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Rooibos and Health

Rooibos is widely used for its refreshing taste, and many people believe that it has beneficial effects on health. It first gained popularity as a health drink in South Africa when it was discovered that Rooibos had a soothing effect on babies suffering from colic and restlessness. More and more evidence is now coming to light that Rooibos has favourable medicinal effects.

Beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure, irritability, headaches, stomach cramps, disturbed sleeping patterns, insomnia, nervous  tension, mild depression or hypertension, liver diseases, allergies, cataracts, skin irritations and other conditions (especially when applied directly to the  affect area), mellitus, atherosclerosis, and colic and feeding problems in infants.

The list continues:- nausea and vomiting, constipation, stomach ulcers, heartburn. etc.


 Nutrient Chart



Iron (Fe)                         Essential for transport of oxygen in the blood                                             0.07mg

Potassium (K)              Necessary for metabolic function                                                                    7.12mg

Copper (Cu)                   Necessary for different metabolic processes                                               0.07mg

Calcium (Ca)                 Necessary for strong teeth and bones                                                           1.09mg

Manganese (Mn)          Necessary for metabolic processes and for bone development         0.04mg

Fluoride (F)                    Necessary for healthy teeth and bones                                                         0.22mg

Zinc (Zn)                          Necessary for normal growth and development and a healthy skin      0.04mg

Magnesium (Mg)           Necessary for a healthy nervous system and for metabolic processes 1.57mg

Sodium (Na)                   Necessary for fluid and acid base balance                                                     6.16mg

 Anti-oxidants in Rooibos tea

 Eugenol, Caffeic acid, Protocatechuic acid, Ferulic acid, Quercetin, Isoquercetrin, Rutin, Isovitexin, Luteolin, Ascorbic acid,  p - Coumaric acid, p - Hydroxybenzoic acid, Vanillic acid and Syringic acid.

Physiological and therapeutical activities of Rooibos metabolites

Analgesic             Terpinen-4-ol

Antiallergenic     Terpinen-4-ol

Antiasthmatic     Terpinen-4-ol, Myrcene-terpincol

Antibacterial     Terpinen-4-ol, Eugenol, Ferulic acid, Caffeic acid, Protocatechuic acid (+)-Catechin

Antifungal     Ferulic acid, Caffeic acid, p-Coumaric acid, Protocatechuic acid

Antiyeast     Eugenol, Ferulic acid

Antiviral     Caffeic acid, Protocatechuic acid, Quercetin

Expectorant     Terpinen-4-ol, (1)-Pinitol

Hypotensive     Terpinen-4-ol, Myrcene

Hypothermic     Terpinen-4-ol, Eugenol

Antihelmintic     Vannillic acid

Antiarrhythmic     Ferulic acid

Myocardial O2 consumption decreased Protocatechuic acid

Antihepatotoxic     Caffeic acid, p-Coumaric acid, Protocatechuic acid, (+)-Catechin

Cell profile ration inhibition     Eugenol Chloretic Eugenol

CNS-depressant     Eugenol, Vasodillation, Terpinen-4-ol, Myrcene-Terpineol

Capillary fragility     Rutin

Antimutagenic     p-Hydroxybenzoic acid

Antidiabetic     (+)-Pinitol

Antianaphylactic     (+)-Catechin

Anticoagulant     (+)-Catechin

Homeostatic     (+)-Catechin

Epaloprotective     (+)-Catechin

Anticholesteremic     (+)-Catechin

Relieve symptoms of orotic acid-uria     Uridine

Inhibits dental cavities     (+)-Catechin

General Facts

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) awarded a gold medal to Rooibos in 1997 for its anti-allergic properties.


Rooibos is caffeine free

In recent years, there has been a move away from the stimulating effects of caffeine, the main alkaloid found in tea and coffee. High doses of caffeine, a powerful stimulant of the human central nervous system and the cardiovascular system, can cause loss of sleep, anxiety, tremors and abnormally rapid heart‑action. Caffeine occurs in the seeds of the coffee plant (I to 2%), the kola plant (I to 3%) and in tea leaves (2 to 4%). It is also found in two South American stimulants which are used in the so‑called "rave" culture, the leaves of mate and the seeds of guarana.


Rooibos contains several minerals

Calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc and sodium, as well as trace elements such as copper, manganese and fluoride are important in maintaining general health in this fast‑moving pace of modern life. Rooibos contains all of the minerals and trace elements listed above. Fluoride is particularly important to ensure normal teeth and bone development in children.


