Keep calm and drink a cup a tea: The anti-stress properties of Rooibos

Everyone is looking at ways to cope with lockdown and its myriad implications for our physical and emotional well-being. Could a humble cup of rooibos tea help with stress?

Dr Lindie Schloms thinks so, and her 2015 PhD thesis from Stellenbosch University drew this conclusion: “From the results obtained during my PhD it appears that rooibos reduces stress hormone levels in one of two ways – either by inhibiting adrenal enzymes involved in cortisol production, or by favouring its inactivation.

“The data obtained from these studies, along with previous studies reporting anti-oxidant, anti-diabetic and cardio-protective properties of rooibos, suggests a therapeutic role for rooibos as a functional ingredient to aid in the treatment of metabolic diseases associated with elevated stress hormone levels.”

Rooibos is the ultimate proudly South African plant. It only grows in South Africa (well, more specifically, in a 100km radius in the heart of the Cederberg Mountains). With the universal shift towards food and beverages containing less sugar, the naturally sweet taste of rooibos adds another tick to its list of benefits, and it is now used to make cosmetics, artisanal gins and soft drinks like BOS Ice Tea.

Rooibos is such a big deal these days it is regarded as a superfood internationally. Here are seven other benefits of rooibos:

  • Rooibos has a naturally sweet taste, making rooibos tea a good alternative to sugary drinks.
  • Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free and low in tannins (bitter compounds that interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients such as iron).
  • Rooibos contains a chemical often found in anti-ageing cosmetics (alpha-hydroxy acid).
  • Rooibos is packed with antioxidant-rich micronutrients (polyphenols), and one of them, Aspalathin, is only found in the rooibos plant.
  • Rooibos increases the levels of glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant in the body.
  • Rooibos reduces bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol.
  • Rooibos significantly reduces blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which helps to prevent heart disease.

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