Honeybush just like Rooibos is native to South Africa’s Eastern Cape region. Around 300 square kilometer of mountain lands of East Cape grows wild honeybush. Cultivation of Honeybush is not possible outside the Fynbos biosphere. Around 24 species of Honeybush plant are found in this small South Africa tip. One of the popular species for brewing tea is Cyclopia subternata. Though local people used honeybush as beverage and medicinal herb, botanists first studied honeybush in 17th century while its commercial use as tea is very recent.
Flowers of Honeybush plant are deep yellow in color and smell sweet like honey hence the name Honeybush. Honeybush tea plants have relatively lesser leaves as compared to stem. Leaf shape varies with species. Some species have needle like leaves similar to rooibos, while other species have elongated leaves.
Organic Honeybush tea tastes similar to Rooibos tea, but is sweeter. This indigenous South African tea is also known by Bergtee, Boertee, Heuningtee, Bossiestee or Bushtea. Fermented honeybush tea is deep red in color and distinct flavor. Partially fermented organic green honeybush tea is also becoming popular these days due to their stronger antioxidant activity.
Nutritional Value of honeybush
Honeybush tea health benefits are due to presence of bioactive compounds and phytonutrients. While potassium and calcium are key minerals in honeybush, it also provides small amount of other minerals like copper, iron and zinc. Key compound in honeybush tea includes Xanthones – mangiferin and isomangiferin and Flavanones including hesperidin, narirutin, eriocitrin.
Health benefits of Honeybush
Medicinal value of Honeybush was first known to local people. Honeybush infusions had been used as tonic for stomach, treat common infections like cold and flu and relive women of menopausal symptoms. This herbal tea offers various other benefits and regular drinking is perfectly safe. Tea Tannin often results in digestive problems and causes staining of teeth. Compared to other tea, Honeybush contains very little tannins. It is absolutely caffeine free. Drinking honeybush tea is valuable even for children and patients. Some honeybush health benefits are discussed below:
Honeybush is great antioxidant
Mangiferin is polyphenol which is also present in Mango and powerful antioxidant. Antioxidant properties differ across species of Honeybush, this is mainly because of variation in Mangiferin content. Other flavonones present in Honeybush are also antioxidant in nature. All these bioactive compound help protect body from harmful effects of free radicals. Drinking honeybush tea thus helps in increasing immunity and protecting body from free radicals.
Protecting from Alzheimer’s Disease
Oxidative stress can cause damage to brain cells and nervous system. Such damage results in disorders like Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Dietary polyphenols present in Honeybush offer medicinal benefits in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.
Managing hormonal disorders
Honeybush contains natural compounds which are similar to sex hormone estrogen found in body. Thus consumption of honeybush shall work similar to the hormone itself. Thus honeybush ingredients can help substitute hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy increase risk of breast cancer, stroke and other disorders. By substituting Hormone replacement therapy with phytoestrogen present in honeybush, one can enjoy benefits of estrogen while avoiding risks associated with it. . Phytoestrogen containing extracts of Honeybush is now new source of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogenic potential of honeybush can be attributed to select polyphenols present in the plant. Honeybush offers benefits to women fighting with menopausal symptoms and provides relief from such symptoms. Local Africans have been uing Honeybush tea for increasing milk secretion in lactating mothers.
Honeybush can prevent Cancer
Much of the promotions of honeybush tea include its benefits in preventing and treating Cancer. South Africa Medical Research Council has acknowledged potential benefits of honeybush in treating cancers. Several studies have confirmed ability of honeybush in preventing growth of cancers cells and tumors. Some compounds in honeybush also have proven anti-mutagenic properties which helps in prevention cancer development.
Skin care with Honeybush
Like Rooibos benefits for skin, honeybush exhibits benefits to skin. It protects skin from damage of free radicals and Ultraviolet light. It protects skin from aging. Hesperidin and mangiferin have been independently used by cosmetic industry for their skin benefits are present in Honeybush. Drinking honeybush increase immunity and prevents skin diseases. Honeybush is also used as antifungal agent in treating psoriasis and eczema in Africa. Facial mask made from honeybush tea is home remedy for acne. Washing face with honeybush tea or taking honeybush steam help in removal of impurities from skin and prevents skin eruptions. Honeybush extract formulations are used in making skin creams for skin wrinkles and scars.
Honeybush and Arthritis
Study has shown that isomangiferin, hesperidin and mangiferin are helpful in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. This can be attributed to anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Honeybush.
Honeybush for Lung disorders
Pinitol is found in Honeybush which acts as an expectorant and helps in removal of mucus from respiratory tracts. Honeybush has been traditionally used in treatment of cold, cough and flu.
Honeybush prevents Obesity
Studies have shown that honeybush extract ha antiobesity properties and stimulates breakdown on fats in body.
Honeybush for gastrointestinal problems
Studies have shown that Mangiferin, prevents gastric injury in rats through its antioxidant properties. Honeybush tea helps in treating stomach ulcers and other gastric problems including indigestion. Similar to Rooibos tea, it has been used in treating stomach aches, stomach and colic spasm in small children. Luteolin in Honeybush is belived to be anti-spasmodic in nature.
Honeybush in treatment of Diabetics
Studies have found that Mangiferin helps in lowering blood sugar levels in drug induced diabetic mice. Honeybush extract offers to reduce insulin resistance in type II diabetes. Anti diabetic honeybush supplements are commercially available. Further, pinitol is chemical found in Honeybush which is also known to offer blood sugar lowering effects and helpful in diabetic treatment.
Protection of Liver
Animal studies have found that honeybush exerts strong antioxidant properties which are helpful in treating liver damage. Regular consumption of Honeybush tea can help protect liver.
Antimicrobial Benefits of Honeybush
Honeybush and rooibos teas both have strong antimicrobial properties. Honeybush extract is found to inhibit growth of bacteria and fungus in lab. Research has found that it prevents growth of harmful intestinal bacteria and acne causing bacteria. Honeybush extract is used in treatment of candida, psoriasis and eczema. Consumption of honeybush also helps prevent viral infections like common cold and flue.
Honeybush increases appetite
Some also know Honeybush tea as Hungry tea. It is believed to increase body appetite as has been confirmed in animal studies. However no human studies have confirmed such claims.
Honeybush relaxes body and helps sleep
Native Africans have been using rooibos and honeybush tea for treating sleep disorders. Honeybush tea helps calm body muscles and nerves, thus helps sound and clam sleep. It also helps in reducing physical and mental stress.Image Credits: Flickr - Inazakira, Wikimedia