Variable shrub growing to 61⁄2 ft (2 m) in height, with green, needle-like leaves, yellow, pea-like flowers, and small seed pods.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to southern South Africa, rooibos is now widely cultivated as a commercial crop, particularly in the Cedarberg mountain area. The seed is hard to germinate and must first be scarified. The young leaves are harvested once a year, chopped, and left to “sweat” or ferment before being dried.
Rooibos contains polyphenols, including flavonoids, with a low tannin content.
History & Folklore
Rooibos was first used as an appetizing tea by the Khoisan people, indigenous to the Cedarberg region, but also as a sleep aid and for headaches.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Drunk mostly as a pleasant tasting, caffeine-free drink, rooibos, like green tea, has significant antioxidant activity. There is evidence to suggest that the fermented leaves exert a protective effect on the heart and circulation. In view of the herb’s traditional use, it might also prove helpful as a nighttime drink to promote sound sleep.