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Rooibos Research

Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a versatile plant with a myriad of health-enhancing properties confirmed by research.

Scientists around the world are working on Rooibos to gain a better understanding of this unique, South African herbal tea. Some are investigating the health benefits of Rooibos and its potential to combat a range of diseases, while others are trying to understand exactly how the bioactive components in Rooibos work.

Most Rooibos researchers recommend using the complete Rooibos extract (tea) rather than taking individual, isolated compounds.

Rooibos studies from South Africa showed that people can get the optimum health benefit from drinking six cups of Rooibos spread throughout the day.

For more information on research studies, contact us.

What is in Rooibos and why it matters

As far back as 1830 botanists made sketches of the Rooibos plant and published their work. Since then scientists around the world have published their Rooibos research findings in a wide variety of leading scientific journals.

In 2008 Professor Lizette Joubert of the Agricultural Research Council and Professor Wentzel Gelderblom of the Medical Research Council, along with two more collaborators, published an overview of existing knowledge about the history, cultivation, traditional uses, composition and biological activity of Rooibos and other South African herbal teas. Their 37-page review article was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology*.

Key facts about the composition of Rooibos, and the importance of its compounds, can be summarised as follows:

  • Rooibos contains a complex mix of many flavonoids (compounds widely found in plants that are known to have health benefits).
  • Its composition is unique, because it contains aspalathin – to date only isolated from Aspalathus linearis (the botanical name for Rooibos).
  • Aspalathin is the major flavonoid of unfermented Rooibos. It decreases during fermentation, but is still a major flavonoid constituent of fermented Rooibos (the tea with the characteristic red-brown colour and flavour).
  • Aspalathin is important, not only because it is a novel compound, but also because it is the most active antioxidant in Rooibos in many cases.
  • Rooibos also contains the rare flavonoid glucoside nothofagin.
  • Other major phenolic compounds are orientin and iso-orientin, with smaller amounts of vitexin and isovitexin and many more compounds.
  • The flavonoid composition of Rooibos varies between different regions and seasons, probably due to different soil and climate conditions, as well as genetic variations in the seeds used to propagate the plant.
  • Rooibos is naturally caffeine free.
  • It is considered a low tannin beverage, especially when compared to Camellia sinensis (black) tea.

What Rooibos can do for you

Medical science is only beginning to discover the many health advantages of Rooibos. On-going research and case studies confirm that there seems to be no end to its benefits.

  • Rooibos is completely pure and natural as it contains no additives, preservatives or colourants.
  • Rooibos is naturally caffeine free.
  • Rooibos contains antioxidants that fight free radicals (a by-product of normal cell function), which weaken the body’s natural defences and lead to ageing, the declining of the immune system and the onset of a wide variety of diseases.
  • Rooibos contains alpha hydroxy acid.
  • Rooibos contains no oxalic acid.
  • Rooibos is an excellent thirst-quencher to keep the body hydrated.

Use of Rooibos for figure-conscious people

Following a kilojoule (calorie) controlled diet can be stressful. Soothing Rooibos is the ideal drink for anyone who is watching their weight:

  • It contains no kilojoules (calories)
  • It is less bitter than Ceylon (black) tea and can be enjoyed without sugar
  • It is a naturally calming

Use of Rooibos for the sports enthusiast

Sports people can enjoy Rooibos as a thirst-quencher after exercise. Either on its own or mixed with fruit juice, Rooibos is delicious and satisfying, and refreshes naturally without the caffeine, sugar or additives contained in most soft drinks. The mineral content of Rooibos is an added benefit – iron, potassium, zinc, manganese and sodium help to restore the body’s natural balance after a strenuous workout. Rooibos is ideal to keep the body hydrated.

Use of Rooibos for mums and babies

Rooibos has a soothing effect on babies suffering from colic, stomach cramps and restlessness. It also helps with nappy rash, relieving irritation when applied with every nappy change.

Rooibos supplements the daily intake of calcium, manganese and fluoride needed by growing children for strong teeth and bones.

The lack of caffeine means a pregnant woman can drink Rooibos throughout the day without worsening some of pregnancy’s biggest discomforts – nausea, heartburn and insomnia.

