Norman Shealy, MD, PhD, Guest
Green tea has had a great deal of PR in the last few years and even regular black tea has some strong evidence for a positive effects on health. But Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) or Red tea has the best evidence of all–no caffeine, no calories, significant antioxidants, vitamin C, some minerals, etc. With 50% more antioxidants than green tea and a much superior taste, it has even been called ”The Tao of Tea.”
One of the most exciting studies of Red tea demonstrated suppression of age-related accumulation of lipid peroxides in the brain of rats. Indeed, brains of 24 month old rats had virtually the same appearance as the brains of 3 month old rats! (Neurosci Lett, 1995, 18; 85-88). Rooibos tea has also been reported to reduce nervousness, allergies and even colic in babies (J. Agric Food Chem, 2002, 50: 5513-5519). In tissue culture studies of HIV infected cells, Rooibos suppressed the cytopathological changes (Leukemia, 1997, April 11 Suppl 3:128-130). Rooibos has even suppressed the oxidative damage induced by radiation (Mutat Res, 1996, 350: 153-161). Even more exciting is the effect of Rooibus tea in facilitating antigen-specific production of Il-2 generation, of potential benefit in cancer, AIDS, allergies and infections (Biosci Biotechnol Biochem, 2001, 65: 2137-2145). Interestingly, Rooibos tea does not increase absorption of iron, as does regular tea (S Afr Med J, 1979, 53: 631-632).
The polyphenol antioxidants in Rooibos include aspalathin (found only in Rooibos), nothofagin, quercetin, rutin, isoquercitrin, orientin, isorien, virexn, isovitexin, and chrysoeritol. Up to 80 mg of polyphenols may be obtained in one serving of Rooibos (herbalgram.org, issue 59, page 34-55). These polyphenols in Rooibos have been demonstrated to prevent peroxyl DNA radical strand scission (Biofactors, 2004, 21: 285-292). And Rooibos tea has liver protective benefits, leading to suggested use in patients with hepatopathology (Physiol Res, 2003, 52: 461-466).
Now why do I give all this support for Rooibos? The answer is simple. A huge majority of Americans do not drink adequate water. They drink gallons of junk ”pop”, great amounts of coffee containing caffeine, and high carbohydrate ”athletic” drinks which have minimal benefit. I strongly urge those who do not like to drink water to make themselves a quart or two of Rooibos tea daily. Add a little mint if you want to add some extra zip to the mild taste. As of this moment I know of no better antioxidant drink! I predict some smart company will begin selling it at 25+ times the cost of making your own.
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