A warm cup of tea can do more than just help combat the cold weather chills. Certain herbal brews also have health benefits that support your body when you’re fighting off a sickness, and rooibos tea is certainly among them.
Rooibos tea, also known as red rooibos tea, is touted for its mild, sweet flavor and distinctive red hue. This popular hot tea, prepared so similarly to the black and green teas made from the leaves of Camellia sinensus, is derived from the leaves of the South African shrub Aspalathus linearis. The common name rooibos (ROY-boss) comes from “red bush” in the Afrikaans language.
Many South Africans sip on rooibos tea as a go-to remedy for cold and flu symptoms- one third of them, according to a national survey conducted by a leading health firm. When a cold begins to rear its head, the South African’s initial line of defense will include rest and vitamin C, and a hot cup of rooibos tea, with lemon, honey, ginger or a combination of all three. (Scroll below for a recipe.)
Nobody can deny the comfort of sipping a tasty warm beverage when the body is feeling beat. But does rooibos tea really help to combat the common cold and flu? Read on to find out.
Research points to powerful antiviral, antioxidant and immunomodulating properties of rooibos – each of which help to enhance the body’s natural systems of defense against illness.
Rooibos tea is loaded full of polyphenols. Polyphenols are micronutrients with the antioxidant power to search out and destroy free radicals within the body. Free radicals are harmful byproducts of cellular function, and they are responsible for causing many ailments within the body, including increasing our susceptibility to the cold and the common flu. Two very important and powerful antioxidants found in rooibos tea are aspalathin and nothafagin. These compounds, the subject of much research, are the primary reasons rooibos tea is a great option for boosting immunity while protecting your DNA and nervous system from damage.
Another reason rooibos is a great option when you suspect illness (or when you are already sick) is the fact that it is naturally decaffeinated. Ensuring that you are well-hydrated with caffeine-free liquids is the best option when you are sick. Staying hydrated is important to keeping your immune system as strong as it can be. Plus, if you have a sore throat or body aches, hydration can help to reduce irritation and keep your sore throat moist.
If that isn’t enough reason to put the kettle on, rooibos also has a calming effect on the body, which can help to reduce tension and encourage better sleep. Everybody - from Boston, MA to Clanwilliam, SA- knows how important adequate rest and sleep is for getting over an illness.
Traditional South African Cold-Fighting Rooibos Tea Recipe
Try this traditional tea recipe to help boost your immunity and soothe symptoms during cold and flu season.
1-3 tsp red rooibos tea
½ to 1 tsp of fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon
1 tsp honey
Begin by boiling water. Measure 1 tsp rooibos for each 8 ounces in your teapot (or mug), and chopped fresh ginger. Pour boiling water over rooibos leaves and ginger root. Allow your tea to steep for 5 to 6 minutes. Strain, serve in a cup or mug, stir in the remaining honey and lemon, and enjoy!
If you are craving an extra boost of circulation for your stuffy or chilly cold symptoms, you might consider adding a pinch of cayenne pepper. Not only does cayenne’s blood-moving kick have beneficial cold-fighting properties, but cayenne is also a natural pain reliever. A small dose of this powerful herb, balanced with a soothing sweet rooibos tea, might help further ease your sore throat and other cold and flu symptoms.
For a painful sore throat, you can also make your rooibos tea ahead of time and chill it in the fridge, or turn it into ice chips.
Don’t skimp on the lemon and honey!