Rooibos Tea: If You Haven't Tried It, a Dietitian Explains Why You Should

There are wellness fads you find all over social media, like the latest in at-home workouts and the ever-popular oat milk; then there are those you hear about from your crunchy granola college roommate via text when you ask how she's been. I can imagine that rooibos tea would fall under the second category.

It's not as well-known as matcha, something you've seen online as one of recent years' biggest health trends. Rooibos was barely imported to the US before 2000, according to Slate. Snapple introduced a rooibos tea in 2007, and Starbucks locations worldwide once sold vanilla rooibos lattes, but now you can most likely find varieties in stores and cafes near you. The health and beauty communities tout it for its anti-inflammatory and skin-clearing properties, respectively, and there are other benefits we'll get into later. (Oh, and it has a cool name.)

What Is Rooibos Tea?

Rooibos tea, pronounced "roy-boss," comes from the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis, or rooibos plant, native to South Africa. It's green in color, but once fermented in the sun, it turns red (this video shows the process). Generally, this herbal tea has zero calories, fat, and sugar. It's also caffeine-free. Registered dietitian Brittany L. Jones, MS, RD, of Blush Nutrition is an avid rooibos tea drinker and told POPSUGAR that it tastes more mild than black tea and less earthy than green tea. "It definitely has an herbal and almost honey-like taste, and does not get bitter if you let it steep too long," she described. "Because of this you don't have to add any sweetness to it, and it is very tasty by itself without any added sugar." She brews one teaspoon of loose leaf tea with eight ounces of boiling water for five to six minutes, and she has plans to make iced rooibos tea as the temperature gets warmer.

What Are the Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea?

Rooibos tea made Time's 50 Healthiest Foods of All Time list. Small studies suggest possible benefits for heart health and even cancer, but nothing is proven. Rooibos is, however, known to be rich in antioxidants, which are beneficial for our health because they can prevent or delay cell damage done by free radicals in the body (read more about this here). Brittany said, compared to green tea, it has slightly lower levels.

Aspalathin and nothofagin, two chemical compounds found in rooibos tea, reportedly promote clear skin and help fight acne, and they possess anti-inflammatory properties as well. Brittany added that rooibos contains minerals like iron and calcium that are "lacking in the traditional American diet." Rooibos tea has very low oxalate levels, too. "Oxalates can increase your risk of kidney stones, which are commonly associated with higher consumption of black tea and traditional iced teas," she explained.

Brittany recommends speaking with your doctor about the amount of rooibos tea you can consume per day as a precautionary measure, to make sure it won't interact with any medications you're taking or medical conditions you may have. "After talking with your doctor, rooibos is a tea that can be consumed more than once per day for antioxidant benefits," she said. "It's a healthy alternative for those looking to cut back their caffeine consumption, or those looking for a refreshing alternative to an alcoholic drink with dinner."

Where to Buy Rooibos Tea

If you're interested in buying rooibos tea, it's not very hard to find. There are fermented red and unfermented green options on Amazon from Teavana, Celestial Seasonings, and other popular tea brands. A variety can be found at Whole Foods and David's Tea, and you can also purchase fun iced rooibos drinks like BOS online. As Brittany told us, it's nice to change up the tea you drink, so perhaps this one is next on your list.