Rooibos as anti‑spasmodic

The soothing effect of Rooibos on babies was first discovered by Annekie Theron, and it is now widely used as a milk substitute for infants who are prone to colic. Rooibos is rich in flavonoids, and the anti‑spasmodic and anti‑allergic effects have been ascribed to quercetin, one of the main flavonoids in Rooibos. It is possible that some or other phenolic substances may contribute to the reported benefits.


Rooibos as antioxidant

There is now a general belief amongst scientists that certain food substances, so‑called antioxidants, can play a role in preventing cancer, cardio‑vascular diseases and ageing. Examples of well known antioxidants are vitamin C and vitamin E, two food substances which form part of a normal healthy diet. Our food also contains other components with strong antioxidant activity, known as flavonoids. Since Rooibos is very rich in flavonoids, it is highly likely that the health promoting properties are linked to the antioxidant effects of flavonoids.


The role of oxygen free radicals

Our bodies use oxygen to convert food items such as fat and sugar into energy. In this process, oxygen is converted to water, and each water molecule normally takes up four electrons. However, some oxygen may escape before the conversion is complete, and this results in about 2% of the oxygen having an electron deficit. These particles are called free radicals or superoxide radicals. They may also be formed in the human body through other processes, such as air pollution, smoking and exposure to radiation. Free oxygen radicals are extremely reactive and can cause damage to body proteins and fats, and also to the hereditary material of cells, known as DNA. The oxygen free radical (superoxide radical) can be converted to even more damaging radicals by a chain reaction.

Fortunately our bodies have some protective mechanisms against the harmful effects of free oxygen radicals and other even more powerful radicals such as the so‑called peroxides and hydroxyl radicals. The protective mechanisms are enzymes and antioxidants.

Some enzymes in the human body are capable of neutralising the oxygen free radicals as soon as they are formed. The best known of such enzymes is called SOD (superoxide dismutase). SOD and other enzymes convert superoxide and peroxide to harmless compounds. There are other enzymes which can restore damage to, lipids and to DNA. This mechanism slows down in later life, so that the damage may accumulate and become visible as the process of ageing, when tissues lose their elasticity. Damage to the hereditary material (DNA) in a normal cell may cause it to become a cancer cell. It is also thought that free radicals may play a role in the development of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis (where the coronary arteries become blocked by a gradual thickening of the wall).


Antioxidants prevent damage

The chain reaction of damage in the human body caused by free radicals can be interrupted by antioxidants. Vitamin E, which is found in vegetable oils, is the most effective antioxidant. It stops the chain reaction by becoming a radical itself, but since it is stable, no further damage is done. Other well known antioxidants are vitamin C and carotenoids, found in fruit and vegetables. Finally, there are the flavonoids, which occur in abundance in Rooibos.


Flavonoids and free radicals

Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, and have more antioxidant activity than vitamin C. Laboratory studies have shown that the antioxidant. activity of Rooibos is more or less similar to that of black tea and green tea. The flavonoids of Rooibos are now well known. The major one is aspalathin, found only in Rooibos and nowhere else. Several other flavonoids have been identified, including nothofagin, vitexin, isovitex, orientin, isoorientin, luteolin and quercetin. In the process of fermentation, aspalathin may be converted to other substances but these possibly have even better antioxidant properties than aspalathin itself.

Much research remains to be done on Rooibos flavonoids, but it is reasonable to assume that the health promoting properties are partly due to the antioxidant effects of the flavonoids.


Rooibos and general health

Flavonoid‑containing herbs have traditionally been used to treat capillary and venous disorders. It is well known that flavonoids decrease the permeability and fragility of veins and lymph vessels. As a result, they are used to treat tiredness of the legs, cramps and various skin and circulatory disorders. It has been shown that foods rich in flavonoids significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Flavonoids are often anti‑inflammatory and anti‑allergic, which may explain the benefits claimed for Rooibos in skin lotions and cosmetic products (inflammation is also partly linked to the production of free radicals). Some flavonoids protect the liver, decrease blood cholesterol or act as diuretic, antibacterial and antiviral substances; others are known to improve memory and to counteract anxiety. Recently, Japanese scientists have discovered a wide range of interesting pharmacological activities of Rooibos. They have shown intriguing beneficial effects in constipation, liver function, blood sugar levels, skin diseases, depression and anxiety. Without doubt, Rooibos provides some benefits but how much and by what mechanisms is not yet fully known.

The claim that Rooibos is a health drink is gaining credibility, as more and more interesting scientific discoveries are made. There are only a few detailed human studies and it is perhaps still too early to attribute specific health benefits and anti‑ageing effects with absolute certainty. The lack of harmful substances, considerable antioxidant activity and anti‑allergic effects are nevertheless clear.

Source :- Rooibos Limited - Clanwilliam, South Africa,

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Last modified: July 10, 2006