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Rooibos tea is a popular drink found in most South African households and is currently sold in over 60 countries worldwide. The tea is packed with antioxidants and has many healing properties, plus it’s naturally sweet and caffeine-free. Although medical science is only beginning to discover the many health advantages of the plant, there seems to be no end to its benefits.
The Rooibos plant Aspalathus linearis grows only in the Cederberg region and in 1904 Benjamin Ginsberg, a pioneering Russian immigrant, realised the marketing potential of Rooibos and began trading.
Dr Le Fras Nortier started researching the medicinal potential of Rooibos in the 1900s and commercial growing of Rooibos started in the 1930s. Just like other well-known foods such as Gorgonzola and Champagne, Rooibos can only be labelled as such if from the designated region.
Rooibos has long been used as a natural remedy for many ailments, such as asthma, insomnia, eczema, allergies, hypertension and more. Other health benefits include its ability to fight cancer, heart disease and a variety of skin issues. Being caffeine-free and low in tannins, the tea has no side effects and its antioxidant properties helps boost the immune system.
In 1968, Dr Annique Theron claimed that Rooibos soothed her baby’s colic and her book, Allergies: An Amazing Discovery was published soon after.
It’s also believed that Rooibos very quickly restores sodium lost through sweating, making it a popular drink among sportsmen and manual workers.
Apart from its health benefits, Rooibos tea has many cosmetic uses. A vast range of beauty products are made from the plant and it has proven to be successful regarding anti-aging and skin and hair care in general.
The soothing properties of Rooibos makes it a great option for those with sensitive skin or irritations such as eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis. It also helps soothe nappy rash and improves acne.
These beneficial properties are due to its high level of zinc, which is crucial for skin health, as well as natural alphahydroxy acid, believed to smooth and refine fine lines and wrinkles.
Red espresso, the first tea espresso in the world, was introduced to coffee shops in 2006. This rich, creamy drink carries the same traits as a normal cappuccino except it’s caffeine-free and made using a concentrated shot of Rooibos. Enjoyed with a teaspoon or two of honey, it’s a great alternative to coffee. If you haven’t tried this one-of-a-kind drink yet, The Whippet in Linden, Johannesburg, makes a killer one.
Essentially, the Rooibos plant is extremely diverse, and whether you drink it daily or use it to soothe an ailment, no South African kitchen is complete without it.