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Rooibos as a powerful antioxidant

Rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss) was first used hundreds of years ago by the African Bushmen (Khoi people), one of the oldest of the earth’s cultures. The herbal beverage came into use as a tea after other cultures adopted its use.The health benefits of rooibos tea come mainly from polyphenols, natural compounds found in rooibos tea.


The rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis) is a South African flowering leguminous shrub used to make a mild-tasting tea that has no caffeine, very little tannin, and significant amounts of polyphenol antioxidants.As a legume it is in the same family as the bean and the pea and contains nodules of nitrogen-fixing bacteria on its roots. This helps it flourish in coarse, nutrient-poor, acidic soil and hot, dry summers.

Rooibos contains no caffeine, has numerous trace minerals, including zinc, fluoride and copper, is low in tannin and is high in anti-oxidants. The tea is a safe drink for adults and children that has passed the test of long use, demonstrating that it is a true healh drink. The zero caffeine content also means rooibos can be enjoyed by those who want to avoid the stimulating effects of caffeine and can be consumed in quantity by those who want to use it as a fluid replacement.

Forms of rooibos now available commercially

Rooibos in its traditional form is reddish, hence the Afrikaans name “redbush” or “rooibos”. Harvested rooibos is processed two ways, producing two types of tea. The green leaves and stems are either bruised and fermented or immediately dried to prevent oxidation. The traditional fermented tea is processed today in much the same way as the indigenous people processed it hundreds of years ago, including the sun-drying step. Research has shown that the fermentation process reduces the antioxidant power of the tea when compared to non-fermented green tea. The unfermented type, often called green rooibos, contains higher levels of polyphenol antioxidants. Both fermented and unfermented rooibos tea exhibits antimutagenic properties (Erickson, 2003).

Rooibos tea contains polyphenol antioxidants, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, that are potent free radical scavengers. This led to research into the isolation of these antioxidants and the production of an antioxidant in pill form. The relative antioxidant strength of this concentrate, aspalathox, places the rooibos extract concentrate, aspalathox, as one of the highest and currently most economical antioxidant concentrates available.

Rooibos Forte

Rooibos Forte contains no less than eighteen different anti-oxidant variants. This broad spectrum of anti-oxidants does not only ensure better absorption, but also extends the potential health benefits. Individuals quickly feel the benefits of taking the aspalathox concentrate as an incremental change; be it a reduction of symptoms or an improved state of mind. The Aspalathox website gives a detailed background as to the properties and benefits of aspalathox.

Aspalathox is a concentrate containing minimum 98 % total polyphenols produced by a proprietary water extraction process using sophisticated separation technology to concentrate the more potent polyphenolic fractions. Aspalathox has the best combination of active compounds present in Rooibos covering the widest spectrum of potential health benefits.

A single aspalathox tablet contains 175 mg aspalathox, providing roughly 656 ORAC units, or about 13 to 21 percent of our daily antioxidant requirement (depending on whether 3000 or 5000 ORAC units is selected as the daily requirement). It is already established that a diversity of antioxidants is more beneficial that a single anioxidant, so Rooisbos Forte is a cost effective addition to our daily intake of antioxidant foods and supplements.

Concentrated antioxidants from natural organic rooibos

Polyphenols are common in plants where they act as pigments against the sun, as insect attractants and repellants, and as antimicrobials and antioxidants. Polyphenols include flavonoids and phenolic acids. Polyphenols can small single molecule units (monomeric) or larger multi-unit molecules (polymeric).

The polyphenol antioxidants found in rooibos tea include the monomeric flavonoids aspalathin, nothofagin, quercetin, rutin, isoquercitrin, orientin, isoorientin, luteolin, vitexin, isovitexin, and chrysoeriol (Erickson, 2003).
  • Quercetin and luteolin, are potent antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables. Both luteolin and quercetin have anti-cancer properties.
  • Aspalathin is a strong antioxidant.
  • Orientin and rutin have been associated with health benefits. Orientin is a potent free radical scavenger that reduces  cancer-associated cellular changes.


Currently, rooibos is the only known natural source of aspalathin. Rooibos also contains phenolic acids with antioxidant activity. Flavonoids and phenolic acids are polyphenol substances that are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The phenolic acids identified in rooibos tea, include caffeic acid, protocatechuic acid, syringic acid, ferulic acid, vanillic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, and p-coumaric acid. Caffeic acid is an antioxidant as potent as the flavonoids  quercetin, isoquercitrin, and aspalathin. The total polyphenol content of an average 150 to 200 ml serving of rooibos tea can be as much as 60 to 80 mg, depending on factors such as the brewing time and amount of leaves used (Erickson, 2003).

