Benjamin Franklin famously said, "In all things, moderation." When it comes to coffee, there are worse things you could be putting in your body, (assuming you are using organic, fair trade coffee). Still, it's a good practice to take a break from anything you consume a lot of, a couple of times a year for a couple of weeks. So if you're looking to get off of coffee, or just take a break from it for a while, rooibos tea is a nice alternative with lots of health benefits.
What is it?An herb from South Africa, rooibos has been made into tea and enjoyed for generations. It is a broom-like legume and comes in both red and green varieties. The most available is the red, which is oxidized, giving it the reddish-brown color of tea and a slightly sweet taste.
The green variety is unoxidized and is processed in a manner similar to that of green tea, making the end product a bit more expensive, and subsequently less popular and a bit more difficult to find. It does have twice the flavonoids as the red. The flavor is described as 'malty and slightly grassy' - somewhat different than the red variety.
Like other teas, rooibos has flavonoids that act as antioxidants, making it popular with the health conscious. It is also low in tannins compared to most black teas, and is caffeine-free. Rooibos is rich in many minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, copper, fluoride, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy. It is purported to provide a whole host of health benefits, including:
• Reduces heart disease by providing protection through ACE inhibition
• Contains quercetin and luteolin, which are known to have cancer fighting qualities
• Is an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-mutagenic and anti-spasmodic
• Eases nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems
• Limits uric acid production, which can help gout sufferers
• Soothes asthma and eczema
• Boosts the immune system
• Cures nagging headaches
• Fights insomnia
• Strengthens bones and teeth
• Relieves severe stomach cramps
• Eases hypertension/lowers blood pressure
• Is considered to have anti-aging properties
• Prevents DNA damage
• Suppresses fasting glucose levels
• Improves glucose uptake and insulin secretions after a meal
• Aids in liver tissue regeneration
• Acts as a bronchodilator
• Has no known side-effects
Variety of usesIn recent years, rooibos has been growing in popularity in Europe and the United States. You may even find it in your local coffee shop. Coffee shops around the world have begun offering rooibos-based variations of coffee drinks, such as "red espresso", "red lattes" and "red cappuccinos".
Rooibos tea can be consumed by kidney stone sufferers because it has no oxalic acid. It can be used to ease colic or stomach pains in infants for instant relief. It is a great thirst-quencher for athletes and can calm hyper children. One study found that special extraction of the alkaline extracts present in rooibos tea leaves seem to suppress HIV-induced cytopathicity, leading to the conclusion that daily intake may suppress HIV infection. (The extraction is important because regular rooibos tea doesn't have the anti-HIV activity.) Other studies find that rooibos is effective at preventing brain aging.
If you find rooibos tea at your local coffee shop or health food store, give it a try. Consider requesting it if you don't. It is a great beverage with rare nutrients not readily found in other plants. It's good for you and tasty too. You may like it enough to give it a permanent place in your diet.
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