Rooibos: Every Thing You Need To Know
Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) comes from the leaves and twigs of the Aspalathus linearis plant, a plant of the legume family (Leguminosae) that grows only in South Africa. So it is actually not ‘real’ tea. During a long fermentation process, this tea takes on its distinctive reddish color. Green rooibos comes from the same shrub and is not fermented. Rooibos tea is very popular in the Netherlands and is suitable as an alternative to black tea for people who cannot tolerate oxalic acid and tannins. Drinking rooibos tea offers many health benefits. It contains antioxidants that scavenge free radicals. Several polyphenols in the rooibos have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system.
Profile of Rooibos
Rooibos has the following characteristics:
- Scientific name: Aspalathus linearis
- Family: Leguminosae family (Leguminosae)
- Distribution: in the area of the Cederberg north of Cape Town (South Africa)
- Parts of used plants: leaves and branches
- Applications: sleeping problems; stress and tension; to strengthen the immune system; stabilization of blood vessels; inflammation.
Rooibos tea is traded worldwide, but is only grown regionally in the mountains of South Africa, near Cape Town. It is a traditional indigenous remedy and drink. Rooibos tea is not only suitable for drinking, but also for cooking and skin care. Unlike black tea, rooibos tea does not contain caffeine. Strictly speaking, rooibos is not a tea, but a tea-like drink. According to the ISO standard (ISO stands for ‘International Organization for Standardization’), real teas are just infusions of the tea plants Camellia sinensis (Chinese tea plant) and – assamica (Indian tea plant). Rooibos tea contains valuable minerals and flavonoids and is therefore an ideal drink for athletes. Rooibos tea does not contain caffeine and has a natural sweetness, making it particularly suitable for children.
Rooibos contains many medically active substances such as phenols and flavonoids. Flavonoids are antioxidants and scavenge free radicals. The flavonoids include:
Minerals and trace elements
Compared to the tea bush, rooibos contains no caffeine and only a few tannins, also known as tannic acid, a collective name for chemical compounds found in plants. The following minerals and trace elements are also present in rooibos:
The leaves and branches contain many essential oils. Its flavor comes from two flavonoids that give it a sweet taste.
Health Benefits of Rooibos
Rooibos has an antioxidant, cleansing and antispasmodic effect.
People with kidney stones can drink rooibos tea very well because it does not contain oxalic acid. If you suffer from iron deficiency, you can take rooibos instead of real tea, because it contains hardly any tannins, which slows down the absorption of iron.
Heart and Circulatory System
Several polyphenols in the rooibos have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system and drinking rooibos tea may prevent heart disease, stroke and hardening of the arteries ( arteriosclerosis ).
The flavonoid luteolin slows the activity of the osteoclasts. These are cells that are responsible for breaking down the bone substance, leading to bone loss ( osteoporosis ). Conversely, luteolin promotes the action of osteoblast cells, which promote the formation of new bones.
Flavonoids have an antioxidant effect and scavenge free radicals. These are aggressive substances that can cause damage to cells and tissues. In doing so, they prevent damage to DNA, which can cause mutations that promote the formation of cancer.
The flavonoids quercetin and luteolin inhibit inflammation and can prevent inflammation. Quercetin also promotes the release of the hormone serotonin, also known as the happiness hormone. Traditionally, people drink rooibos tea to improve their mood. This effect may be due to the quercetin. This flavonoid also lowers stress levels. This can especially benefit people who suffer from chronic stress.
Aspalathin relieves cramps and that could explain why rooibos tea is traditionally used for colic, abdominal cramps and stomach cramps.
In addition, the flavonoid rutin (which is also found in buckwheat , rhubarb, apples, onions, tea and asparagus ) strengthens small blood vessels and vessel walls, helping to prevent thrombosis, varicose veins and stroke.
Production of Rooibos
Rooibos only grows on sandy soils of the Cederberg, about 200 kilometers north of Cape Town. The cultivation itself and the production of the rooibos are uncomplicated compared to black and green tea . Between January and April, the branches and leaves are cut. However, this is manual work, because machines in the sandy highlands are hardly usable. The branches and leaves are moistened with water, crushed and spread out. During this process they ferment and the originally green rooibos turns reddish-brown in colour. The material now only needs to be dried and pasteurized, then it is ready for packaging.
History of Rooibos
Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828) wrote in 1772 that the Khoisan — the collective name for Khoikhoi and San peoples of southern Africa — used the shrub, which would eventually become known as rooibos, to make an herbal drink. In 1904, Russian immigrant Benjamin Ginsberg (1886-1944) traveled to the Cederberg. Ginsberg came from a family of tea merchants and when he saw the locals making tea from a healthy shrub, he tried it himself and was excited about it. He was the first to organize the export of rooibos and his family became the market leader.
To date (anno 2022), rooibos is only grown in the region of its natural origin, around the towns of Clanwilliam and Citrusdal, because it is unsuitable for global production due to its special habitat. The Cederberg area has wet winters and hot dry summers, in which about 300 to 350 milliliters of rain falls, plus a sandy bottom with reddish-brown stones. All attempts to grow rooibos under comparable conditions, for example in Australia, have failed. The annual production today is about 12,000 tons, about 90 percent of the harvest is for export. It is a popular and widely drunk tea in the Netherlands.
Rooibos tea for the garden
It is a waste to throw the remains of the rooibos in the trash or green bin after drinking. The minerals make it an excellent fertilizer for house and garden plants. If tea is left behind while drinking, do not flush it down the sink. Use it to water plants.
Rooibos in the kitchen
In South Africa, rooibos is not only drunk as a tea, but also used for cooking. It is suitable for adding flavor to cakes, biscuits or bread and gives desserts with nuts , chocolate or vanilla a unique note. Rooibos tastes particularly good in ice cream, and it even tastes great in a soup of pumpkin or lentils.