Health benefits of rooibos

Numerous beneficial effects have been attributed to rooibos tea. It is reputed to have anti-spasmodic and anti-allergic effects, ascribed to quercetin and other flavonoids in Rooibos.Flavonoids are used traditionally to treat capillary and venous disorders and various skin and circulatory disorders. Foods rich in flavonoids significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Flavonoids are often anti-inflammatory and some flavonoids protect the liver, decrease blood cholesterol or act as diuretic, antibacterial and antiviral substances. Others flavonoids are known to improve memory and to counteract anxiety. As an antioxidant, rooibos can play a role in preventing cancer, cardio-vascular diseases and ageing. Japanese scientists are researching the pharmacological activities of Rooibos, to establish scientifically the many reported traditional benefits of rooibos. A Japanese scientist, Matatoshi Nakano, has discovered that Red Bush Tea (Rooibos) antioxidants reduce the adverse effect of free radicals in the process of aging and decline of the immune system. Rooibos has  calming effect on babies. It is now widely used for infants who are prone to colic.Western medical practitioners often recommend Rooibos for pregnant mothers, colic babies and children allergic to milk (Wesgro, 2000).

Side effects or interactions?

Rooibos has not been fully studied scientifically in humans,so there is sparse information available about its safety in pregnancy or lactation or in people with kidney or liver failure. However, it is generally considered a very safe herb, and there are no known side effects, contraindications, or drug interactions. It has a long history of use by humans (ref).

Antimutagenic properties

Cancer development is a multi-step process.

In vitro:
Biological  or chemical work done in the test tube (in vitro is Latin  for "in glass") rather than in living systems.

In vivo:
In the body, in a living organism.

Damage cellular DNA is likely to be a major cause of cancer and other chronic diseases.  Both rooibos and honeybush teas have been shown, to prevent DNA damage (PROMEC  Unit ). Both herbal teas possess protective properties against  chemical-induced mutagenicity (in vitro as well as in vivo).  Drug detoxifying enzyme activity (glutathione-S transferase (GST-alpha)  and UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UDP-GT)), were significantly induced in the  liver of rats that consumed the herbal teas at concentrations (2% for rooibos  and 4% for honeybush).

According to PROMEC, several mechanisms are possibly involved:

  1. The detoxifying enzyme, GST-alpha,  catalyses the reaction between glutathione (GSH) and a variety of electrophillic compounds  (e.g. chemical carcinogens), thus mediating a protective effect against carcinogenesis  or mutagenesis. The ratio of reduced (GSH) and oxidised (GSSG) glutathione  in the livers of rats consuming the two herbal teas were 5-6 fold higher.  Reduced glutathione is a powerful intracellular antioxidant and the ratio  of reduced to oxidised glutathione serves as a marker of the antioxidative  capacity of the cell. The increased ratio may be indicative of a reduced oxidative  stress in the liver as compared to control rats drinking water;
  2. The increased  glucuronidation capacity of the liver also contributes to the deactivation  of mutagens/metabolites that may serve as precursors for the ultimate carcinogen  and
  3. The presence of tea phenols in the liver cytosol may also interfere  with the metabolic activation of carcinogens, thus contributing to the protective  effect.

Roobos and ORAC scores


ORAC Score

Grams Needed to
Reach DRI

 Dark Chocolate



 Milk Chocolate



 Rooibos tea (200ml)



Effect of brewing method on antioxidant activity of rooibos tea

 C. FAJARDO-LIRA, Dept. of Family Consumer Sciences, California State  Univ., Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St., 200-D Sequoia Hall, Northridge,  CA 91330-8308 and J. Wiederhold, Dept. of Family Consumer Sciences,  California State Univ. Northridge, 18111 Nordoff St., 200-D Sequoia  Hall, Northridge, CA 91330-8308.

 Dietary antioxidants may have a strong effect in the reduction of tissue damage and diseases related to oxidation processes. There is a growing  body of research examining the antioxidant content of various teas. Aspalathus linearis, a South African shrub, is used to make a beverage known as rooibos tea. Rooibos tea is growing in popularity as an antioxidant rich caffeine  free alternative to green tea and black tea. Previous research has  indicated that the antioxidant activity of rooibos tea may be affected  by the brewing method but the results have not been conclusive. Our  objective was to determine the antioxidant activity of samples of  fermented rooibos tea prepared by two different brewing methods using a  modified Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) assay. Tea leaves of  fermented rooibos were used to prepare the tea by either steeping for  five minutes or boiling with water for ten minutes. Tea leaves in an  amount of 2.5 g were used per 100 ml of water. The ORAC value for the  brewed tea samples was determined by using a modification of the method  described by Cao and Prior (1999). ORAC values varied from a mean of  725.16 TE ÁM/g for tea prepared by the steeping method to a mean of  1114.55 TE ÁM/g for tea prepared by the boiling method. ANOVA analysis  revealed a significant difference (P< 0.01) between the rooibos tea  prepared by steeping for five minutes and the tea prepared by the  boiling method. The ORAC assay was an effective tool to measure  antioxidant activity in rooibos tea. Results indicate that tea prepared  by boiling for ten minutes had significantly higher antioxidant content  than tea prepared by steeping for five minutes. These results suggest  that selection of a brewing method may be an important factor for  extraction of antioxidant compounds in rooibos tea.

Aspalathox contains 18 750 ORAC units per gram.


This information has not  been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These products  are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. (Refer to Disclaimer)
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