Rooibos (Afrikaans for ‘red bush’; pronounced ‘ROY-BOSS’; scientific name Aspalathus linearis) is a member of the legume family of plants, and is commonly used to make a tisane (herbal tea).
It belongs to the Aspalathus plant group, which consists of more than 200 species originating in the Cedarberg mountains of South Africa (rooibos grows exclusively in the Cedarberg Mountain region and around Clanwilliam and Citrusdal, due to the specific climatic and geological conditions of the region).
Large-scale cultivation and industrial processing of the plant started during the 1930s. The leaves of the bush are harvested, bruised and finely chopped, wetted and left to ferment in rolls or mounds, finally they are dried in the sun. The fermentation process enriches the flavour and gives to the leaves their distinctive red colour (rooibos is often marketed as red tea). The resulting product is then boiled or steeped like tea to make a beverage that is enjoyed both hot and cold. In its native South Africa, many people consume it with milk, similar to the British tradition of drinking black tea with milk.
Rooibos has found its way into health and beauty products, and is widely claimed to have been used by the ancient Bushmen (San people) of the region. It is free of caffeine, and contains Aspalathin, a flavonoid present in medicinal herbs used to treat skin and circulatory disorders. It is low in tannin, which inhibits absorption of minerals, at 4.4 percent. It contains traces of fluoride, calcium and manganese.
Japanese research into the effects of oligosaccharides, also found in Rooibos, indicates that these compounds may aid the immune system in fighting viral infections.
Rooibos extracts may have also been shown to have anticarcinogenic and antimutagenic effects.
Rooibos is rich in flavonoid antioxidants which mimics the activity of superoxide dismutase, by scavenging free radicals.
Other purported benefits include:
- anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties
- relief of hay fever, asthma and allergies
- relief of insomnia and nervous tension
- relief of constipation, stomach cramps and colic in infants
- easing skin conditions including acne, eczema and nappy/diaper rash
This bush tea is prominently featured in the series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. It is reported that the sales of rooibos have greatly increased as a result of being mentioned so often in this series.
Article URL: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rooibos