You might have seen rooibos tea at the grocery store or heard about it from a caffeine-free friend. If you’ve ever tried it, you’ll know it’s delicious! But is it entirely good for you?
We take a closer look at rooibos tea, examining what it is, what nutritional benefits it has, and importantly what side effects can occur when you drink it.
Furthermore, if you’re patient and stick with us, we’ll also explain how much tea you’d need to drink to experience these side effects and why it’s unlikely you’ll suffer from just one cup!
What is Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos tea is an herbal tea that’s completely unrelated to classic, caffeinated tea from the tea plant. The warm, rounded, nutty, sweet and often rich flavor of rooibos tea makes it a great choice for herbal blends and caffeine-free teas. It contains tannins, just like black tea, which gives it a familiar, comforting flavor. This is why it’s a popular alternative to classic teas for people who want to avoid caffeine.
Rooibos is a herbal bush, meaning ‘red bush’, that grows in South Africa. Just like tea, the needle-like leaves are picked, oxidized and fired to create red rooibos. You can also find green rooibos which is less processed, just like green tea.
Overall, rooibos is very healthy for you. We know that tannins can reduce blood pressure and have other beneficial effects on your body. Rooibos also contains a high number of antioxidants – maybe even more than green tea! More research is needed to find out exactly how much better (or worse) rooibos tea is for you compared to a classic tea.
Rooibos is available in tea bags or whole loose leaf – you can find it both online and in stores. But before you do, let’s take a closer look at some of the side effects of drinking this tea.
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African Rooibos Tea Side Effects
In a cup of red rooibos tea, you’ll have:
- Lots of water!
- Varied antioxidants that bind to free radicals (this has numerous benefits from potentially preventing cancer to improving heart health)
- 0 caffeine and 0 calories
Rooibos can also help you to burn off fat quicker and prevent new fat cells from growing.
Some people claim it helps with their allergies too, but we can’t find any evidence of this!
Green rooibos has additional benefits, such as Aspalathin antioxidants that can reduce vascular inflammation in diabetics.
That’s the good stuff out of the way. Here are the side effects you should know about.
Let’s start by making this clear – heart palpitations are the worst symptom you can get from rooibos tea… if you’re allergic to it. It’s rare but it could happen. If you’re allergic to rooibos, you might notice itching, discomfort in your stomach, difficulty breathing, trouble swallowing and swelling wherever the tea came into contact with your body.
It’s very rare to have an allergic reaction to rooibos, but if you do experience one you should take it seriously! Seek medical help immediately and avoid rooibos teas altogether in the future. Bear in mind that it could be something else in your tea, like the milk or sweetener you used, that’s caused the reaction.
Analyzing the compounds in rooibos tea has revealed in this study that several have estrogenic activity. This simply means that they can increase the levels of estrogen in your body. For most people, that doesn’t matter in the slightest, however excess estrogen can be a problem for people with breast cancer or hormone-related diseases/conditions. If you have or had either, check with your doctor before trying rooibos tea. It might affect you or it might not.
For men, high levels of estrogen can cause erectile dysfunction and a range of other complications. You’d need to drink a lot of tea to notice the effects, however.
An increase in estrogen can also lift your mood by increasing levels of serotonin, so this side effect isn’t all doom and gloom!
There are a few reported cases of hepatotoxicity (liver damage from chemicals) in people who drink excessive amounts of rooibos tea. This patient scheduled for laparoscopic appendectomy and this 52-year-old male both showed signs of liver damage from consuming excessive amounts of red rooibos tea as an herbal remedy.
But on the flip side, some studies show how rooibos tea can promote your liver enzymes and even treat existing liver damage (albeit that study was conducted on rats). It’s all about consuming a healthy amount of tea and not going overboard with it.
In one study on the efficiency of iron absorption after drinking tea, scientists found that rooibos (just like the classic, caffeinated tea) can reduce the amount of iron your body absorbs. They also note that the amount it’s reduced is insignificant, meaning you won’t notice a difference.
If you’re anemic, then consuming a lot of rooibos tea regularly after your meal could cause you some problems… but compared to black or green tea, it’s not noticeable and nothing you should worry about.
How Much Do I Need to Drink to Experience These Side Effects?
How much tea you should drink depends on your diet, lifestyle, and needs. Balance is the key to health, so only drinking rooibos all day every day will be detrimental to your health no matter how healthy and beneficial rooibos tea is.
Guidelines on how much rooibos you should drink every day vary drastically. Some say as many as 6 cups, while others say as much as you can drink!
To experience the side effects listed above, you need to be either allergic to rooibos or have a pre-existing condition that will be affected by the rooibos. On top of that, you’d need to drink liters of rooibos tea every single day for long-lasting health damage.
Our recommendation? Stick to one or two cups a day. A moderate amount consumed regularly can benefit your health, but don’t be afraid to shake up your routine with other types of teas, drinks, and foods.
Try green teas, black teas, and other herbal teas when you get sick of rooibos or just to switch things up. The antioxidants and tannins in rooibos have the same benefits as tea, so you can still enjoy the health benefits while changing the flavor of your daily drink.
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Is Rooibos Tea Good for You?
Let’s do a quick recap of rooibos tea:
- Could prevent cancer.
- Improves heart health.
- Protects the liver.
- Reduce vascular inflammation in diabetics.
- Strengthens your bones.
- Is caffeine-free.
- You might be allergic to it (very rare).
- It can impact estrogen levels.
- Excessive consumption can damage your liver.
- It very slightly lowers your iron intake.
Although the side effects of rooibos can be quite significant for some people, you really shouldn’t worry about it! Rooibos is a healthy drink that’s only dangerous to you in excessive amounts. Most of the studies into the health benefits and side effects of rooibos are carried out on animals, rather than humans, which isn’t always accurate. What affects animals may not necessarily affect us in the same way.
Drink your rooibos in moderation and relax without worrying about the side effects.