Honeybush Tea Benefits and Side Effects

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Honeybush tea is a South African herbal tea made from the leaves of the honeybush plant. It is grown on the Eastern Cape of South Africa and is closely related to rooibos tea (also known as red bush tea) which comes from the Western Cape of South Africa. The flowers of the honeybush shrub have a honey-like smell, which gives the plant and the tea its sweet-sounding name.

What Is Honeybush Tea?

Honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia) is a shrub with woody stems that produces trifoliate (three-part) leaves and bright yellow flowers. Settlers to South Africa have been interested in the medicinal benefits of honeybush tea for hundreds of years.

Fermented leaves and stems of the honeybush shrub are used to brew honeybush tea.

Tea drinkers describe the taste of honeybush as floral, lightly roasted, and similar to honey. Although it is often compared to rooibos tea, honeybush is usually sweeter and fuller bodied. Some say that the taste is "less medicinal" than rooibos tea. The taste of honeybush that you brew at home will depend on your brewing method and on the particular tea leaves that you buy.

How to Make Honeybush Tea

Honeybush tea bags can be found in many grocery stores, tea shops, and online. If you buy honeybush tea bags, simply follow the instructions on the package to prepare.

You can also buy loose honeybush tea leaves and steep them at home to make the beverage hot or cold.

Making Honeybush Tea at Home

  • Place one heaping teaspoon of dried honeybush tea leaves in the bottom of a six- to eight-ounce teacup
  • Heat water to about 212º Fahrenheit. If you don't have a temperature-controlled teapot, bring water to a boil and then let sit for a minute to reduce the temperature just slightly
  • Pour water over the tea leaves
  • Let tea leaves steep for as long as desired, usually about five minutes or up to seven minutes
  • Strain loose leaves from the cup before drinking. Honeybush tea leaves may be resteeped and used for a second cup

To make iced honeybush tea, follow the same instructions but pour the finished tea into a tall glass tumbler and add ice. You can also cool the tea in the refrigerator to enjoy at another time.

Even though honeybush tea already has a sweet taste, many tea drinkers add a bit of honey to enhance the flavor and the potential health benefits. Flavored honeybush tea is also available in many tea shops. Fruit flavored honeybush teas (peach or apricot, for example) are popular. 

Does Honeybush Tea Contain Caffeine?

Honeybush tea is an herbal tea, not a "tea" in the traditional sense. That means it is not made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, like black tea or green tea. It is brewed just parts of the honeybush plant, which does not contain any caffeine. Therefore honeybush tea is completely caffeine-free.

Health Benefits

There are many rumored health benefits of honeybush tea. Most commonly, the herbal drink is credited with calming coughs. Honeybush contains an expectorant that may help you to clear your throat when you are sick to relieve coughing. 

Other reported honeybush tea benefits include:

  • Decreased blood sugar
  • Diabetes treatment
  • Relief from menopausal symptoms
  • Reduced blood lipids (cholesterol)

Unfortunately, human studies are lacking to support these claims. But researchers are investigating the health benefits of honeybush with animal and in vitro studies.

  • An in vitro study conducted in 2015 found that honeybush tea may provide beneficial effects to boost bone health. In vitro studies are performed in a lab, usually using a test tube or culture dish. These studies help researchers investigate potential benefits, but do not provide conclusive information about the effect of a substance on the human body. The authors of this honeybush study recommended that more research is conducted to further investigate honeybush tea benefits.
  • According to a review of rooibos and honeybush health benefits, study authors noted that principal polyphenols in honeybush include the xanthone mangiferin and the flavonones hesperetin and isokuranetin. They state that both teas provide potential antioxidant, immune-boosting and cancer-preventative benefits based on evidence provided by rodent studies and lab studies. However, they add that human studies are lacking.
  • A study published in Nutrition and Cancer found that consumption of unfermented honeybush tea inhibited tumor growth in rats, leading researchers to suggest that further research should investigate the possibility that the same effect may carry over to humans.

    Side Effects

    There are no significant side effects reported for honeybush tea. However, before taking any herbal tonic or using any herbal treatment it is always smart to check with your physician to make sure that it does not interfere with your current medications or management of a medical condition.

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