Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rooibos (Roy-boss) Tea

In the morning I have to have a couple of nice, dark cups of coffee, but in the afternoons and evenings, I am a tea drinker. I prefer to drink caffeine-free organic teas and at any given time I have a variety of both loose leaf and bagged herbal teas on hand. Lately I have been drinking rooibos loose leaf tea as my afternoon pick-me-up which is purported to have a host of health benefits, so I thought I would see if there was any scientific evidence to support the claims. Rooibos (Afrikaans for “red bush” and pronounced Roy-Boss) is the national drink of South Africa. And it isn’t actually a tea but an herbal infusion made by fermenting and sun drying the leaves and twigs of the rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis). It is this fermentation process that gives the tea its characteristic red color.

According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (http://naturaldatabase.therapeuticresearch.com/home.aspx?cs=&s=ND), red bush tea contains polysaccharides, flavonoids, a low amount of tannins, and a relatively high amount of vitamin C. Some evidence suggests that daily intake of the acid polysaccharides found in the extracts could suppress cancer and delay age-related changes to the central nervous system, however to date there is insufficient scientific evidence to support these claims. A PubMed search turns up data on the antioxidant, immune enhancing, and cancer protective properties of this herbal tea in animals, with limited studies completed in people.

In the athletic world, the tea is gaining popularity as a healthy antioxidant rich fluid and electrolyte replacement drink. Having an antioxidant rich diet is important for maintaining health in general and especially for athletes who are engaged in regular physical activity. Physical activity creates oxidative stress in the body and some of the negative effects of this stress can be offset by including foods and beverages that are rich in polyphenolic compounds that fight free radicals like rooibos tea.

While many of the claims have yet to be supported by scientific studies, this tea tastes fantastic and incorporating it in your diet on a regular basis is a great way to reap the benefits of its antioxidant content.

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