Rooibos and Health - What Does Science Say?
by Alex Zorach
respectively, green rooibos and green honeybush.

Traditionally, rooibos has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including tension,
allergies, and indigestion. The scientific literature studying rooibos is relatively sparse
and mostly quite young, and studies on humans are largely absent from the body of
research. It is hard to draw many conclusions about the health benefits of rooibos.
However, some studies have found evidence of various positive effects, including
antioxidant activity and the potential of rooibos to treat asthma.

Honeybush is only beginning to be studied scientifically. The amount of research
conducted on honeybush is less even than that on rooibos, but the plants are related
and have a similar ecology, and much of the research has so far found them to be
similar or comparable. Furthermore, no adverse effects have yet been reported or
observed from consumption of rooibos or honeybush in herbal teas.

Antioxidant Effects:

Antioxidants are chemicals that have been the focus of a lot of health and nutrition
research in recent years due to their potential to promote overall health and protect
against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases. Rooibos is often promoted as
having a high antioxidant content, much like green tea. A study published in 1996
compared the antioxidant content of red and green rooibos to green, black, and
oolong teas, and found that the antioxidant content was similar between rooibos and
tea. More recent studies have been sparse, but have continued to support the
conclusion that rooibos, like tea, is rich in antioxidants.

Treating Asthma & Respiratory Ailments:

Rooibos is sometimes presented as a treatment for asthma and other respiratory
ailments. A study on rats, published in 2006, found that rooibos acts as a
bronchodilator, a medication to facilitate breathing, like those commonly
administered to people suffering from asthma. While this study seems to validate or
support the use of rooibos to treat respiratory problems, it is only one study, and
only points to the likelihood that rooibos is effective for these purposes. Still, since it
is both delicious and safe to consume, rooibos tea is certainly worth considering
drinking for those suffering from asthma or having trouble breathing.

Allergy Treatment & Prevention:

Rooibos is often promoted as being effective for the treatment, or at least for the
prevention, of allergy. There has been some research on this topic, and there is as of
yet no evidence that rooibos can be used to treat existing allergies. Rooibos is likely,
however, to treat some of the symptoms of respiratory allergies by facilitating
breathing, and it is also likely to promote overall healthy functioning of the immune
system, which may prevent the formation of new allergies. Allergy is an area of
medicine that is still poorly understood, and we can only hope that more research is
conducted in this area in the future.

Conclusion:

In summary, the research on Rooibos is young and inconclusive. The science so far
points to the likelihood of rooibos having a number of health benefits. The most
well-established benefits are the antioxidants, which are comparable to those found
in tea. There is some evidence that Rooibos can be an effective treatment for
asthma and other respiratory problems. Perhaps most importantly, however,
rooibos is a delicious, caffeine-free beverage which is safe to consume. There is little
to be lost and potentially much to be gained by exploring this traditional South African
drink.

References:

* http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=2663154
* http://www.springerlink.com/content/3g18q14l80l8xx70/


About The Author

Alex Zorach has an M.A. in statistics from Yale University, and is an avid tea drinker
and the creator of
/, a website for rating and reviewing teas and
learning about tea. Read more about
and explore reviews of various
brands of rooibos on this website.
Rooibos tea, often called red tea, is a
caffeine-free herbal tea from South
Africa, made from Aspalathus linearis,
a legume native to a small region of
the West Cape Province. Rooibos has
exploded in popularity in recent years,
both as a beverage and as a plant
used in herbal medicine. Honeybush,
a similar and related plant, also native
to South Africa, is used to make a
similar tea. In addition to the usual
"red" rooibos and honeybush,
recently people have begun
processing both plants similarly to
green tea, yielding beverages lighter
in color which are usually called,
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