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Botanical Name : Aspalathus linearis
Synonyms: Aspalathus contaminatus – auct. Borbonia pinifolia – Marloth.
Common names : rooibos tea ( Eng. ), rooibostee, bossietee (Afr.)
Habitat : Aspalathus linearis is naturally distributed in the winter rainfall area from about Vanrhynsdorp in the north to the Cape Peninsula and the Betty’s Bay area in the south. The area experiences cold wet winters and hot dry summers with about 300-350 mm of rain per annum. Rooibos tea is made from selected forms of the species found mainly on the Cederberg Mountains. It is cultivated on sandy soils in the valleys of the Olifants, Breede and Hex Rivers (Dahlgren 1988).
Derivation of name and historical aspects :
The genus name Aspalathus is derived from the Greek aspalathos, which was the name of a scented bush that grew in Greece. The epithet linearis is derived from the Latin word for linear, which in this case refers to the shape of the leaves.
Aspalathus linearis is an erect to spreading, highly variable shrub or shrublet up to 2 m high. Its young branches are often reddish. The leaves are green and needle-like, 15-60 mm long and up to about 1 mm thick. They are without stalks and stipules and may be densely clustered. The yellow flowers, which appear in spring to early summer, are solitary or arranged in dense groups at the tips of branches. The fruit is a small lance-shaped pod usually containing one or two hard seeds.
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Although many of the plants in the genus Aspalanthus are attractive, they have apparently seldom been grown in gardens. This is thought to be due to the difficulty in propagation by seed or root cuttings and in providing the optimal growing conditions for the plants. In order to grow Aspalathus linearis successfully, seeds must first be scarified and then planted in acid, sandy soils.
There are commercial plants of rooibos at the Cape. According to Mr S de Beer of Lambertshoek farm, Clanwillian, seeds which are obtained from the local rooibos tea management board have been treated and germinate easily. They are planted in seedbeds in March to a depth of 5-10cm and are ready for planting out by July. Plants are generally rainfall dependent and the plants prefer not to be too wet. No fertilizing is required and the plants grow quite well in nutrient poor conditions. The most common pest is Loopers or “Landmeter wurmpies” (the larvae of the family Geometridae and of the order Lepidoptera)
Cultivation:Aspalathus Linearis grows in sandy hills and on the sides of mountains. Well-drained, sandy but moisture-retaining, non-acidic soils. Generally farmers plant seeds in February and March and then transfer the seedlings to plantations. It takes 12- 18 months before the shrubs are ready to be harvested. The plants are harvested once each year, from December through April. They are harvested up to period of five years and then pulled out and new plants are planted.
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
The basic method of rooibos harvesting has remained largely the same as the process used centuries ago. An environmentally friendly way of harvesting tea is used that involves cutting only the young branches. Once they are cut, they are neatly bound and transported to the process yards. The older branches are left on the tree and the bushes get slightly taller every year. The tea cuttings are chopped very fine and then bruised to ensure that the important chemical reaction which develops the characteristic colour and flavour of the tea can take place. After watering and airing, the tea is left to “sweat” in heaps and it at this point that the tea acquires its typical reddish brown colour and develops its sweet flavour. After the sweating process has been completed, it is spread out in a large drying yard to dry in the sun.
The rest of the process involves sorting and grading the tea according to length, colour and flavour. The finished Rooibos is finally weighed, bagged, and sold to companies who pack the product in either teabags or in loose leaf form under their own brand names.
Main constituents:Rooibos contains Magnesium, zinc and iron which are all essential to a healthy nervous system. Zinc and iron in particular are important for brain functioning and concentration. It also contains Vitamin C, Alphahydroxy Acid, potassium, copper, calcium, iron, manganese and fluoride.
Rooibos tea is a most popular drink for health-conscious people, as it contains no colourants, additives or preservatives and is free of caffeine.Aspalathus linearis is of great economic value. It was first used by the indigenous people of the Cederberg area and is currently a very popular tea.
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.
It is considered healthy as it is caffeine-free, low in tannins and rich in anti-oxidants. It is not only enjoyed as a herbal tea, but is also used as an ingredient in cosmetics, in slimming products, as a flavouring agent in baking, cooking and cocktails and even as a treatment for infants who are prone to colic.
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.
Many children with ADHD symptoms also suffer from various allergies and food intolerances. Rooibos is of great benefit in the management of allergies and to build up the immune system. Rooibos improves overall liver functioning, which helps the body to eliminate toxins and improves overall body functioning thereby increasing the efficiency of all organs of the body. Rooibos is endemic to the Cedarberg Mountains of the Cape and is not found anywhere else in the world.
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Now known worldwide for its anti-oxidant and healing properties, the soothing and healing effect of Rooibos on the skin is remarkable. It is an extremely nutritious herb. Rooibos can help to control blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and enhance immune functioning.
Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.
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