It is one of South Africa’s most popular products. It finds its roots sunk deep in the South African culture as it has been used not just as a refreshing beverage but also as a remedy for several medical and skin problems. For hundreds of years, the indigenous people of South Africa have been drinking rooibos tea regularly to keep blood sugar levels in control, protect the heart and improve skin quality among other reasons.
However, there is still contention among its proponents and opposition whether rooibos tea has more benefits or side effects. To help you decide, let’s take a detailed look at what is rooibos tea, its benefits and potential side effects.
What is Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos tea was discovered more than 300 years ago by the tribesmen of South Africa’s Cape Town region. It has traditionally been prepared by collecting wild shrubs, cutting and fermenting them before drying it in the sun. It makes an aromatic and pleasant deep-red colored sweet tea. The name rooibos is derived from Afrikaans, which means “red bush”.
Traditionally, the rooibos tea is prepared from the leaves and stems of Aspalathus linearis shrub which is indigenous to South Africa. There are more than 200 varieties of rooibos tea available today. The shrub is easy to identify from its peculiar needle-shaped leaves and small yellow flowers. It was first cultivated in the 1930s and today is exported to over 30 different countries throughout the world.
For generations, the people of South Africa have used rooibos tea as a homemade remedy for numerous ailments, including lack of appetite, colic in infants, asthma, allergies, anxiety and even insomnia. More recently, the growing health awareness among consumers has resulted in making rooibos tea one of the most favorite teas globally.
How does Rooibos Tea taste?
The ideal harvesting season for the rooibos shrub’s leaves and stems to make tea is during the summer months. After harvesting, the leaves and stems are either fermented or left unfermented to prepare two different varieties of rooibos tea.
There are basically two main types of rooibos tea and their taste is also distinct.
- Fermented rooibos tea – The tea prepared from fermented rooibos leaves is called “red tea”. The fermentation process turns the green-colored leaves into a deep red color. The fermentation process gives the rooibos tea a distinct sweet and fruity flavor with a rich nut-like aroma.
- Unfermented rooibos tea – Unfermented rooibos tea leaves are bright green in color. It carries a unique herbal taste, which is very similar to green tea, but less acerbic.
Both these varieties of rooibos tea are completely free of caffeine which makes it one of the top choices for people who wish to limit or restrict caffeine intake and avoid its stimulating effects.
Are there any risks or side effects of Rooibos Tea?
Like any other dietary supplement, excessive intake of rooibos tea is not recommended. Despite its proposed benefits, there are several risks or side effects which have been associated with drinking rooibos tea.
Some of the commonly-seen side effects of rooibos tea may include:
There are at least two reported cases of liver toxicity caused by excessive intake of rooibos tea. The first case of drinking 10 liters of rooibos tea a day resulted in the patient suffering from symptoms of liver toxicity, fatty liver and elevated liver enzymes. The other case involved drinking a mixture of rooibos and buchu herbal teas which resulted in developing symptoms of acute hepatitis and liver failure. However, the patient recovered noticeably when they stopped drinking the tea.
Rooibos tea runs the risk of being contaminated by salmonella or other similar bacteria during the fermentation process. Salmonella remains one of the major causes of food poisoning worldwide and can induce painful symptoms like stomach cramps, fever, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
This is the reason why diet experts strongly advise consumers to buy rooibos tea from a reliable and trusted source online.
As rooibos tea tends to lower blood sugar and pressure it might have an adverse reaction with several medications, such as:
- Anti-diabetic medications
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Blood pressure regulators
The rooibos tea is one of the most delicious, antioxidant-rich teas which is completely caffeine-free. The past few years has seen an enormous rise in demand for rooibos tea in the West. Before you start on this wonderful journey to health, make sure to consult your local physician or a doctor to ensure that the tea will not have any adverse effect for you.