Honeybush Tea: a Guide (and Does It Have Benefits?)

Honeybush tea is an enjoyable and refreshing variety of tea from South Africa.

As with most tea varieties, there are often claims about the potential benefits of drinking honeybush.

This article will provide a guide to honeybush tea and take a look at some of the health claims and how well supported (or not) they are.

A Cup of Honeybush Tea With Loose Leaves In a Tea Infuser.

What Is Honeybush Tea?

As mentioned, honeybush tea is a drink native to South Africa, but it is popular and available worldwide.

The dried and fermented leaves of plants in the Cyclopia genus (also known as ‘honeybush’ and ‘heuningbos’) make the tea (1).

Honeybush tea shares some common characteristics with another South African tea called rooibos, and they are both types of red tea.

Interestingly, the scent of honeybush leaves has notes of honey, hence the ‘honeybush’ name.

However, the tea doesn’t taste the same as it smells.

How Does Honeybush Taste?

In reality, honeybush tastes a little bit like rooibos, but it has a milder and slightly sweet note.

It is quite hard to describe the taste of any tea accurately, but honeybush doesn’t have any bitterness like other teas can have.

Additionally, it has a floral/sweet taste, but it does not taste obviously sweet in the way that sweetened drinks do.

Overall, the tea is very easy to drink, and it has a pleasant flavor.

Is Honeybush Tea the Same as Rooibos?

While honeybush and rooibos tea share some common characteristics, they come from different plants. As a result, they also have their own unique features and taste properties.

Honeybush comes from Cyclopia plants, whereas rooibos comes from Asparathus linearis (1, 2).

The two teas are not far apart in taste, but rooibos has a slightly more robust flavor, whereas honeybush is mild and sweet.

Nutrition Facts

Honeybush is a zero-calorie tea, so it does not contain carbohydrates, fat, or protein.

Most tea varieties provide trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. However, there is no listing in reputable nutritional databases for this.

That said, according to the Cancer Association of South Africa, researchers from the University of the Free State found that honeybush tea contains the following nutrients per 240-ml cup (3):

  • Iron: 0.3 mg
  • Potassium: 0.01 mg
  • Calcium: 0.01 mg
  • Copper: 0.003 mg
  • Zinc: 0.015 mg
  • Magnesium: 0.002 mg
  • Manganese: 0.11 mg
  • Sodium: 1.5 mg

These amounts are just trace amounts, and they will not contribute to nutrient intake to any great extent.

Does Honeybush Tea Have Potential Benefits?

There is a lot of information about the ‘health benefits of honeybush tea,’ but is this information accurate?

Here, we will look at some of the tea’s actual benefits and some of the over-hyped claims of benefits.

1) Honeybush Does Not Contain Caffeine

Like rooibos and other herbal teas like hibiscus, honeybush tea is naturally free of caffeine.

Since caffeine can have its own benefits, this isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing.

However, some people are caffeine sensitive, and consuming caffeinated drinks later in the day can affect their sleep quality (4, 5).

Thus, honeybush tea is a nice and refreshing tea for the evening time that will not negatively impact sleep quality.

2) Low Tannin Levels

Drinks such as coffee, black tea, and green tea contain high levels of a group of polyphenols called tannins (6).

Although more research is necessary, tannins may have some potential benefits for human health (7, 8).

In contrast, tannins can also have some unwanted effects.

For instance, drinks rich in tannins, such as red wine, coffee, and black tea, can lead to stained teeth. This is because the pigmented tannins can stick to the enamel, which gradually causes discoloration, particularly in the heaviest drinkers (9).

Honeybush tea contains very low amounts of tannins, so it should not have the staining effect that tea and coffee can have (10).

3) Bioactive Compounds in Honeybush Tea

Honeybush tea contains many polyphenols, which are biologically active chemical compounds (10).

In other words, they can have various effects on the body.

Generally speaking, polyphenols are thought to have health benefits, and polyphenol-rich diets are associated with improved health outcomes (11, 12).