Rooibos for health care professionals

Information for Health Care Professionals (by Jane Griffin):

What is Rooibos?

Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a tisane or infusion unique to the Western Cape of South Africa, where it has been used since the 19th Century for medicinal purposes. Rooibos is naturally caffeine free and contains no additives, preservatives, colourings or oxalic acid.

Rooibos has a number of impressive health credentials:

Low in Tannins – Unlike many teas, Rooibos is naturally low in harmful tannins. Tannins can interfere with iron absorption, particularly in populations of individuals with marginal iron status. These include infants and toddlers, teenage girls, pre-menopausal women, elderly men and vegetarians. People in these categories are advised to allow at least one hour to elapse between the end of a meal and consumption of black or ordinary tea. Such advice is not necessary if Rooibos is the drink of choice.

Source of antioxidants – Rooibos contains naturally occurring antioxidants, a group of vitamins, minerals and plant substances or photochemicals which help protect the body against free radicals. Damage to cells by free radicals is thought to be partly to blame for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart diseases and ageing. It is the naturally occurring antioxidants in Rooibos that are beginning to excite scientists and health professionals around the world, with research being undertaken to identify the particular health benefits of Rooibos. To date no adverse effects of drinking Rooibos have been reported. (Ref: McKay DL, Blumberg JB. 2007. A Review of the Bioactivity of South African Herbal Teas: Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and Honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia). Phytother. Res. 21. 1 – 16.)

Caffeine free – Rooibos is naturally caffeine free and therefore does not need to undergo extensive processing. Traditionally, leaves from the Rooibos bushes were harvested and then crushed using primitive tools and left in heaps to ferment before drying in the sun. Today, plants are cultivated and the production process has been refined without losing the unique process and heritage to guarantee the best quality in every cup. Health professionals in South Africa suggest Rooibos for people suffering with irritability, headaches, disturbed sleep patterns, insomnia, nervous tension, mild depression or hypertension because it is caffeine free and appears to have a soothing effect on the central nervous system.

Rooibos is calorie free, and is therefore suitable to recommend to anyone on a weight loss plan. It has a naturally sweeter taste than other teas and is therefore an easier substitute than many herbal options. Rooibos also contains nine minerals and trace minerals, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, sodium, copper, manganese and fluoride.

Ten top tips to keep hydrated

  1. It is generally agreed that healthy adults in temperate climates need between 2 and 3 litres of fluid every day (approximately equal to the amount lost every day)
  2. Unlike fat and carbohydrate, excess water cannot be stored for use at a later date
  3. A regular fluid intake is needed to keep the body well hydrated and all bodily functions dependent on water operating well
  4. About 1 litre of water comes from what we eat and the majority of the remaining 1 – 2 litres from what we drink
  5. On hot or humid days more fluid is lost from the body so more fluid must be drunk to replace it
  6. Exposure to central heating for long periods will also increase fluid losses which must be replaced
  7. Physical activity, particularly in warm/hot/humid conditions, increases sweat loss. Losses must be replace often during and particularly after activity finishes
  8. Thirst is not a reliable indicator of hydration. The sensation is only experienced when the body is already quite dehydrated
  9. As a general rule of thumb, urination every 2 – 4 hours is a better sign that sufficient fluids are being consumed. As dehydration develops, urine colour darkens, and volume and frequency of urinating both decrease
  10. A variety of drinks should be enjoyed every day – Rooibos is a great tasting alternative to black teas.

About Jane Griffin
Jane Griffin is one of the most respected sports dietitians in the UK. She qualified from London University with a degree in Nutrition and a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics. Since 1982 she has specialised more and more in Sports Nutrition and Dietetics and became one of the first Accredited Sports Dietitian in the country. As the Consultant Nutritionist to the British Olympic Association from 1990 to 2001 she worked with a wide range of Olympic sports including archery, badminton, rowing and canoeing. She is currently the Sports Dietitian to London Irish RFC (having previously worked with NEC Harlequins for three seasons), London Irish, London Wasps and NEC Harlequins England Rugby Academies, the Rugby Football League and the English Ladies Golf Association.

