New study proves Rooibos’ antioxidant potency in humans

A collaborative study by scientists at four international research facilities has found the first clinical evidence that drinking rooibos tea significantly increases the antioxidant capacity in human blood, thereby boosting the body’s natural defences.

The researchers in Rome and Glasgow found that the antioxidant capacity in the blood of 15 healthy volunteers peaked one hour after drinking 500ml ready-to-drink rooibos tea. Both traditional (fermented) and green (unfermented) rooibos tea had a significant effect.

“On the basis of the results of our study, we conclude that Rooibos tea is able to deliver antioxidant ingredients to the body, thereby stimulating the body’s internal redox network,” says Professor Mauro Serafini, leader of this research project and Head of the Antioxidant Research Laboratory at INRAN, a nutrition research insitute in Rome, Italy. “It is highly possible that, once absorbed in the circulatory stream, the unique ingredients of Rooibos may display other biological activities in the human body. That is why we are planning further intervention studies in humans to investigate the effect of Rooibos tea on the body’s strategy of defence to counteract the development of heart disease.”

“After an hour, the plasma antioxidant levels start to drop and that is why we recommend drinking up to six cups of rooibos spaced throughout the day for a sustained health benefit,” explains Professor Jeanine Marnewick from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She led a recent study that showed the beneficial effect of drinking six cups of rooibos a day to promote heart health.

Numerous studies over the past few decades have helped scientists to understand the complex and unique blend of antioxidants found in rooibos. They have also proved that the active compounds in rooibos are bioavailable and are metabolised (converted) in the body. The significance of the latest study is that it provides the first direct evidence that rooibos boosts antioxidant levels in the blood of healthy humans.

“This new research proves that the compounds in rooibos are potent enough to have a measurable effect on the antioxidant capacity of the blood,” says Professor Lizette Joubert, one of South Africa’s leading rooibos researchers, working on the quality and chemical composition of rooibos at South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council.

The most active antioxidant in rooibos – aspalathin – is unique to the plant species Aspalathus linearis. This fynbos plant thrives in the Western Cape’s Cedarberg region where it is commercially cultivated and wild-harvested for the production of rooibos tea.

“This study underlines the value of rooibos as a widely available and affordable source of dietary antioxidants,” comments Mientjie Mouton, chair of the Product Research Committee of the South African Rooibos Council. “It is very encouraging that leading research institutions around the world are working on rooibos and producing such promising results. There is also a great deal of work being done by local rooibos researchers and we will continue to invest in this research.”

The South African Rooibos Council invests some R1 million a year to fund research into rooibos’ health properties. This year the Council is supporting research projects at several local universities and science councils focusing on how rooibos can counter cancer and stress, as well as the link between rooibos and exercise. A project on rooibos and obesity has been approved for funding in 2011.

Summaries of the most recent rooibos studies published in top peer-reviewed scientific journals can be found on the website of the SA Rooibos Council at

Notes to editors

The collaborative research was carried out at: Antioxidant Research Laboratory, Human Nutrition Unit, INRAN, Rome; Food and Nutrition Unit, IRCCS, Rome; Plant Products and Human Nutrition Group, University of Glasgow; Diabetes Unit, San Camillo Forlanini Hospital, Rome.
The study has been published in Food Chemistry: Villaño, D., et al. 2010. Unfermented and fermented rooibos teas (Aspalathus linearis) increase plasma total antioxidant capacity in healthy humans. Food Chemistry 123 (2016) 679-683.

Rooibos tea could be a good way to prevent kids overheating

As children go back to school for the last term, warmer weather means mothers packing lunchboxes should give some thought to hydration.

Ensuring children get enough of the right kinds of liquids, particularly during the hot summer months, can be as important as making sure they’re properly fed. Mild or moderate dehydration can lead to sleepiness or tiredness and even headaches and dizziness, making it difficult to pay attention in class. In more severe cases delirium or even unconsciousness can occur.

But packing a water bottle isn’t always a guarantee that children are going to drink enough to compensate for fluids they lose while trying to cram as much fun as possible into break times.

