Brew a Cup of Health

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Contents - Text: Olive Cys­ter Im­age © istockphoto.com

The well-loved Chi­nese tra­di­tion of tea drink­ing dates as far back as 2737 BCE. Leg­end has it that a ser­vant of Em­peror Shen­nong was boil­ing wa­ter for him to drink when a leaf from a wild tea bush fell into the wa­ter. Ador­ing the scent, the Em­peror took a cu­ri­ous sip of the brown­ish coloured wa­ter and found it ab­so­lutely re­fresh­ing.

Since then, tea has found its way across the globe, and South Africa has its own unique brew of tea that has gar­nered fame for mul­ti­ple rea­sons.

Rooi­bos, which means “red bush” in Afrikaans, is an African herb that grows from the As­palathus Lin­earis shrub. As it is only found in the Cedar­berg re­gion of the Western Cape, rooi­bos is a unique South African com­mod­ity. It is there­fore no won­der rooi­bos tea is a pop­u­lar drink found in many South African homes, not only for its re­fresh­ing taste but health ben­e­fits as well.

Such sci­en­tific in­ter­est in rooi­bos, how­ever, is said to have been kept a se­cret un­til af­ter 1968, when Dr An­nique Theron used rooi­bos to help soothe her baby’s colic. Af­ter re­al­is­ing the heal­ing pow­ers of the tea leaf, she pub­lished a book, Al­ler­gies: An Amaz­ing Dis­cov­ery.

“Rooi­bos con­tains trace min­er­als in­clud­ing iron, potas­sium, mag­ne­sium, zinc, cal­cium, and sodium. It is com­pletely pure and nat­u­ral and con­tains no ad­di­tives, caf­feine, calo­ries, preser­va­tives, or colour­ings. It is also free from ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tions,” proudly states the Red­bush Tea Com­pany. “Rooi­bos also has less than half the amount of tan­nin found in black tea, a sub­stance that not only leaves a bit­ter af­ter­taste but can also pre­vent the ab­sorp­tion of iron and pro­tein in your diet.”

Rooi­bos is also as hy­drat­ing as wa­ter and counts to­wards your sug­gested eight glasses a day. So, what ex­actly can rooi­bos tea do for you? Here are just a few health ben­e­fits:

Low­ers Blood Pres­sure

Drink­ing rooi­bos tea is a nat­u­ral rem­edy for low­er­ing stress, ner­vous ten­sion, and hy­per­ten­sive con­di­tions. Ac­cord­ing to Or­ganic Facts, “Rooi­bos tea acts as a bron­chodila­tor. It not only re­lieves res­pi­ra­tory con­di­tions but also re­duces blood pres­sure.” High blood pres­sure can lead to dan­ger­ous car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­eases like heart at­tacks and ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis.

A study in the Euro­pean Jour­nal of Nutri­tion states that rooi­bos tea was shown to de­crease the ac­tiv­ity of the an­giotensin-al­ter­ing en­zyme, which con­stricts blood ves­sels con­tribut­ing to high blood pres­sure, there­fore sug­gest­ing that rooi­bos tea is good for your car­dio­vas­cu­lar health.

Treats Gas­troin­testi­nal Disor­ders

Rooi­bos tea is rich with an­ti­spas­modic agents, known to ease stom­ach pain. Fur­ther­more, Health24 re­cently high­lighted how re­searchers in Pak­istan, Canada, and Ger­many worked to­gether to ex­plore how rooi­bos tea could ac­tu­ally teat gas­troin­testi­nal up­sets – like gut spasms. They found that the bio­chem­istry of how the flavonoids and other ac­tive com­pounds in rooi­bos “achieve a calm­ing ef­fect on the di­ges­tive sys­tem”.

Main­tains Bone Health

As the red­bush is full of cal­cium, man­ganese, and flu­o­ride min­er­als, it can help main­tain strong bone struc­ture and teeth. “By in­creas­ing the bio-avail­abil­ity of min­er­als in your sys­tem, you can re­duce your chances of de­vel­op­ing con­di­tions like arthri­tis, os­teo­poro­sis, and chronic joint pain,” ex­plains Or­ganic Facts.

Pre­vents Can­cer

As rooi­bos con­tains high amounts of an­tiox­i­dants, it has the po­ten­tial to pre­vent can­cer from de­vel­op­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the Rooi­bos Coun­cil, “The com­plex mix­ture of polyphe­nols in rooi­bos may help pro­tect against free rad­i­cals. Free rad­i­cals are un­sta­ble mol­e­cules that can dam­age the DNA in cells, lead­ing to can­cer.”

Fur­ther­more, CANSA re­ported that af­ter eight years of re­search they are of­fi­cially recog­nis­ing rooi­bos as “a source of chem­i­cals that can help pre­vent can­cer in both hu­mans and an­i­mals. We are for­tu­nate that rooi­bos is an indige­nous South African tea that is af­ford­able and eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic at large.”

Con­trols Di­a­betes

The un­com­mon an­tiox­i­dant, As­palathin, is found in rooi­bos tea and it has a list of abil­i­ties. It can as­sist in bal­anc­ing blood su­gar, and progress in­sulin re­sis­tance and glu­cose ab­sorp­tion by our mus­cles. “It also boosts the in­sulin se­cre­tion from the pan­creas. This re­sults in an ideal de­fen­sive shield against de­vel­op­ing type II di­a­betes. By bal­anc­ing blood su­gar, rooi­bos tea can fur­ther­more pro­tect peo­ple that al­ready have di­a­betes by pre­vent­ing the spikes and drops in blood su­gar that are detri­men­tal to their over­all health,” states Or­ganic Facts.

There are many other health ben­e­fits of rooi­bos tea. And while rooi­bos is not a medicine and should not re­place such, Prof El­iz­a­beth Jou­bert from the Agri­cul­tural Re­search Coun­cil says, “It is an af­ford­able drink with po­ten­tial health-pro­mot­ing prop­er­ties. Re­search is on­go­ing to find all the an­swers about this unique South African prod­uct.”

Rooi­bos tea acts as a bron­chodila­tor. It not only re­lieves res­pi­ra­tory con­di­tions but also re­duces blood pres­sure.

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