Coffee and energy drinks are usually the go-to beverages for high school learners and students to help them cram for finals during the stressful months of October and November, but science suggests they drink rooibos tea as an alternative to help them stay on top of their “A” game.
Several studies point to rooibos tea’s ability to protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals and that its high level of antioxidants could reduce the effects of oxidative stress, which learners and students typically experience in the lead up to and during end-of-year exams.
Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council explains that the brain appears to be especially susceptible to excessive oxidative stress, because of its high demand for oxygen.
“Dietary antioxidants, like the polyphenolic compounds found in rooibos, have been shown to protect neurons against a variety of neurodegenerative conditions. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) or more commonly referred to as ‘free radicals caused’ by poor nutrition, cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol intake, pollution, among other factors, are harmful elements that trigger oxidation (disruption of a living cell) in the body and brain. The stress hormone, cortisol, which is elevated during exam time, increases inflammation, and further intensifies free radical production.
“When these free radicals cause oxidation in the body, they damage the healthy cells which could hinder one’s ability to learn and retain information. Rooibos counters this impact by reducing the effect of oxidative by-products in neural pathways thereby stimulating concentration and focus.
“Unlike coffee, which could give you the jitters followed by a crash, rooibos tea is a cleaner-burning and longer-lasting fuel for the body since it doesn’t contain any caffeine or tannin. An added bonus is that it also relieves tension and headaches,” she remarks.
While consuming small amounts of caffeine daily is not harmful, drinking too much, such as during exam time, could prove dangerous and lead to a physical dependence since it is highly addictive. The temporary boost of energy it gives you, may also keep you awake for longer than is needed, which could lead to unwanted fatigue on exam day.
Du Toit recommends six cups of rooibos tea a day for optimal replenishing of critical antioxidants.
“Rooibos tea has no side-effects and contains some of the strongest and most unique antioxidants in the plant kingdom, including aspalathin and nothofagin. Students should make the most of this natural energy drink, which is tasty, affordable and can be enjoyed hot or cold.”
Here’s a few fun twists on rooibos tea to get you through your finals:
Basic rooibos iced tea:
One litre of Rooibos tea using four to six teabags
Sweeten the tea with honey to taste and leave it in the fridge to cool overnight
Experiment with this basic iced tea, by adding mint, lemon, orange, granadilla, mango or apple, or a combination of flavours until you find one that you love.
Juiced or squeezed fresh fruit usually delivers the best results, but you can also use honey and preservative-free fruit juice. Mixing it with cold rooibos will make it go further and keeping a jug of it in the fridge should mean you don’t have to keep buying juice.
Rooibos can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks without spoiling.
Rooibos and berry iced tea:
8 rooibos tea bags or flavoured rooibos of your choice
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
6 thin slices ginger
4 cups (1 litre) boiling water
4 cups (1 litre) 100% berry juice, chilled
Lemon juice to taste
Place tea bags, spices and ginger in a large glass jug and pour over boiling water. Stir well and allow to cool for about two hours.
Remove tea bags, ginger and spices.
Add berry juice to the tea and season with lemon juice to taste. Enjoy cold with ice and mint leaves, fruit and lemon.
By pouring some Rooibos iced tea into popsicle containers or ice-cube trays and freezing it, you can also enjoy it as a refreshing treat when you get the munchies while you’re studying.