Red African tea or Red Bush tea is made from the unique South African herb Aspalathus linearis from the Aspalathus genus, which includes over 200 species. The plant is commonly known all around the world as Rooibos.
A. linearis, which has always been in favor of African tribes for its sweet pleasant taste and medicinal properties, reaches about 5 feet high. It has an immensely long root (about 2 feet) and an erect stem, which is divided into multiple thin branches right above the ground.
Bright-green leaves of Rooibos are needle-shaped; they are from 0.4 to 1.6 inches long. This plant produces small yellow flowers, followed by leguminous fruits with one seed inside.
Using oxidation (or fermentation - drying the harvested leaves in the sun) the red color of the tea is achieved. However, tea from the unfermented plant is known to have more health benefits. The latter is usually called “Green Rooibos”.
In spite of gaining popularity all over the world, the attempts to grow this plant anywhere else except the small region near Cape Town in South Africa have failed. Rooibos seems to be able to grow only in the original place, where it has grown for centuries. The fastidious plant prefers exclusively those climatic conditions and soil, although they do not seem to be so easy to grow in: hot summers, burning sun, little moisture, and poor acidic soil. Rooibos is the unique plant to thrive in these conditions.
The leaves of Rooibos and occasionally twigs are used for preparing herbal teas and beverages, which are also used medicinally.
A consumer can nowadays find a great variety of products made from Rooibos leaves. They include either fermented or unfermented dried leaves, or blends with different additives (nuts, chocolate, etc.) and flavours; or tea bags.
Scientists became interested in Rooibos when it was discovered it could sooth the colics, abdominal cramps, and sleeplessness in infants. The traditional use of Rooibos tea in medicinal properties was also taken into account during the investigation. Both fermented (red tea) and unfermented (green Rooibos) plant material were researched.
It was found out that the fermented Rooibos tea has a different chemical composition, lacking beneficial antioxidants - polyphenols, present in the unfermented leaves of the plant. Thus, from the point of view of herbal medicine, Green Rooibos is more potential and capable of offering more very important health benefits than the Red Bush tea.
The major action of favourable polyphenols is to fight off free radicals in the body, which, invading the organism, damage the cells and impair the normal functioning of the immune system, which may result in the development of many health conditions as cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and fasten the process of aging. In addition, some trials state Rooibos tea may even enhance the work of the immune system.
Polyphenols founds in Rooibos are flavonoids (rutin, orientin, aspalathin, isoorientin, isoquercitrin and others) and phenolic acids.
Speaking about minerals, Rooibos also has some, namely, significant amount of fluoride and copper are found in the leaves. Other minerals present are iron, magnesium, and zinc.
The advantage of the plant is that it contains no caffeine and has low level of tannins, thus, it can be used by a larger number of people and by children as well. Lacking caffeine means Rooibos tea does not possess those stimulating properties black and green teas do and may be consumed in larger amount.
Low tannins content means this tea does not have bitter astringent taste and is more beneficial for people with digestive problems and those who do not tolerate tannins-rich beverages. Besides, it is known that tannins may interfere with iron absorption, thus this problem will not appear with Rooibos.
Being a potent ant-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic agent, Rooibos also serves as a good remedy to alleviate inflammation, reduce allergic response and fever, and works as a good anti-spasmodic means.
It is suggested that Rooibos may be used to relieve abdominal cramps and colics, alleviate digestive problems, soothe the nerves and fight insomnia, reduce fever, treat rashes, eczema and other skin disorders, eliminate asthma and strengthen the immune system.
Anti-aging properties of Rooibos and its potential to fight different cancers are among the most researched issues. The plant also shows promises in its ability to improve cardiovascular system and work as a tonic for the whole organism offering longevity and vitality.
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