The problem is that water can be bland and tasteless, particularly after a couple of hours in a plastic water bottle, so children simply don’t drink it or pour it out. The alternative is to add some sort of cordial and while this may make it more appealing not all of these are particularly healthy options. Nor are fizzy drinks and buying a fruit juice each day can be costly.

Fortunately there is a South African solution that’s affordable, tasty and amazingly beneficial – rooibos tea.

Although many people tend to think of rooibos as only a hot drink, it is an exceptional flavour enhancer and naturally sweet, which makes it a favourite ingredient for iced teas, fruit shakes, smoothies, iced lollies and many other tasty treats.

Add to this that it contains no caffeine, fats or carbohydrates and its proven health benefits include boosting the immune system, relieving allergies and preventing heart disease and cancer. Researchers are also investigating the link between rooibos and stress relief.

According to Professor Jeanine Marnewick of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, rooibos is a natural thirst quencher and drinking the equivalent of six cups a day – hot or cold – will provide a sustained health benefit.

Making a simple rooibos iced tea is easy. Simply make a litre of rooibos tea using four to six teabags. Sweeten the tea with honey to taste and leave it in the fridge to cool overnight. You can then experiment with this basic iced tea, adding mint, lemon, orange, granadilla, mango or apple or a combination of flavours until you find one that your children really love. You can even get them involved in mixing their own flavours.

Juiced or squeezed fresh fruit usually deliver the best results, but you can also use preservative-free fruit juice. Mixing it with cold rooibos will make it go further and keeping a jug of the children’s favourite iced tea in the fridge should mean you don’t have to keep buying juice.

The good news is that once you’ve made up a jug of iced tea you don’t have to repeat the performance every evening as cold rooibos can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.

By pouring some iced tea into popsicle containers or ice-cube trays and freezing it, you can also make fun, refreshing, healthy after school or sports treats.

Top endurance athlete recommends rooibos over energy drinks

Writing for Do It Now magazine, endurance athlete Hannele Steyn, warns that many over-hyped energy products are ‘just glorified sweets that have added hype ingredients to push the price sky high’.

Steyn, who has represented South Africa in numerous endurance World Championships (1 x duathlon, 2 x biathlon, 3 x triathlon, 4 x mountain biking, 3 x road cycling) 11 Triathlon World Cups and nine Mountain Bike World Cups and whose CV includes a ladies Cape Epic win and two more pages of achievements, should know what she’s talking about after 25 years of competitive racing. She believes that for endurance athletes healthy, natural foods are a better option than sugary, artificial energy bars and sweet drinks.

She recommends rooibos espresso, with almond milk, a teaspoon of honey and a pinch of salt. The result is an energy drink with lots of rooibos antioxidants. The honey delivers fast energy, while the almond milk delivers slow energy in the form of protein and essential fats. Himalayan salt provides minerals. The SA Rooibos Council is funding a research project into rooibos and exercise, which is being conducted by Professor Jeanine Marnewick at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Rooibos as a cure for smelly feet?

Scientists have found that rooibos can prevent and slow down cancer, reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, boost the immune system and ease stomach cramps but now a Cape Town doctor is suggesting it might also help prevent smelly feet.

Responding to a reader’s query in the Cape Argus, Dr Darren Green, suggests that rooibos tea soaks may help to give smelly feet the boot.

SA Rooibos Council scientific advisor, Marina Joubert, says the contention makes sense as there is scientific evidence that rooibos can relieve allergies and soothe skin disorders.

New evidence that rooibos can protect and support the liver

A recent study at the Oxidative Stress Research Centre, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), has proven the ability of rooibos to improve liver function and protect the liver against oxidative damage.

Photo: Dr Wale Ajuwon preparing a dried green rooibos extract.

Photo: Dr Wale Ajuwon preparing a dried green rooibos extract.