Use of Rooibos for the creative chef

Rooibos can be used as an ingredient in food preparation. Chefs use Rooibos to smoke meat, chicken or fish and to replace the liquid content in recipes, adding both flavour and colour. Rooibos provides a perfect base for soups, stews and sauces. It is also a natural meat tenderiser and perfect for marinades. Rooibos Limited produced a recipe book where 14 of South Africa’s Top Chefs have created over 100 mouthwatering dishes.

Browse through our Rooibos recipes – you’ll see how easy it is to prepare delicious, healthy meals.

How to make a perfect cuppa

Rooibos is less astringent and bitter than Ceylon (black) tea and therefore needs less sugar or sweetener.
Rooibos can be reheated without losing any flavour or becoming bitter.

  • Warm the teapot by rinsing it with boiling water.
  • Place one bag of Rooibos or one heaped teaspoon of Rooibos per cup in the teapot.
  • Pour boiling water into the pot and keep it warm. (You can also slowly brew it in a pot on the stove if you want a full-flavour tea.)
  • Allow to infuse for 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Add milk and sugar or honey to taste. Try a refreshing cup of Rooibos with honey and lemon.
  • Enjoy!
  • If Rooibos is steeped for 5 – 10 minutes, its antioxidant activity increases significantly.
  • Use boiling water with a neutral pH. Never use over-boiled water, as the oxygen in the water will be depleted. Proper infusion of the Rooibos won’t be possible.
  • Rooibos can also be prepared in a microwave oven. For a single cup, place one bag of Rooibos in a cup of cold water and microwave at maximum power for two minutes. (Use a glass teapot and the quantities advised above for larger amounts.)

Download the “How to make a perfect cuppa” brochure here.

Hints and Tips

General

  • Storage: Rooibos can be stored in an airtight container for a long period without losing its colour or taste.
  • Reheat: Cold Rooibos can be reheated several times, without developing a bitter after taste like Ceylon (black) tea.

Cooking

  • Nutrition: The mineral content of Rooibos will increase the nutritional value of any dish.
  • Food preparation: A supply of prepared Rooibos can be kept in the fridge. Use it in food preparation and for diluting fruit juice or concentrates.
  • Iced tea: Make delicious iced tea by mixing chilled Rooibos with sugar and lemon juice, or blending it with your favourite fruit juice.
  • Red Irish: End a meal with Red Irish instead of Irish coffee by substituting the hot coffee with hot Rooibos.
  • Recipes: Substitute Rooibos for milk or water in any recipe. Make a delicious filling for milk tart by dropping Rooibos teabags into the milk before heating it.
  • Dessert: Give your family a healthy, mouth-watering dessert by baking apples in Rooibos instead of water. Place the apples in a baking dish, pour Rooibos around them and spoon it over the apples occasionally while baking.
  • Dried fruit: Soak dried fruit overnight in Rooibos. No additional sugar will be needed when cooking.
  • Marmalade: Cook fruit in Rooibos to make a delicious, colourful marmalade.
  • Marinades and tenderisers: Use Rooibos as a base in marinades for meat and chicken, as it is a natural meat tenderiser.
  • Stews and casseroles: Replace the liquid in stews and casseroles with Rooibos. It not only adds a rich flavour, but also tenderises the meat.
  • Sauces: Add Rooibos to sauces for extra flavour, and use it to dissolve stock cubes.

Beauty

  • Hair colouring: Give dark hair a healthy gleam by rinsing it with Rooibos.
  • Refreshing treatment: Place cold Rooibos teabags on tired or red eyes to soothe them.
  • Skin: Rooibos is an excellent skin refresher. Wash your face with Rooibos instead of water to improve the complexion and skin tone.

First aid

  • Skin: To treat eczema, skin irritations or nappy rash, apply Rooibos directly to the affected area.
  • Sunburn: Remove the sting from a sunburned skin by soaking in a bath to which you’ve added a few Rooibos teabags.
  • Sleeplessness: Suffer from insomnia? A cup of Rooibos before bedtime will ensure a good night’s rest.
  • Digestive problems and colic: Calm down digestive problems and colic in adults and babies with regular Rooibos drinks.

