(part one)

I've stated prior that my cocktail tends to make focus/concentration difficult, especially when I'm excited about something. That being said, I'm breaking this ode to my love for Rooibos tea into parts, so as to not come across like a total spaz.


Picture it: Kauai, 2002. Your driver's license got lost at the airport before you left the mainland, so the best way to get around this Paradise is mountain bike. You spend peak sunshine hours biking in red clay dirt, with the waves and lava outcroppings on one side, fragrant trees and the mountains on the other. After returning your bikes, you find a cafe, as you're parched for refreshment.

Hawaii. The most beautiful place on Earth was where I was introduced to Rooibos tea. That cafe had some kind of hippie/granola iced tea, full of ingredients I had never heard of. I tried it, and it's not those other ingredients that stick to my memory— it's the baseline of that Rooibos flavor. Simple, comforting, and a little exotic— just like Hawaii.

Within a month of returning home, I ordered a canister of Rooibos (with mango bits, if I recall correctly), and that canister held me over for a few years.

A little bit on the history of this tea:

Shortly after Whitey arrived to colonize the Cape of Good Hope (17th cent.), in what we now call South Africa, local Khoisan tribesmen were observed harvesting a local shrub, bruising it with crude implements, and leaving it out in the sun to dry. Afterward, when oxidation/fermentation turned the leaves red, the product was brewed in water for use as a tea, a tonic, and a topical medicine for any number of skin ailments.


The Cape is in a biome that is unique to South Africa. The Afrikaans call it the "Fynbos" and science calls it the "Cape Floral Kingdom." The flowering plants here are found nowhere else in the world. Within this region, Rooibos only grows naturally in the Cederburg Mountains, about 300km north of the Cape.

The centuries of internecine war that followed between European powers meant that oftentimes "globalism" was interrupted; it became too difficult and/or expensive for settlers to obtain standard tea from India/China. Therefore, both the Anglo and Boer settlers began drinking what they called red or redbush tea. To this day, a "red latte" or a "red espresso" is a South African beverage made in coffee's style, but with Rooibos instead.


And now, a bit on nomenclature:

It frustrates me a bit that technically the only true tea is the beverage brewed from the camelia sinensis plant. By this I mean all black teas and green teas. As in: "tea" as we know it is naturally caffeinated.

Why does this frustrate me? Because I arrived late in the game to "tea." Continental Europeans don't really drink tea the way the Brits do; for them, it's an herbal tea or "tisane" before bed, as a reward for a hard day.


So we call Rooibos "red tea" but it's actually not a "tea." Further, by nutritional standards, it's not even an "herb." Rooibos has so many valuable minerals and plant compounds that technically it is classified as a "dietary supplement."

Why? Rooibos is calorie-free and teeming with mineral salts, or electrolytes, that dissolve in water. These compounds pass through a cell membrane, telling each cell they enter to absorb MORE WATER. Electrolytes also improve your body's electrical current, speeding up neuron response time (I'm not a scientist; this took a lot to get my brain around).

In other words, Rooibos tea is more hydrating than a bottle of smart water, with plenty of additional and unique plant compounds besides that (I will hold off on these amazing substances for the next part). That it contains NO caffeine only ups its ability to deliver water to your body.


And it's for these purposes, and more, that Rooibos is an IDEAL choice of tea for those suffering from compromised immunity.

One week after diagnosis and a week before I began my meds, I decided to try an aggressive Rooibos regimen for 2014:

5 cups of strongly-steeped (10 minutes plus) tea per day, saving grounds for later.


Rooibos is an adaptogen, a term created by Soviet scientists in 1959 after discovering the unique homeostatic properties of the Siberian root Rhodiola Rosea (more on this later). Homeostasis is taken most seriously in the field of pharmacology, as a certain "balance" or "equilibrium" is every Rx's desired outcome.

An adaptogenic herb is a grand equalizer, as in: tired? it will perk you up; wired? it will calm you down. The plant compounds in adaptogens stabilize blood sugar levels, aiding in fat loss; they also contain minerals which aid muscle gain. These are just examples, but a true adaptogen, at its core, is a substance you CANNOT overdose on, as its main purpose is to nudge you toward internal balance.

A month in, here is what I am noticing (and I will submit the disclaimer that I started my meds during this period, so some of these benefits may be indirectly associated with my Rx):

  • the health of my hair and nails is rebounding— remember, I'm in the deep-freeze, and therefore it's very dry out. Usually this time of year my nails are very weak and my hair begins to break. NOT AT ALL this winter;
  • I brew a pitcher before bed. I drink tea from a latte cup, so that's 40% of my "requirement" right there. When I go to bed, I go to sleep— I do not toss and turn, I do not get up in the middle of the night. When I wake up, I feel rested.
  • Hold onto the leftover tea from that pitcher, pour into a decanter or 2liter bottle with ice cubes/honey and chill overnight in the fridge. As I mentioned in my last post, I get nauseous/barfy/etc pretty easily these days. I drink a cup of iced rooibos tea first thing in the AM and I swear I can almost feel the soothing liquid calm my digestive system. I'd like to say it's helping me crave foods that are better for me, but it could be that I'm more aware of what I'm ingesting overall.
  • I'm reluctant to go into heavy science in this "prologue," but since the umbrella topic is HIV, I will say: a compound in Rooibos has been shown to have a natural effect upon suppressing the cytopathicity of HIV (as in: gets in the way of its replication). Compounds in Rooibos also aid in Interleukin expression. Interleukins perform many roles, but most have to do with immunity. HIV in the gut will attempt to disrupt Interleukin communication.


So. Before I continue, dear reader, I would like to recommend you ALL try a "4 Week Rooibos Challenge." It will make my pep and zeal for this "tea" seem much more plausible LOL.