You can’t drink wine, you can’t have a cocktail with your friends, you have to modify your caffeine intake, and now we’re suggesting you can’t have a freaking cup of tea while pregnant? Seriously…. is anything safe?
Well, yes, actually — several types of tea are just fine during pregnancy, including rooibos.
We get it: When it feels like pretty much everything fun and delicious is off-limits (well, not this fun thing!), even an innocent cup of chamomile or English breakfast starts getting the side-eye.
And it’s true: Just because it’s “botanical” doesn’t make it safe.
But there are actually only a few kinds of teas that are strictly forbidden during pregnancy (like black cohosh and licorice) because of possible side effects.
And thankfully, rooibos isn’t one of them. You can enjoy this flavorful tea while pregnant — and breastfeeding, too — without stressing. Here’s what you need to know.
Rooibos tea is made from dried parts of a plant harvested from the South African red bush shrub. Unlike black and green tea, it isn’t made from tea leaves — so it’s considered an herbal tea.
Among tea aficionados, rooibos gained some popularity in the mid-2000s as a loose leaf alternative to other classic herbals like peppermint, lemon balm, and hibiscus. Plus, it:
- is caffeine-free
- can be easily mixed with other ingredients to make interesting flavor combinations
- boasts some health benefits
For these reasons, rooibos has made its way into the mainstream world of tea selection.
While you always have to be a little careful with anything herbal during pregnancy, rooibos tea is widely considered to be safe.
In fact, if you need a pick-me-up in the form of a hot bev in a mug (and who doesn’t?), rooibos tea may be ideal; without any caffeine, it’s a better choice than coffee, black tea, or green tea.
Rooibos is also generally considered safe for drinking while breastfeeding. You don’t have to worry about caffeine passing through your bloodstream to your baby, and it will probably help you stay relaxed and calm — so it might even put you in a healthier frame of mind for producing milk.
You should keep in mind, though, that no one really knows how much rooibos is OK. If you’re wanting to drink more than 2 or 3 cups per day, you should talk to your OB-GYN first.
Caffeine during pregnancy
You’ll see us touting caffeine-free hot drink options during pregnancy as good alternatives to coffee and black or green tea, but is caffeine really forbidden?
Not exactly. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reaffirmed in 2020 that it’s OK to have up to 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine daily while pregnant. But some people would like to see this guideline revised as a result of a recent analysis suggesting no amount of caffeine is safe in pregnancy.
Our advice is to talk to your doctor about continuing to enjoy your cup of Joe.
The bad news here is that researchers haven’t formally studied the safety of rooibos tea during pregnancy, so there’s no way to give it a ringing endorsement without any caveats.
The only research seems to be one study of pregnant rats. In 2017, researchers reported that rats who were given rooibos tea for 21 days showed no ill effects and, in some cases, experienced effects that might increase fertility.
Fans of rooibos like to tout its beneficial health properties (digestion and skin health and allergy relief, oh my!) — but the research is still pretty light on how good it is for you. Even so, pregnant folks can cross their fingers that their daily cup works to:
- Improve bone health. You need all the strength you can get while pregnant, and it’s possible that
rooibos contains a blend of compoundsthat increases something called “osteoblast activity,” or the development of cells that helps maintain bone mass.
- Supply you with antioxidants.
Rooibos has a lot of polyphenols, plant-based nutrients that contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants help reduce or inhibit cellular damage through their ability to react with molecules called free radicals, which can cause cellular damage when numbers get too high in the body.
- Improve your cholesterol. Drinking rooibos tea may
reduce your LDL (“bad”) cholesteroland improve your overall heart health.
But we’ll be honest: Even drinking a cup every single day probably won’t do much in these areas.
If you’re a tea junkie who happens to be pregnant, you’ll be happy to hear that rooibos isn’t even the only tea you’re allowed to drink for the next 9 months. If you manage your caffeine intake and keep it below 200 mg daily, even black and green tea are probably OK to consume.
And the following caffeine-free herbal teas typically get a thumbs-up, too:
- ginger (also good for morning sickness!)
- lemon balm
- dandelion (probably, but you should double-check with your doc)
Rooibos is a tea that needs to be steeped, but you can use hot or cold water depending on what kind of drink you want. Steep it in boiling water, make a pitcher of sun tea or cold-brewed tea, or even steep it and then add frothed milk for a rooibos latte.
As it’s gotten popular, more coffeehouses, online tea vendors, and local shops have added to their selection of rooibos tea, making it pretty easy for you to grab a cup at the drive-thru or stock up on a stash of your own at home.
It’s usually sold as a loose leaf tea, though, not in tea bags — so make sure you have a tea infuser.
If it’s totally safe, why do we advise you check with your doctor about rooibos tea? In a nutshell, anything labeled as “herbal” isn’t really strictly regulated, and it’s a good idea to run it by your doctor during pregnancy.
While the chances of anything bad happening because of a cup of rooibos are slim to none, it’s still a plant-based product, and you should make sure your doctor is cool with you drinking it.
Rooibos is considered a pregnancy-safe herbal tea and a caffeine-free alternative to coffee, green tea, and black tea. It’s easy to brew at home, hot or cold, and may even give you an extra boost of antioxidants.
- Balbotlin YM, et al. (2019). Herbal medicinal product use during pregnancy and the postnatal period. (2019).
- Bebitoglu BT. (2020). Frequently used herbal teas during pregnancy – Short update.
- Committee on Obstetric Practice. (2020). Moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2010/08/moderate-caffeine-consumption-during-pregnancy
- Hong I-S, et al. (2014). Anti-oxidative effects of rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) on Immobilization-Induced Oxidative Stress in Rat Brain.
- James JE. (2020). Maternal caffeine consumption and pregnancy outcomes: A narrative review with implications for advice to mothers and mothers-to-be. https://ebm.bmj.com/content/early/2020/09/01/bmjebm-2020-111432
- Marnewick JL, et al. (2011). Effects of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) on oxidative stress and biochemical parameters in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Monsees TK, et al. (2017). Effect of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) on the female rat reproductive tract and liver and kidney functions in vivo. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254629916305257
- Nash LA, et al. (2016). Comparison of black, green and rooibos tea on osteoblast activity.