Many people wonder what the difference is between honeybush and rooibos tea. While the two teas look similar, there are plenty of distinctions.
In this article, we’ll highlight the similarities and differences between the two in terms of how they taste, and how they affect your health.
What Are Honeybush & Rooibos?
Honeybush and rooibos are both natural, caffeine-free teas indigenous to South Africa. Both teas are low in tannins—a chemical compound found in many teas, wines, coffee, and chocolates, it belongs to a larger group of compounds called polyphenols.
Tannins have a bitter, astringent flavor, and because these teas have low tannin levels, they can steep for a long time without becoming bitter. Both honeybush and rooibos are also rich in antioxidants.
Honeybush, or Cyclopia intermedia, is an herb plant with woody stems and a low ratio of leaves to branches, which is found only in the Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa.
The plant’s leaves differ in shape and size but are typically thin and broad. Honeybush leaves oxidize after being cut, which alters their flavor. The leaves become a deep, brown color and produce a sweet woodsy flavor with dark fruit notes.
During the flowering season, the bush yields clusters of yellow flowers with the distinctive smell of honey, thus the name.
Check out our full article about honeybush tea.
Rooibos, or Aspalathus linearis, is a shrub-like plant grown only in the Western Cape province. The bush has a central stem from which offshoots of branches grow, each carrying needle-like leaves.
The rooibos plant can grow up to 2 meters high in its natural state but is typically cut when it reaches between 0.5-1.5 meters high.
The rooibos bush leaves are either cut and oxidized to produce red rooibos or left un-oxidized to create green rooibos.
Differences In Taste Between The Two
Both honeybush and rooibos are delicious caffeine-free teas with slightly sweet undertones.
Honeybush tea tastes similarly to how it looks: a sweet, full-body tea with undertones of wood and honey. The tea is pink in color and has a pleasant flavor.
Rooibos, on the other hand, has an earthier, slightly nutty flavor. Because green rooibos does not oxidize, it tends to have a fresher, greener, almost citrus taste. For some, red rooibos may taste slightly medicinal.
Health Benefits Of Honeybush
Honeybush tea contains trace amounts of several minerals, including iron, potassium, calcium, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and sodium. But what are some of its health benefits?
Source of Antioxidants
Since the beginning of the 19th century, honeybush has been revered for its high antioxidant content—it contains one of the highest known antioxidant levels in the tea world!
Antioxidants protect the body against oxidative stress and are crucial in a healthy, disease-fighting diet. Honeybush contains the polyphenol antioxidants xanthones and flavanones.
Like other types of polyphenols, these antioxidants have been found to have potent anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiviral, and antimutagenic effects, protecting the body against the onset of serious diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and more.
Improves Skin Health
Drinking honeybush tea also proves to be beneficial for the skin. In addition to its antioxidants (that can prevent skin damage, fight inflammation, and combat signs of aging), its fermented leaves may also possess anti-aging properties.
A 2016 study found that honeybush’s fermented leaves and stems could protect the skin against damaging ultraviolet B rays, the UV radiation that most commonly causes skin cancer.
Prevents Heart Disease
Honeybush’s polyphenol content may also be beneficial for heart health and preventing heart disease. Numerous studies have shown promising results linking an increased intake of polyphenols to a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease.
One reason for this is that they reduce oxidative stress and, for the heart, keep blood platelets from clumping. Polyphenols also inhibit LDL cholesterol while boosting HDL cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol, known as “bad cholesterol,” builds up in the arteries, increasing one’s risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks. HDL, known as “good cholesterol,” helps rid the body of excess cholesterol, preventing it from building up in your arteries.
Type 2 diabetes (the most common type of diabetes) is a metabolic disease that affects how your body uses insulin.
Several studies have shown that honeybush could help prevent, manage, and treat type 2 diabetes. One component of this could be pinitol, an anti-diabetic agent found in the plant.
The polyphenols in honeybush tea may also help reduce one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
One study found dietary polyphenols beneficial in managing and preventing type 2 diabetes, partly by their ability to control dietary starches’ breakdown into simple sugars that raise blood sugar.
Health Benefits Of Rooibos
Like honeybush tea, rooibos contains high antioxidant levels that make it a beneficial tea for preventing free radical damage.
Rooibos tea is also a rare natural source of the antioxidant aspalathin, which shows strong anti-diabetic potential. Aspalathin can reduce insulin resistance and balance blood sugar levels for those who have or are at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Antioxidants in Green Rooibos
While honeybush may have the most antioxidants, green rooibos is not far behind, containing polyphenol flavonoids, rutin, orientin, quercetin, luteolin, and much more.
Because oxidation causes tea leaves to lose some of their antioxidants, green rooibos contains more antioxidants than red.
Due to its high antioxidant content, rooibos tea has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Inflammation in the body can lead to bloating, allergies, acne and skin irritation, headaches, poor digestion, arthritis, and is often the root cause of many diseases.
The antioxidant quercetin found in rooibos tea is known for fighting inflaming free-radical damage and oxidation.
Rooibos tea may be beneficial in preventing and treating cancer. Two of rooibos’ antioxidants: quercetin and luteolin, have been studied for their ability to kill cancer cells.
In labs, quercetin has decreased tumor growth and prevented metastasis or when cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
Another incredible benefit of rooibos tea comes from the potent antioxidant chrysoeriol.
This phytochemical does wonders for the heart. Chrysoeriol aids in blood circulation, prevents the narrowing and hardening of arteries, reduces blood pressure, and inhibits enzymes that contribute to cardiovascular disease.