Aspalathus linearis – Rooibos

Family: Fabaceae

Common names

  • Rooibos
  • Redbush tea


Rooibos is a broom-like member of the Fabaceae family of plants growing in South Africa’s fynbos. The rooibos plant grows as tall as 1.5m in height and has thin branches carrying bright green, waxy, needle-like leaves, and small yellow flowers in spring.


Rooibos grows only in the mountainous Cederberg region of South Africa’s Western Cape, and nowhere else in the world.

Cultural value

Over 300 years ago, the local San – a nomadic tribe who roamed the Cederberg in search of food, water and shelter, and whose history is forever etched in rock art found in the area’s many caves – were the first to discover the delicious, healing tea made from the rooibos plant. They cut the plant’s fine, needle-like leaves, bruised them with wooden mallets and left to dry in the sun. When cut and fermented, the leaves of the Rooibos plant turn a rich orangey-red colour, and it is this distinctive colour which led to the Afrikaans name ‘rooibos’, meaning ‘red bush’.

Red rooibos tea has no oxalic acid and therefore, it can be consumed by people who have kidney stones. Rooibos tea is rich in many mineral contents such as iron, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid. It also contains antioxidants like aspalathin and nothofagin, and the extremely potent and versatile phenolic compounds.

The alpha hydroxy acid and zinc content of red tea are very good for the skin. You can also try applying some red tea powder directly to the skin to relieve acne, pimples, sunburns or related skin conditions. Alpha-hydroxy acids are not found naturally from too many sources, but in terms of cosmetic products, it has become very popular, particularly because it can reduce the signs of wrinkles and other premature aging symptoms. Also, they are commonly found in chemical peels, which revitalize the skin and leave it fresh and invigorated with a healthy glow.

Growing Rooibos

It grows only in the ruggedly beautiful Cederberg coastal mountains of South Africa, a protected World Heritage site some 200km north of Cape Town. It flourishes here because of the unique combination of climate and the specific PH balance of the region’s well-drained, sandy soil — all attempts to grow it beyond the magnificent Cederberg have failed.

Contrary to popular belief, Rooibos is not a herb, but rather part of the indigenous Fynbos family.