There seems to be a coffee shop on almost every corner these days. That may be one of the reasons insomnia is on the rise. And since caffeine contributes to a number of other lifestyle conditions and illnesses, this might be a good time to try something else.
The problem is that it can be very difficult to find a good coffee substitute. Herbal teas are great, but many coffee drinkers dismiss them as pale and weak. But wait! Some herbal teas are dark and strong.
Rooibos Tea is a Good Coffee Substitute
One in particular is rooibos leaf tea (pronounced “roy-bus”), a dark, mahogany red tea with a good, strong flavor. It is not technically a tea, but rather the oxidized leaves of the flowering rooibos shrub (a member of the legume family).
The rooibos plant grows in the Cederberg Mountains in the Western Cape province of South Africa, and nowhere else in the world (because it needs a very specific climate and soil). Rooibos is the Afrikaans word for “red bush.” The scientific name of the plant is “aspalathus linearis.”
Rooibos bushes stand about 3 to 6 feet high and have green needle-like leaves and small yellow flowers. When the leaves are harvested, they are cut and ground into small pieces, sprayed with water, and then left to dry in the sun. During the process, the green leaves turn reddish brown, which gives the tea its color.
Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea
Naturally caffeine-free rooibos tea (also known as “red tea” or “red bush tea”) is loaded with powerful protective antioxidants, suggesting that it may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer and possibly slow the overall aging process.
The rooibos plant is the only known natural source of one of its antioxidants – a flavonoid called aspalathin – which reduces the output of adrenal hormones, thereby reducing stress. In fact, aspalathin is so powerful it is being researched as a cancer preventative and as an agent to stop tumors from spreading.
The tea is believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-spasmodic, and immune-modulating properties. Traditionally, it has been used to treat digestive problems, allergies, asthma, infant colic, headaches, dermatological problems, and nervous tension. The tea has low tannin levels (about 1/10th the content of other teas) and no oxalic acid, which makes it one of the best beverages to drink to prevent kidney stones.
Enjoy the Rich Flavor and Fine Aroma of Rooibos Tea
So visit your local health food store or buy online, and then curl up with a hot cup of this rich mellow tea. And be sure to ask for it the next time you drop by your favorite coffee shop, where they may have it already.
You will find rooibos tea to be a little sweet, fruity, and nutty, with a nice aroma that includes a slight whiff of tobacco – good high-quality pipe tobacco, that is – which may be helpful for people who are trying to stop smoking, too. The drink also tastes great (and looks great) as an iced tea.
But first, as with consuming any herbal product and making any changes in your diet, be sure to consult with your health care provider. Rooibos tea may interact with certain types of chemotherapy drugs. Also, some compounds in the rooibos plant are known to have estrogenic activity, so use this tea cautiously if you have a hormone-sensitive cancer (such as breast, ovary, uterus, or prostate).
Transition to a Caffeine-Free Coffee Substitute Slowly
By the way, don’t stop drinking coffee all at once. Instead, reduce your caffeine intake slowly. If you currently drink 3 cups of coffee a day, cut down to 2½ cups per day for one week; then 2 cups for one week; then 1½ cups; 1 cup; and finally ½ cup for the last week. Also, don’t forget that cola drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate all contain caffeine, too, so be sure to read labels.