The herbal tea known as red tea has found its way to health food and specialty food stores recently, but few know much about the source or the health benefits of this plant. Red tea comes from a South African plant called Aspalanthus linearis, and is also known as Redbush, or Kaffree, Rooibus, and Honeybush. Rooibus is not a true tea, in that it doesn’t come from the same plant family as black tea, the Camellia sinensis plant, but research has confirmed many health benefits from this tea, including cancer prevention, and as a treatment for nervous tension, allergic dermatitis, and indigestion.
Red tea contains anti-oxidants in the form of polyphenols. It has the same health benefits as green tea, in this regard. Rooibus also contains calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium, as does black tea. Rooibus has similar health generating nutrients as the other red foods, such as cherries, red grapes, acai berries, and pomegranates.
Rooibus tea grows as a bush and has been used for tea by locals for a long time. The tea is made from the stems and leaves of the plants. Folk medicine uses include treatment of malignancies and various types of inflammation. In 1968, its use was documented in treating colic in infants. Studies conducted in 2000 and in 2003 in South Africa showed that red tea can protect the liver from mutagenic action that causes cancer, as well as other oxidative damage.
One concern about drinking red tea is that the tea is not standardized, which means that one plant may not contain as many health-giving ingredients as another. Because rooibus is known to have an effect on the cytochrome P450 enzymes, those taking drugs with a similar action may want to avoid this tea. Other concerns are for those who are allergic to the Leguminosae family of plants. Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant may want to avoid drinking red tea as well and stick to drinking other non-caffeinated beverages. Otherwise, rooibus is a good tasting alternative to green or black tea that has many health benefits and can be enjoyed by all as a tasty and nutritious beverage.