6 June 2013

In this 10-week study, 80 male rats were treated with a liver-damaging chemical known as t-BHP (Tert-butyl hydroperoxide). The study showed that giving these rats access to rooibos (instead of water) helped to protect the liver against structural, enzymatic and biochemical damage, and could even reverse some of the damage already present in the liver. The findings of the study have been published in the journal “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine”. The full scientific paper is available online at

“These findings provide biological evidence that Rooibos can protect the liver and that it has potential to be used as a supporting treatment for liver disorders,” says Dr Wale Ajuwon, researcher at CPUT, who led this investigation as part of his doctoral study.

“Liver diseases and drug-induced liver injuries are a leading cause of death around the world, and synthetic drugs used to treat liver disorders often cause further damage to the liver,” Dr Ajuwon points out. “That is why it is so exciting to present this evidence that rooibos can be used as a liver protector and an adjuvant therapy for the treatment and management of liver disorders.”

“Although this study was done in animals, they give us insight into mechanisms of what might be taking place in the human body and I believe that they are useful to make recommendations to people.”

Dr Ajuwon came to South Africa in 2010 to study at CPUT. Three years later he is an avid rooibos fan and is now also encouraging his friends and family in Nigeria to have at least six cups of rooibos every day. “I encourage them to drink rooibos, because it is safe and contains a plethora of polyphenolic antioxidants that have been shown scientifically to have beneficial effects,” he says.

Dr Ajuwon studied at CPUT under the leadership of Prof Jeanine Marnewick, one of South Africa’s foremost researchers in the field of rooibos and oxidative stress.

This study was funded by CPUT.

Issued by Meropa, on behalf of the SA Rooibos Council.


For generations Rooibos tea has been used among South African mothers as a supplement to breast-milk and is often referred to as “nature’s healing hand” – due its remarkable ability to cure and soothe. If your little one suffers from colic, insomnia, food allergies, stomach cramps or eczema, Rooibos tea may be the perfect answer to your problems.

This phenomenon was discovered accidentally in 1968 when one day Dr Theron, a frantic mother with a crying baby in her arms, searched for a quick way to warm her baby’s bottle. She added some warm Rooibos tea to it and fed it to her baby. To her profound surprise the baby stopped screaming and actually went to sleep peacefully and happily. She went on to help literally hundreds of colicky and allergic babies using Rooibos tea as a supplement to both breast, formula or cow’s milk. She recounted her experiences in a book called, “Allergies: an amazing discovery”.

Now over four decades of mothers’ hands-on experience is backed by scientific research into the healing properties of Rooibos, and international recognition for its ability to soothe infants. Dr Kareemah Gamieldien, a former Senior Researcher at the Medical Research Council, proudly tells how she bathed her baby in Rooibos to soothe away her skin allergies, “It’s something that has been passed down the generations and I found that it provided a noticeable anti-inflammatory action”.

By mixing some Rooibos tea with expressed breast milk or formula, you can make all the difference to your baby. Rooibos supplements the daily intake of calcium, manganese and fluoride needed by growing children for strong teeth and bones, while its zinc and magnesium contents promote a healthy skin and a well-developed nervous system. Being a caffeine free and low tannin beverage, Rooibos is also highly recommended for babies with digestive troubles as it benefits the digestive system, calms your child and promotes untroubled sleeping patterns. When applied directly to the skin, in liquid form, it relieves irritation from nappy rash, eczema and itching.

Rooibos is also believed to stimulate the development of milk in the breasts and pass on minerals and vitamins to the baby either through the milk or through the blood during pregnancy. Mothers themselves can also benefit from drinking Rooibos tea. During pregnancy and breast feeding the body’s iron levels could become depleted. Tannins in regular teas can strip you of up to one third of your diet’s iron – which can leave you with chronic fatigue. With Rooibos, this is not the case. Pregnant women can drink Rooibos throughout the day without increasing nausea and heartburn, and because it is caffeine-free, this tea can be drunk in unlimited quantities and will not disrupt sleeping patterns.

Rooibos is 100% natural, harmless and nutritious, with no colorants or preservatives. Babies and tots tend to love the naturally sweet and aromatic flavour, especially when served as iced tea to replace acid-containing fruit juices or carbonated soft drinks.

