Karkadé & Rooibos: Red Teas with Health Effects

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2 years ago

This is about two blood red beverages: karkadé (hibiscus tea) and rooibos (redbush tea)- and their effects on health.


Something I have encountered in many corners of the world but learned to really appreciate first in Egypt, is hibiscus tea - also called karkady or karkadé - a blood-red beverage. Cooled, it is a delicious cooling drink, which is also healthy. They say it was the favorite beverage of the old Egyptian Pharaohs. I have not been able to verify that, but my own relationship with this tea has developed into a passion. I drink it daily.

Hibiscus, Hibiscus sabdariffa, gives a blood-red tea - also called karkadé, Arhul ka phool, sorrel, roselle, or some other of a number of different local names - which has been used around the world for a long time. It contains ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), citric acid, maleic acid, tartaric acid, the glycosid hibiscin, plus a number of other compounds. The colour comes from the anthocyanins delphinidin and cyanidin, two biologically very potent bioflavonoids.

In addition to being a good and cooling drink, hibiscus has several medical properties.

The major effects are found in the cardiovascular system. It has the ability to repair injured arteries, a benefit whose value can hardly be overestimated and which positively affects all organs and tissues of the body. In traditional medicine, it is used against various conditions, even cancer.

The part of the plant normally used for tea, is the calyces of the flower, but all parts of the plant are edible and can be eaten or made tea of.

The plant originally came from Southeast Asia, but is grown in Upper Egypt and Fayoum, as well as in many other countries. Hibiscus from Egypt and Sudan is considered to provide the best tea. In Sudan it is sometimes cold brewed, it is tedious and takes some time, but it provides a superior quality. Both flavour and nutrients are damaged by heating, which is not needed to dissolve the active substances from the plant parts.

Unfortunately, the locals of these countries, especially in Egypt, destroys karkadé by adding a lot of sugar. Needless to say, that reduces it's health value. Personally, I drink it pure, as it is, as I do with everything.


Another red beverage is so-called red tea, redbush tea, or rooibos. It is derived from a plant growing in South Africa, Aspalathus linearis. It contains various polyphenols, plus benzoic and cinnamic acids. Rooibos is rich in antioxidants.

Research on the health effects of rooibos is relatively limited, but results indicate that it is beneficial for cardiovascular health and that it improves the ratio between bad (LDL) and good (HDL) cholesterol. It might also slightly lower the blood pressure. It is antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory. One study indicated that rooibos stops the formation of new fat cells. There are also signs suggesting that rooibos is anti-allergenic by reducing the release of histamine.

Unfortunately, there are also some negative effects to consider. Rooibos contains substances imitating estrogens. There is also a risk for liver damage; however, it is still uncertain if this is a result of rooibos itself or of contamination.


Read more about the dangers of estrogen and substances imitating estrogen in The Feminisation of Nature.

As for the red colours of those teas, they come from Anthocyanins, which, as most strong colour pigments in nature, are very biochemically substances. I write about anthocyanins in Colours V: Colours Of Plants:

“Anthocyanins (sometimes divided into Anthocyanidins and Proanthocyanidins) are pigments mainly found in certain flowers, fruit and vegetables with red-blue colours. Good sources are for example: blueberries/bilberries, red cabbage, eggplant, radishes, tea, beets, cherries, plums, red grapes, hawthorn, apple, pear, grape seed, pine bark, beer, red wine, cranberry, red beans and some other berries. This is also what gives roses their colour.

Other flowers with anthocyanins are geranium and Dahlia (with pelargonidin); bluebottle and some asters (with cyanidin); larkspur, violet and pansy (with delphinin).

Medically these substances are strong antioxidants, even very strong. They also decrease capillary weakness, and support vitamin C activity. Good effect on eyes. Strong anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties.”

Copyright © 2021 Meleonymica/Mictorrani. All Rights Reserved.

(Lead image: Hibiscus & hummingbird. Photo by finix8/Pixabay, CC0/Public Domain.)

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2 years ago


Thank you sharing about that red beverages, that's really good for the health. I don't know if there's something like that here in Philippines.

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2 years ago

I don't know, but I suspect you have hibiscus. If not the tea, so at least the flower, and then you can make your own tea from that.

If you have rooibos, it is imported. Aspalathus linearis does not grow there.

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2 years ago

And now you are a nutritionist! This person is amazing

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2 years ago