Herb: Rooibos

Latin name: Aspalathus linearis

Synonyms: Aspalathus contaminatus, Borbonia pinifolia

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Rooibos:

Rooibos was traditionally used by the Bushmen and Hottentots of South Africa and is becoming increasingly popular in the West as a pleasant tasting tea that also has health benefits. A tea made from the leaves and stems of rooibos is generally beneficial to the digestive system and relaxes spasms, it has been used in the treatment of vomiting, diarrhoea and other mild gastric complaints. It has also been shown to be of benefit when used internally and externally in the treatment of a wide range of allergies especially milk allergy, eczema, hay fever and asthma in infants.

Description of the plant:


2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

July to

Habitat of the herb:

Sandy hills and on the sides of mountains. Well-drained, sandy but moisture-retaining, non-acidic soils.

Edible parts of Rooibos:

A tea made from the dried fermented leaves tastes similar to oriental tea made from Camellia sinensis. It is less astringent, however, due to the lower tannin content. It is caffeine-free, but has a higher content of fluoride which might help to protect against tooth decay. Recent research has shown that this tea contains a substance similar to superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant compound that is thought to retard the ageing process. The leaves and stems are harvested in the summer, fermented and sun dried for later use. The leaves are sometimes used as a flavouring in foods and in baking.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow late spring in a greenhouse covering the seed with about 10mm of soil. It will probably be beneficial to pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water prior to sowing. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained sandy soil as soon as they are large enough to handle. Grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter and plant them out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. It will probably be wise to give the plants protection from the cold and from excessive rain for at least their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood in a closed frame in early summer.

Cultivation of Rooibos:

Sandy hills and on the sides of mountains. Well-drained, sandy but moisture-retaining, non-acidic soils.

Known hazards of Aspalathus linearis:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.