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Benefits of Drinking Rooibos Tea: Does It Help Allergies?

As allergy season approaches, people start reaching for their trusty box of tissues – and their antihistamines. Unfortunately, some antihistamines you buy at the drugstore make you feel groggy and give you a dry mouth. What if you could get allergy relief by sipping tea?

Not just any tea – rooibos tea, the red tea native to Africa. Some people think that drinking rooibos tea helps their allergies – and there’s some science behind this idea. Rooibos, or red tea, contains bioflavonoids that may help allergy sufferers ease their allergy symptoms naturally.

A natural allergy relief beverage?

Rooibos tea is an herbal tea that comes from a plant in the legume family that flourishes in South Africa. It’s growing in popularity in the US because of its perceived health benefits. You can now find some coffee shops serving rooibos lattes. Rooibos tea is a good source of antioxidants and has no caffeine.

So why is drinking rooibos tea good for allergy relief? Rooibos contains two bioflavonoids called rutin and quercetin that show promise for relieving the itchy eyes and runny nose that allergy sufferers contend with during allergy season. These bioflavonoids block the release of histamine, a chemical the body produces in response to allergens. This is the same compound that antihistamines block, but rutin and quercetin won’t cause drowsiness or a dry mouth unlike antihistamine pills.

Is there science behind it?

Rooibos tea hasn’t been extensively researched as an alternative allergy treatment, but one study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry showed it has a beneficial effect on the immune response in the laboratory. In a laboratory setting, the bioflavonoid quercetin that’s found in rooibos tea blocks the release of histamine from cells called mast cells. So, there is some preliminary evidence that drinking rooibos tea could benefit allergy sufferers. Keep in mind that not everything that pans out in the laboratory holds true in humans – and it’s still questionable whether humans can absorb enough quercetin from food or tea to make a difference.

The bottom line

Drinking rooibos tea for allergy relief is unproven in humans, but there’s some anecdotal evidence that it works. Sipping rooibos tea with its antioxidants may have other benefits, so make a healthy switch and drink it instead of soft drinks this summer. You just might find you’re sneezing a little less.
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