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Rooibos (Afrikaans for 'red bush'; scientific name Aspalathus Linearis) is a member of the legume family of plants, and is commonly used to make an infusion in the same manner as tea. It belongs to the Aspalathus plant group, which consists of more than 200 species originating in the Cedarberg mountains of South Africa.

The leaves of the bush are harvested, bruised, and left in the sun to oxidise, after which they acquire their red colour. The resulting product is then boiled or steeped like tea to make a beverage that is enjoyed both hot and cold.

Rooibos has also found its way into health and beauty products, and was used extensively by the ancient San (Bushmen) of the region. It is free of caffeine, contains Aspalathin, a flavonoid present in medicinal herbs used to treat skin and circulatory disorders. It is low in tannin, which inhibits absorption of minerals, and is often used during breastfeeding to supplement iron levels, and contains traces of fluoride, calcium and manganese

Japanese reseach into the effects of Oligosaccharides, also found in Rooibos, indicates that these compounds may aid the immune system fight viral infections.

Rooibos is rich in Super Oxide Dismutase (S.O.D.), a powerful antioxidant

Other purported benefits include:

Research done by a major South African university in the 90's showed that it can have a damaging effect on the (lining of the?) gut of infants under two years. This was communicated to me by a researcher at that university along with the fact that needing funding, the university sold the research data to one of the Rooibos tea manufacturers and subsequently it has never been published. This is unfortunate since it is used quite a bit to help "settle" babies.

A definite effect on the gut can be evidenced in adults if drunk in excess (6 cups or more per day, in my case) as you will find yourself with mild to moderate gut pain if you do.