Tips for Moms:
– How to Prepare Rooibos tea for your baby:
Add Rooibos tea bags to water (strength at your discretion), bring to the boil to extract maximum goodness; cool off & pour into sterilised baby bottle(s). For extra strength, tea bags may be added to bottle(s) and left there. Sweeten with honey or brown sugar. Feed on demand.
– Weaning Your Baby onto Rooibos:
While its sweet taste should appeal to your infant’s newly-formed taste buds, like all good things, Rooibos tea can take a little getting used to. As you know, patience and perseverance are the only remedies for the junior palate. But when it comes to Rooibos, it’s well worth the wait.



Nowadays people are looking for natural ways to stay young and healthy for longer. Rooibos tea contains a unique blend of antioxidants that is likely to slow down the ageing process by helping to prevent damage caused by excessive free radicals in our bodies.

Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that are produced during normal processes in the human body and fulfil an important role in the life cycle of normal cells. However, at excessive levels, free radicals can damage cells and can cause several diseases including arthrosclerosis, diabetes and even cancer.

As we get older, our bodies’ ability to regulate free radicals decrease. Environmental factors such as pollution, sunlight, cigarette smoke and herbicides can also lead to the over production of free radicals.

“This is where the antioxidants in Rooibos can help – they can help to control the excessive production of free radicals by inactivating them before they cause damage,” says Professor Wentzel Gelderblom, a specialist scientist and cancer researcher at South Africa’s Medical Research Council. “But”, he adds, “for a long and healthy life the benefits from Rooibos must be part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.”

Rooibos is the only known natural source of a unique and potent antioxidant called “aspalathin”, and it also contains the rare antioxidant “nothofagin” along with many other complex substances, known as flavonoids. “We think that it is the mix of flavonoids in Rooibos that protects against the excessive forming of free radicals inside living cells,” Professor Gelderblom explains. “That is why drinking Rooibos as part of a healthy diet is a better idea than taking antioxidants in capsule form.”

Some of the research on the anti-ageing properties of Rooibos has been done in Japan, where Rooibos is also known as – “long life tea”. Although getting older is inevitable, drinking several cups of Rooibos every day may help you stay younger and live a disease-free life for longer.

Rooibos in naturally caffeine free – make it part of your defence against ageing and enjoy it as often as you like.
To learn more about this uniquely South African herb and its diverse uses and benefits, visit


Rooibos can help fight allergies by boosting the production of Cytochrome P450, an important enzyme that helps to metabolize allergens, according to Japanese researchers.


Summer is on its way bringing with it warm weather, beautiful flowers, freshly cut grass and bared skin. While these are some of the things that we look forward to, for allergy sufferers they can have negative side-effects such as runny noses, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip, itchy eyes and skin irritation. Home-grown Rooibos may offer relief and help make your summer more carefree.

Rooibos can help fight allergies by boosting the production of Cytochrome P450, an important enzyme that helps to metabolize allergens. Japanese researchers at Showa University have found that when Rooibos is consumed regularly as a beverage, it helps to improve allergy status as a result of the increased levels of this enzyme in the body. In Japan, herbal teas such as Rooibos are widely used to prevent and relieve pollen allergy, asthma and other chronic allergies.
Many Rooibos lovers have found that they can use their favourite herb in a number of ways to treat the symptoms of allergies. Some suggestions include:
– To help alleviate runny noses and hay fever simply take lukewarm Rooibos tea in the cup of your hands and slowly draw the liquid into your sinuses, hold it for a few seconds, release it and gently blow your nose.

– Treat itchy and sensitive eyes to a rinse with lukewarm Rooibos. Dab eyes gently with a face-cloth soaked in lukewarm Rooibos for instant relief from irritated eyes. Alternatively, you can also hold cold Rooibos tea bags over your eyes to relieve your tired or red eyes.

– Eczema and itchy or burning skin can be soothed by adding a few Rooibos tea bags to your bath water, by rinsing the affected skin areas in brewed Rooibos tea, or by applying the cooled Rooibos on the affected area with cottonwool or a facecloth (NB – do not rub, as this will only make the itching/burning worse).

