What Is Rooibos? An Exploration of South African Rooibos Tea

By Ronald Taylor

What Is Rooibos? An Exploration of South African Rooibos Tea


When most people think of tea, usually the first thing that comes to mind is either green tea or black tea. But there are so many other colorful options to explore. At TEA.L, one of our personal favorites is the crimson concoction known as rooibos. What is rooibos? And why should it become part of your tea collection? Here’s a brief overview of this South African blend and why it’s a good fit for your palate, your skin, and your health. 

Origins & History 

Rooibos is derived from a South African plant called Aspalathus linearis. The name “rooibos” comes from the Afrikaans word for “red bush,” referring to the deep red color of the finished tea. Despite being brewed like a tea for consumption, rooibos has no biological relation to the tea plant (camellia sinensis). Compared to other types of tea such as green tea and black tea, which are believed to have been cultivated for several millennia, rooibos has a fairly young history of about 300 years. It was popularized by Dutch settlers in South Africa during the 1700s, as a replacement for the expensive, imported black tea they had previously enjoyed. In the last few decades, rooibos has gradually become more popular worldwide as a beverage, cooking ingredient, and skin care product due to its health benefits. 


Rooibos has a broad flavor profile based on the level of oxidation. Oxidation refers to the chemical reactions that take place within the plant and leads to the browning of some leaves. The level of oxidation, or “brownness,” has an effect on the flavor and aroma of the tea. For example, green rooibos (which is unoxidized) has a grassier taste similar to green tea, while red rooibos (which is oxidized) is known for having a taste that is sweet and smooth like a hibiscus tea. 

Caffeine Content of Rooibos 

Rooibos is classified as an “herbal tea” and has the benefit of being caffeine-free. Rooibos is a good alternative to tea or coffee for those looking to reduce caffeine consumption. Rooibos has also become a key ingredient in some types of iced tea, lattes, and other beverages that are usually caffeinated, so there are plenty of ways to enjoy this delicious treat. 

Antioxidants in Rooibos 

Rooibos is high in minerals and vitamin C, and packed with antioxidants including aspalathinnothofagin, quercetin, rutinisoquercitrin, orientin, isoorientin, luteolin, vitexin, isovitexin, and chrysoeriol. The benefit of antioxidants that they reduce the damaging effects that free radicals have on the DNA in skin cells, thus keeping skin looking younger and healthier. Rooibos is believed to have 50% more antioxidants than green tea


Benefits of Rooibos 

TEA.L recognizes that tea may have different effects and benefits on different individuals, and that what might work for one person might not work for another. Therefore, TEA.L does not endorse any specific medical claims and believes that questions regarding the medical benefits of rooibos should be directed to a physician. Studies and anecdotal experiences suggest that health benefits of rooibos may include: 


As a natural plant product without added sugar, rooibos tea offers hydrating properties without adding more calories to your diet. Studies have shown that rooibos is just as hydrating as bottled water, making it a tasty alternative to your daily eight glasses 

Improved cholesterol levels 

A study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that rooibos can significantly improve tea drinkers’ lipid profiles, or cholesterol levels. Study participants who drank rooibos tea experienced a decrease in LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and an increase in HDL (“good cholesterol”). 

Positive impact on blood pressure 

A few studies have pointed to the cardiovascular benefits of Rooibos tea, especially in relation to lowering blood pressure. For example, rooibos tea negates some of the effects of the angiotensin enzyme, which is known for constricting blood vessels and leading to high blood pressure.  

Protectant against cancer 

Initial studies have indicated that the antioxidants quercetin and luteolin might be beneficial in reducing cancer cells and preventing the growth of tumors. Rooibos tea has small quantities of these antioxidants. Further research is required to determine the exact correlation between rooibos tea consumption and cancer prevention. 

Help with diabetes 

Health research conducted on mice have shown that the antioxidant aspalathin can have anti-diabetic effects such as less resistance to insulin, and could ultimately be beneficial for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Notably, rooibos is the only naturally occurring plant that contains the antioxidant aspalathin. 

Improves skin health and appearance  

Rooibos tea has high levels of hydroxy acid, a common ingredient in skin care products and treatments. A clinical study researching the efficacy of rooibos when used in cosmetic treatments showed that over the course of 28 days, study participants saw a noticeable difference in fine lines and wrinkles. When applied topically, rooibos tea also has soothing properties to reduce redness and can be used to treat eczema and acne due to its zinc content. When consumed, the superoxide dismutase enzyme in rooibos can aid in the production of healthy skin cells and reduce the amount of free radicals in the body. 

The potential benefits of rooibos for your skin and your overall health are numerous. That’s why TEA.L has created a line of skin care products that are deeply infused with rooibos, building upon its nutrient and antioxidant properties to give you that healthy glow. Visit our product page to learn more and see if rooibos is the right fit for your skin.