk, sugar, honey, or other added ingredients. One cup of rooibos tea has: 

  • Calories: 0
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

If you add a tablespoon of nonfat milk, an 8-ounce cup of the tea has 5 calories.

Rooibos tea has trace amounts of some minerals and is a fairly good source of:



Although it has little nutritional value, rooibos tea is rich in antioxidants, compounds that can help defend your body against cellular damage. 

Anti-inflammatory effects

The antioxidants in rooibos tea are polyphenols, which are chemical compounds that help fight stress. When you eat foods rich in polyphenols, it can lower inflammation. Long-term inflammation has been tied to a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, and many other conditions. 

Diabetes control

Researchers are especially interested in aspalathin, an antioxidant found in rooibos that may have the ability to lower blood sugar. Human studies could verify that aspalathin works similarly in the body, but more research is needed. The fermentation used in the manufacture of the typical, red rooibos tea destroys much of the aspalathin. Those wanting to take advantage of any potential anti-diabetic effect would need to drink green rooibos.

Blood pressure control

Doctors often prescribe medications called ACE inhibitors to relax blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. Some plant substances act as natural ACE inhibitors. In one study, both green tea and rooibos tea acted as ACE inhibitors in the participants. If you take blood pressure medicine, check with your doctor before you stop taking it. 

Weight loss or management

Some studies suggest rooibos tea may also help you drop pounds or manage your weight by increasing levels of leptin. This hormone sends signals to the brain that can suppress feelings of hunger and regulate food intake. These studies also found that rooibos tea encourages metabolism and fat reduction.

It's rare, but rooibos tea may cause health problems for certain people.

Estrogen-like effects

Some compounds in rooibos tea can act like estrogen in the body. If you have a cancer sensitive to estrogen, such as breast and ovarian cancers, ask your doctor if the tea is OK for you.

Effect on chemotherapy

The antioxidant in rooibos could interfere with certain drugs used for chemotherapy by changing the way your body processes the cancer drug. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, ask your doctor about possible interactions.

Liver toxicity

In a few case studies, drinking large amounts of rooibos tea daily was linked to higher levels of liver enzymes or liver injury. More research is needed to draw any conclusions about this potential side effect, but if you are concerned about the health of your liver, use rooibos tea in moderation or talk to your doctor.

You can buy rooibos teas in loose leaves or in tea bags. Rooibos blends well with other flavors, such as vanilla or almond. Use about 2 grams of tea leaves per 8 ounces of water. 

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. Steep your tea in boiling water for at least 5 minutes.


Show Sources


American Botanical Council: "Rooibos Tea."

Cleveland Clinic: "Estrogen-dependent cancers."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: "Tea, rooibos, vanilla, brewed, short, Tazo."

European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology: "Possible hepatotoxic effect of rooibos tea: a case report."

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health: "Antioxidants."

Mayo Clinic: "How to use food to help your body fight inflammation."

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: "Rooibos Tea."

Nutrients: "Aspalathus linearis (rooibos) targets adipocytes and obesity-associated inflammation."

Oncology Nutrition: "Herbs and Chemotherapy."

Phytomedicine: "Hypoglycemic effect of aspalathin, a rooibos tea component from Aspalathus linearis, in type 2 diabetic model db/db mice."

Public Health Nutrition: "Effects of green tea, black tea and Rooibos tea on angiotensin-converting enzyme and nitric oxide in healthy volunteers."

The Republic of Tea: "Almond Coconut Macaroon Red Tea."

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