The polyphenols found within honeybush include flavonoids, flavonones, isoflavonoids, and flavones.

Numerous studies have looked at the effects of the polyphenols found within honeybush tea. Unfortunately, it is sometimes possible to see (overly) strong claims made about these on the Internet.

Claims About Honeybush and Bone Health

An in vitro study (cell/test-tube study) found that a high-strength extract of honeybush tea could decrease bone resorption rates (13).

Bone resorption is when the bone breaks down and its minerals, such as calcium, are released into the bloodstream (14).

In other words, decreasing bone resorption would mean lower levels of bone breakdown and thus protection against bone loss.

This could potentially be an interesting area for future research. First, however, it is essential to note that this study showed what happens in cells when exposed to a high-strength extract of honeybush.

In other words, this is a very different environment from what happens within the human body when simply drinking honeybush tea.

In summary, there is no evidence to support strong claims about honeybush tea “preventing bone loss,” and further high-quality research is necessary.

Claims About Honeybush, Weight Loss, Cancer, and Diabetes

Research into how honeybush tea extracts may impact other health states and diseases, such as weight loss, cancer, and diabetes, also exists (15, 16, 17, 18).

However, these studies are either cell studies or animal studies using high-strength extracts.

Strong claims are not warranted in the absence of high-quality human studies.

How To Make Honeybush Tea

There are two ways to make honeybush tea: teabags or loose dried honeybush tea leaves.

Tea bags

Buying some honeybush teabags is the easiest way of making the tea.

Just add a tea bag or two to a cup/teapot as preferred, add boiling water, and steep until the drink reaches the desired strength:

  • Mild: 3-4 minutes
  • Medium: 5-6 minutes
  • Strong: 7+ minutes

On the positive side, since honeybush tea is very low in tannins, longer brews will not become bitter in the same way as black tea can.

Loose Tea

It is also possible to buy loose leaf honeybush tea.

An easy way to make it would be to pour boiling water over the loose leaves in a teapot, allow them to steep, and then strain the tea into cups using a tea infuser.

Around one heaped teaspoon per regular cup is a good rule of thumb, but larger amounts will provide a fuller flavor.

Where To Buy

It may be possible to buy honeybush tea in any large grocery store, specialist tea stores, or potentially health food stores.

There is also a wide range of honeybush choices online (disclosure: affiliate link).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you add milk to honeybush tea?

Just like with rooibos (another red tea) and black tea, honeybush tea works well with milk. It tastes great by itself but adding a bit of milk is equally nice.

2. Is it okay to drink honeybush tea in the evening?

Since honeybush tea contains no caffeine, it doesn’t matter what time you drink it. It can be enjoyed at any time from morning until night.

3. What health effects will I notice from drinking honeybush tea?

There is no evidence to suggest any noticeable health effects from drinking honeybush tea. The best reason to drink it is that it tastes nice.

4. Does honeybush tea have any side effects or downsides in general?

There are no indications from existing research that honeybush tea can have negative effects. As with any food or drink, there is always the possibility of a rare allergic reaction. However, there do not appear to be any published case studies on honeybush allergy.

5. What vitamins and minerals are in honeybush tea?

Honeybush tea contains micronutrients including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. However, they are all present in extremely low amounts and do not make a significant contribution to recommended daily intake levels.

Final Thoughts

Honeybush tea is a mild, pleasant flavored tea that is enjoyable to drink.

Since it contains no caffeine, it is an excellent evening choice as a replacement for drinks like black tea.

While there has been some scientific research into honeybush, none is convincing enough to claim human health benefits.

Like with many tea drinks, the best reason to drink honeybush is to enjoy the taste.

Related Articles

31 Types of Tea: Profiles, Potential Benefits, Side Effects

Rooibos Tea 101

Hibiscus Tea: What Benefits (and Risks) Does It Have?

A Guide To Black Tea

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Michael Joseph, MSc

Michael works as a nutrition educator in a community setting and holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. He believes in providing reliable and objective nutritional information to allow informed decisions.