Rooibos tea: paleo or poison?

by 15324 · April 25, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Following on from the discussion of things it's safe to drink a lot of what do people think about rooibos (red) tea?

I used to drink a lot of it, typically brewed the traditional way, i.e. as strong as it can possibly be. Being full of antioxidants, phytochemicals, phenols etc, I naturally assumed this was healthy, especially since it lacked caffeine and was low in tannins. However, through the lens of paleo, I'm reconsidering whether this is likely to be a good idea. Presumably in a natural setting we wouldn't have had access to large amounts of various of these plant compounds (unless you assume we were just eating lots of vegetation generally). If we apply the 'plant compounds are probably there to keep predators away' reasoning, then the presence of lots of bioactive chemicals in rooibos doesn't look a good thing at all. Nevertheless, simply looking at the broad category of plant polyphenols, there do seem to be a lot of positive effects to be had.

Of course these are all generalities. There is some research done on the actual effects of rooibos' compounds, but what are people's general intuitions about the healthiness of rooibos (or other such teas)?

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14 Replies

1745 · March 11, 2010 at 04:49 PM

Maybe you should ask this as a question about polyphenols in general. I tend to think along the lines of Stephen: (not using the quote feature to preserve the links)

As a little side note, polyphenols are those wonderful plant antioxidants that are one of the main justifications for the supposed health benefits of vegetables, tea, chocolate, fruits and antioxidant supplements. The problem is, many of them are actually anti-nutrients. They reduce mineral absorption, reduce growth and feed efficiency in a number of species, and the antioxidant effect seen in human plasma after eating them is due largely to our own bodies secreting uric acid into the blood (a defense mechanism?), rather than the polyphenols themselves. The main antioxidants in plasma are uric acid, vitamin C and vitamin E, with almost no direct contribution from polyphenols. I'm open to the idea that some polyphenols could be beneficial if someone can show me convincing data, but in any case they are not the panacea they're made out to be.

(End Quote)

If you were told there is a compound that the body works to get rid of and triggers increased productions of anti-oxidants, the natural conclusion would be to assume the body recognizes it as harmful and that you shouldn't take it. Instead we are all being tricked to think they are directly preventing oxidation in our body.

I too am trying to remain open-minded that polyphenols could be beneficial, but I just don't like how we are all being tricked on a main point. I drink tea for the moderate levels of caffeine, not because I expect it to make me healthy. Tea consumption has a long history in traditional cultures, so I doubt it could be very harmful.

Update: there are claims that there is strong evidence that fruit and vegetables are great for health and by association polyphenols. Don at Primal Wisdom does a good job showing how weak this evidence is.

214 · October 19, 2011 at 03:04 PM

I've been drinking Rooibos almost daily for about a year. I never have anything caffeinated anymore, and Rooibos was a great tea substitute for me.

I haven't noticed any adverse affects, however it does have a slight calming effect leading me to believe that it is doing something with my brain-chem/hormones (no claims here). I have had cravings for it at times, but that could just be the good feeling associated with having a hot beverage in a cold place. Either way, I limit it to one cup a day at most and never seem to suffer from it.

Great question btw, interesting responses too.

20 · July 16, 2011 at 11:36 AM

I am sensitive to caffeine and so I started drinking Rooibos but I found it had a toxic effect on me very similar to caffeine. Sleeplessness and anxiety. There is no doubt about it, I monitored everything carefully. It was the rooibos tea that caused this. I don't know all the chemicals in it and the tea bags but I cannot use it anymore and I would never recommend it. Sad but true as I thought I'd found a tea I could use.

20 · March 12, 2010 at 08:22 AM
1220 · March 11, 2010 at 03:15 PM

Agree that you should proceed with a bit of caution since rooibos isn't as widely used as, say, green tea, with the result that there could be lurking unknowns. That said, right now, there are only positive results. I drink it occasionally for that reason and because I like it. It seems to sooth my stomach a bit too.

10 · September 20, 2012 at 02:02 AM

The Rooibos tea have the yin/yan, like other herbal products: (I write about the yin)

The Many Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea: The herbal tea made from rooibos has been a popular drink in Southern Africa for generations. The plant, Aspalathus linearis, is grown only in a small area in the Western Cape province of South Africa, but during recent years rooibos has become popular in other parts of the world as well.

Though not technically a tea, the infusion made from oxidised rooibos leaves is commonly referred to as rooibos tea. Traditionally, it is enjoyed hot with a slice of lemon and sugar or honey, but iced tea versions and even a rooibos espresso made from concentrated rooibos are apparently gaining popularity.