Gardening and home

  • Pets: Bathe pets in a solution of Rooibos to relieve eczema and other mild skin problems. Pets will also benefit from Rooibos’ health-giving properties – simply pour it over their food.
  • Garden: Potted plants flourish on cold Rooibos. Use leftover tea and/or leaves to feed your plants.
  • Dyes: Rooibos can be used to dye fabrics. The strength of the brew and the time the fabric is soaked will affect the depth of the colour – a lovely rich, reddish brown.

Cooking with Rooibos

Rooibos is ideal in food preparation – simply use it as a substitute for water or milk in any recipe. Rooibos complements and intensifies the natural flavours of food. It also is a natural tenderiser, which makes it a perfect base for meat and chicken marinades.

Apart from being a healthy and refreshing drink in its own right, it is prefect for diluting fruit juices or concentrates.

The mineral content of Rooibos also supplements the nutritional value of foods and drinks. Rooibos contains several essential minerals our bodies need, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and sodium, as well as the trace elements copper and manganese. The flavonoids and tannins in Rooibos are proven antioxidants that help the body fight free radicals.

Rooibos is completely pure and naturally caffeine free.

HOW TO PREPARE ROOIBOS FOR USE IN RECIPES
Different recipes will require different strengths of Rooibos. Use these guidelines to prepare Rooibos according to your taste:

VERY STRONG ROOIBOS
12 Rooibos tea bags in 500ml boiling water, allow to infuse for 15 minutes.

STRONG ROOIBOS
6 Rooibos tea bags in 500ml boiling water, allow to infuse for 15 minutes.

MEDIUM-STRENGTH ROOIBOS
3 Rooibos tea bags in 500ml boiling water, allow to infuse for 15 minutes.

HOW TO SMOKE MEAT WITH ROOIBOS TEA LEAVES
You can either smoke meat – such as chicken, ostrich, duck or springbok – in a smoker or in a saucepan on the stove.

STOVE-TOP METHOD

  • Place Rooibos tea leaves in a large saucepan that has been heated.
  • Set the stove on high.
  • Insert a rack (e.g. a cooling rack) into the saucepan and place the meat on the rack.
  • When the Rooibos is really smoking, cover tightly with a lid, foil or another saucepan, inverted.
  • Turn off the heat, as you do not want an overpowering smoky flavour.
  • Allow to smoke for 7 to 10 minutes.

HINTS AND TIPS

  • Replace the liquid in stews and casseroles with Rooibos. It adds a rich aroma and it also tenderises the meat.
  • Add Rooibos to sauces and soups for extra flavour, or use it to dissolve stock cubes.
  • Store Rooibos tea bags or leaves in an airtight container. Rooibos can be kept for a long period without losing its colour or taste.
  • Keep prepared Rooibos in the fridge for later use.

Order a rooibos recipe book

Rooibos Ltd has launched its cookbook – A touch of Rooibos – in February 2009. What makes this book unique is that 14 of South Africa’s top chefs contributed recipes in which they use Rooibos as an ingredient to show its versatility in cooking.

A touch of Rooibos features 104 recipes covering categories such as soups, starters, main dishes, side dishes, desserts, cakes, drinks and marinades. The wide variety makes this collection perfect for both food connoisseurs and aspiring cooks.

Gerda de Wet, Rooibos Ltd’s Communication Manager, said: “Rooibos has defined itself as a great basic ingredient, whether it is used for marinating, poaching, sauces or delectable toppings. This book confirms South Africa’s famous indigenous tea’s place in the culinary arena.”

The book is available in English (A touch of Rooibos) and Afrikaans (‘n Tikkie Rooibos). It can be ordered from sales@rooibosltd.co.za

Do you have a Rooibos recipe? Please send your recipe to gerda@rooiboslimited.co.za

To which countries does Rooibos Ltd export

Worldwide distribution
A rapidly growing number of loyal Rooibos drinkers can be found all over the world. Rooibos Limited uses of a worldwide distribution network to reach its markets. These contacts form a strong power base, all contributing to promote this unique product.

Countries of export

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Egypt
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Lithuania
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • UAE
  • Uganda
  • UK
  • Ukraine
  • USA

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