By going the natural route you can save money on expensive medications, and because it is gentle and nontoxic, it is safe for children to use, making it the perfect allergy solution for your whole family.



Researchers at Stellenbosch University have found scientific evidence in support of the ability of Rooibos extracts to counter the negative side effects of stress.

Think about how often you hear people say “I’m stressed” – a phrase that has become one of the most common clichés in modern life. With the current recession affecting most households, stress levels seem to be escalating at a galloping pace. The importance of relaxation and finding remedies to soothe away the ailments associated with stress is a no-brainer, but with the busy lives we lead these days, finding time for this is often a challenge. The good news from Rooibos? Sipping a cup of relaxing, caffeine-free Rooibos tea can do just this.

Researchers at Stellenbosch University have found scientific evidence in support of the ability of Rooibos extracts to counter the negative side effects of stress. “We have found that Rooibos extracts inhibit the biosynthesis of the stress hormone, cortisol,” says Dr Amanda Swart, senior lecturer and natural plant products researcher at the Biochemistry Department. “This is good news, as the stress we experience chronically on a daily basis leads to abnormally high cortisol levels. High cortisol levels are associated with increased anxiety, high blood pressure, suppressed immunity and diabetes.”

People don’t realise the extent to which stress plays havoc with the Central Nervous System, which links to our health, emotions, well being and the overall functioning of our body on a day to day basis. According to studies conducted in South Africa and Japan, Rooibos has shown to have a remarkable calming and soothing effect on the Central Nervous System and can play a role in relieving health problems such as insomnia, irritability, headaches, nervous tension, hypertension and stress.

It’s so ironic that when people feel stressed they often have a caffeine containing drink, but studies show that caffeine only worsens a sensitive Central Nervous System, having the opposite effect to Rooibos, which is naturally caffeine free. So, next time you’re feeling stressed, brew some Rooibos tea, savour the taste, and relax as the tea goes about doing its job – healing your body and mind.



Chrysoeriol, an antioxidant in Rooibos, can prevent and treat vascular disease in people. This is the latest findings from scientists in Japan where Rooibos has been extensively researched in the past 20 years.

Chrysoeriol, an antioxidant in Rooibos, can prevent and treat vascular disease in people. This is the latest findings from scientists in Japan where Rooibos has been extensively researched in the past 20 years.

Chrysoeriol is able to inhibit the migration of smooth muscle cells inside the aorta, a key cause of atherosclerosis (narrowing or hardening of the arteries), according to new findings published in the Journal of Pharmacological Science . The research was done on human aorta cells. They recommend the use of chrysoeriol to prevent and treat the repeated narrowing of blood vessels following coronary angioplasty. During angioplasty a small balloon is used to open up a blocked or narrowed heart artery.

The characteristics and bioactivity of the complex mix of compounds in Rooibos are being studied by several research groups around the world. Chrysoeriol is already known for its antioxidant, cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory properties.

“Although chrysoeriol is not the most abundant antioxidant in Rooibos, we are now beginning to understand its other properties that may contribute to the overall health benefits of Rooibos,” Professor Jeanine Marnewick, specialist researcher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology commented after reviewing these latest findings from Japan. “As scientists unravel the health contributions of the complex mix of compounds in Rooibos, we are finding more and more evidence to substantiate the traditional uses of Rooibos as a remedy for a variety of ailments.”

These latest findings follow on earlier work done at the Aga Khan University Medical College in Pakistan where researchers first found that the chrysoeriol in Rooibos has a bronchodilatory effect. They found that it helps to decrease muscle spasms in blood vessels and lung airways and recommended its use as a remedy for congestive airway disorders such as asthma. Their findings and recommendations were published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2006.

NOTE: Cardiovascular disease is a leading killer worldwide and in South Africa. According to data from the Medical Research Council close to 200 people die in South Africa every day as a result of some form of heart or blood vessel disease. About half of these people are younger than 65 years.