The antioxidant activity of rooibos tea Like regular tea, rooibos tea contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants. While the most beneficial flavonoids of green tea are catechins such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the main flavonoids in rooibos tea are aspalathin and nothofagin. One in vitro study found that aspalathin is even more effective at scavenging free radicals than EGCG – a rather surprising result, given that just about everyone knows about antioxidants in green tea but not in rooibos tea. All in all, green tea still seems to beat rooibos tea in antioxidant activity, however

The cardiovascular benefits of rooibos tea Due to their effects on vasodilation and vasoconstriction, angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and nitric oxide (NO) are used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure and heart failure. In one study, the effect of green tea, black tea and rooibos tea on ACE and NO was compared in healthy human volunteers. None of the three had a marked effect on NO concentration, but both green tea and rooibos tea inhibited ACE activity, suggesting that they have cardiovascular benefits.

Rooibos tea for liver disease and respiratory problems Rooibos tea also has therapeutic potential for respiratory ailments. According to a study on rats, in addition to lowering blood pressure, rooibos tea is both a bronchodilator and an antispasmodic.

Rooibos extract fights HIV Rooibos tea extract seems to be helpful in antigen-specific antibody production by increasing interleukin-2 (IL-2) production in vitro and in vivo. According to the authors, rooibos tea intake "may be of value in prophylaxis of the diseases involving a severe defect in Th1 immune response such as cancer, allergy, AIDS, and other infections."

Rooibos tea, lipid peroxidation and brain aging The uncontrolled oxidation of lipids, which can happen during cooking or inside the body, leads to the formation of advanced lipid peroxidation end-products (ALEs). The accumulation of such products is one of the types of damage that occurs with aging. Lipid peroxides also accumulate in the brain. Rooibos tea may help prevent this damage, however. Rats given rooibos tea instead of water accumulate significantly less aging damage in the brain than rats given water. In fact, the 24-month old rats given rooibos tea for most of their lives had brains similar to young 5-week-old rats. This is quite a remarkable result.


The health benefits of rooibos tea seem to be mostly due to the flavonoids aspalathin and nothofagin, although other compounds in rooibos may also play a part. Here's a summary of the benefits:

  • Acts as an antioxidant and increases SOD levels
  • Prevents DNA damage
  • Cardiovascular protection through ACE inhibition
  • Suppresses fasting glucose levels
  • Improves glucose uptake and insulin secretion after a meal
  • Aids in liver tissue regeneration
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Acts as a bronchodilator and antispasmodic
  • Inhibits lipid peroxidation and brain aging
  • Rooibos extract improves immune defects such as HIV

I drink tea for light levels of caffeine, but i prefer the Green Tea :-).


276 · September 20, 2012 at 01:20 AM

Really interesting thread!

20 · June 15, 2011 at 07:24 AM

Rooibos is not that new...According to Wiki, 'In 1772, Swedish naturalist Carl Thunberg noted that "the country people made tea" from a plant related to rooibos or redbush.'

Also according to Wiki, 'Rooibos is becoming more popular in Western countries, particularly among health-conscious consumers, due to its high level of antioxidants such as aspalathin[3] and nothofagin, its lack of caffeine, and its low tannin levels compared to fully oxidized black tea or unoxidized green tea leaves.[4] Rooibos also contains a number of phenolic compounds, including flavanols, flavones, flavanones, and dihydrochalcones.[5]

Rooibos is purported to assist with nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems.[6]

Traditional medicinal uses of rooibos in South Africa include alleviating infantile colic, allergies, asthma and dermatological problems'.

Be that as it may, I am no expert, but as a replacement for diet sodas and a severe coffee habit, I find it excellent with no side-effects.

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60 · April 25, 2014 at 12:21 PM

Rooibos teas are herbal plant that's dried and brewed like tea, and has no caffeine. If you are following Auto Immune Plan caffeine is no allowed or will be not good. Rooibos teas are a replacement option for caffeine. You can get rooibos in different flavors.

15 · April 25, 2014 at 01:42 AM

Like Mickey 1, I too, have a bad reaction to both caffeine and rooibos. I started drinking rooibos in the hopes that it could replace black tea (which I love, but which doesn't love me!), but the rooibos gives me anxiety and causes me to belch (which is the first sign of systemic problems for me).

I'm sure many people can drink it with no problem. I'm just not one of them.

0 · April 22, 2014 at 06:14 PM

It Could be the Stevia in the Yogi Tea that's causing the side effect. I'm sensitive to Stevia and can not consume it at all. Do you use Stevia sweetener at all?

45 · January 15, 2014 at 02:54 PM

There's a spectrum. It's not "paleo" or "poison." For tea, I would say maybe paleo (depending on the type) and probably benign.

0 · January 15, 2014 at 11:42 AM

It was yogi. Honey lavender stress relief. Helps to calm and ease tension. Supposedly all organic. Rooibus leaf, chamomile,lemon balm, department,lemongrass,lavender,peppermint,lemon myrtle leaf, sage,passionflower, stevia

0 · January 15, 2014 at 02:35 AM

I drank a "stress relief" tea last night and experience bad side effects from it. ( weakness in arms and legs, extreme fatigue, redness of eyes, migraine) has anyone else experienced this?

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