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Rooibos anti-stress antimutagenic, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral activity


by Richard Aiken MD PhD @rcaiken

Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a bush native to the Cedarberg Mountains in the Western Cape region of South Africa where it is extensively cultivated for its commercial use as an herbal tea. After harvesting, the needle-like leaves and stems can be either fermented prior to drying or dried immediately. The unfermented product remains green in color and is referred to as green rooibos. During fermentation, the color changes from green to red with oxidation of the constituent polyphenols, so the final product is often referred to as “red tea” or “red bush tea.” The non-oxidized green version, let’s call it “green herbal tea,” would be superior in antioxidants.

Rooibos possesses antimutagenic, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral activity[1], as does unfermented green herbal tea.

Rooibos is especially rich in the super-antioxidant compound quercetin. Rooibos is a source of two comparatively rare antioxidants, aspalathin and nothofagin. Aspalathin helps to modify hormones in the body and reduces the output of adrenal hormones, thus reducing stress and helping to inhibit metabolic disorders.  The antioxidant nothofagin demonstrates significant anti-inflammatory activity and neuroprotective functions[2].

As this is a tea, why not buy teabags, add hot water and drink it?  Well that’s fine, but much more expensive than bulk purchase. While the process of preparing, serving, and sipping tea can be an art, we are here interested in the nutrient value – and efficiency of preparation. Steeping in hot water extracts only a portion of the water-soluble components (such as polyphenols) of the plant, i.e., that which enters into solution if the fibrous cell walls are sufficiently disrupted by the heating process – the rest is discarded in the tea bag.

But as a food, the entire leaf can be eaten and all nutrients consumed. A dose suggested from literature studies is one teaspoon.


[1] Joubert, E., Gelderblom, W., Louw, A., & Beer, D. D. (2008). South African herbal teas: Aspalathus linearis, Cyclopia spp. and Athrixia phylicoides – A review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 119(3), 376-412. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2008.06.014.

[2] Mckay, D. L., & Blumberg, J. B. (2006). A review of the bioactivity of south African herbal teas: Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia). Phytother. Res. Phytotherapy Research, 21(1), 1-16. doi:10.1002/ptr.1992.