The Benefits of Rooibos Tea
When a friend comes around and asks for a cup of decaf tea, your initial reaction may be to tell them to leave. It’s a little bit like someone came around your hoes and spat on your dog…
Surely the whole point of tea is to wake us up and increase our focus and mild agitation?
Actually, that’s not what tea is all about. Actually, tea is an incredibly healthy and nutritious drink that is packed with goodness. The caffeine has its plus points but in many ways, this is the weak link that Is letting down the rest of the drink. There are also countless additional rooibos tea benefits that aren’t found in other forms of tea.
And so, you might just want to reconsider your natural reaction to rooibos tea. As it happens, it could be the best way to get your favorite hot beverage!
What is Rooibos?
Rooibos is a herb that grows in the Western Cape province of Southern Africa. The technical term for the plant is aspalathus liearis and it has been enjoyed as a tea for many generations in its local region. Since then, its popularity has grown and it is now consumed all around the world. Which brings us to this post…
A ‘tea’ can really be anything that is steeped in order to infuse hot water with its goodness. This is why you can also have things like ‘ginger tea’. Interestingly though, rooibos is not technically a tea at all but is rather an infusion made from oxidized leaves. The drink can be enjoyed as-is, or it can be flavored with a little lemon and sugar. Others will drink it with milk, like English breakfast tea, or will drink it cold as an ‘ice tea’.
You can tell rooibos tea right away from its distinctive red tea. This color is partly what gives it its versatility, as it can be either a black tea or a green tea!
So, what are the health benefits of rooibos tea?
The Benefits of Drinking Rooibos
It’s a common misconception that any tea that isn’t conventional black tea must be decaf. Many people will switch to green tea for example, believing that it will be free from caffeine and unaware that it is actually just as high in caffeine as black tea.
In fact, some forms of green tea like Darwin’s ‘perfect stimulant’ yerba mate actually contain large amounts of caffeine along with other xanthines such as theobromine for additional stimulation.
But if you are trying to avoid caffeine, then you can drink rooibos and rest assured. This is a completely caffeine free drink that you can enjoy with none of the side effects associated with a strong coffee or black tea.
So why might you want to avoid caffeine? While many people find the stimulation they get from caffeine beneficial, and while it can be useful as an antioxidant and as a substance that will support healthy brain function late into adulthood, it’s also true that caffeine can cause headaches, nausea, jitteriness and insomnia. This all depends on just how sensitive to caffeine you are.
Another consideration is that caffeine is addictive and like many drugs can cause effects called ‘tolerance and dependence’. Caffeine works by blocking the adenosine receptors in the brain, which nullifies the effect of adenosine – a neurotransmitter that makes us feel groggy and tired. The result is that we feel more awake and switched on, but unfortunately, this can back fire if you abuse caffeine as the brain begins to produce more adenosine receptors.
Now you’ll feel the effects of adenosine more strongly, meaning that you need caffeine just to feel normal and you need even more caffeine in order to get the same kick that you used to get from it.
This can ultimately get to the point where caffeine withdrawal leads to headaches and grogginess and there is even a theory that the ‘sleep inertia’ that we experience when we wake up (morning grogginess) is in fact just caffeine withdrawal in many cases!
Just because the caffeine is missing, rooibos tea still gives you a lot of other benefits that come from tea. Rooibos is high in antioxidants we are well known to slow aging and help combat cancer. The primary beneficial flavonoids here are catechins like epigallocatechin gallet.
Another particularly potent antioxidant found in rooibos is aspalathin, which is particularly effective at combating free radicals, even when compared with other antioxidants. Interestingly, the red rooibos tea varieties seem to be slightly inferior to the green types when it comes to antioxidant properties. Nevertheless, both will provide you with a lot of fortification against cell damage.
Black tea is a vasoconstrictor. This means that it will tighten the veins and arteries, thereby increasing blood pressure. This actually makes black tea a poor choice for fighting a hangover, seeing as one of the things that causes headaches when you are hungover is vasoconstriction.
Rooibos tea is actually a vasodilator. This means that it will widen the blood vessels and thereby reduce the blood pressure. This makes it great for heart health and also means it can help to provide more blood and oxygen around the body – potentially improving athletic and cognitive performance.
Through the same mechanism, it is proposed that rooibos tea might also be useful for those with type 2 diabetes.
Vitamins and Minerals
Rooibos tea is also actually packed with useful vitamins and minerals. These include calcium, iron, potassium, copper, fluoride, manganese and zinc. These together can support healthy bones, circulation, blood pressure, brain function and much more. If you drink lots of rooibos tea throughout the day, then you will build up your quantity of these useful nutrients and it will be just as though you had consumed a large multivitamin tablet – except your body will be better at absorbing the nutrients from a more natural source. This creates many more benefits of rooibos tea.
Oh, and it also tastes great. This is a refreshing and revitalizing way to start the day and if you can get used to the lack of caffeine it will yield great results.