Top 10 African Immune Boosting Teas

Drinking tea is the only regular medicine I take. I always tell people I don't take medicine, I only drink tea. At the slightness feeling of a scratchy throat or sniffles I start drinking tea at least 3-4 times daily, ginger or turmeric tea being my favorite. Drinking tea to combat colds and sore throats seem to work for me as I haven't had a sick day from work in over 3 years. But what is it about tea that helps boost immune systems and keep people healthy?

Teas have long been used by Africans and Asians for medicinal purposes to fight infection and immune boosting. Teas which are simply an infusions of leaves and/or fruit combined have several antioxidants which help prevent and treat cell damage in our bodies by scavenging free radicals. Not only are they rich in antioxidants but many contain several vitamins and minerals which further help keep us healthy to build strong immune systems. There are several plants native to Africa that are used medicinally as tea, and here is my top 10 list of African immune boosting teas.

1. Rooibos

Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) rooibos is rich in over 18 flavonoids, polyphenols, and phenolic acids,Currently rooibos is the only known natural source of aspalathin and one of only two known sources of nothofagin which are both strong antioxidants which help prevent vascular inflammation and help lower blood sugar. There is also recent evidence of potential anti-mutagenic properties, lending to its benefits for cancer prevention. Rooibos tea is a traditional herbal tea of the Khoi-San people of the Cedarberg region of the South African Cape. 

2. Elderberry

Elderberry Elderberries are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids particularly quercetin lending it huge antioxidant and immune boosting effects. It is also a good source of vitamin B6 and iron among other vitamin and minerals. Elderberry syrup and tea of the fruit and leaves have long been used to treat respiratory ailments. There is some research that shows elderberry may be beneficial in treating and preventing the common cold, flu, bronchitis, sinusitis, constipation, gingivitis, and cardiovascular disease by lowering of cholesterol. However more research needs to be done to truly validate these claims.

3. Moringa

Moringa In recent times Moringa has been touted as a super food in the western world, but has long been used throughout parts of africa and asia medicinally. It is a flowering tree native to africa and asia and all parts of the tree including the bark, sap, roots, leaves, seeds, and flowers are used medicinally. Moringa leaves commonly steeped for tea or in skin preparations are rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A, beta carotene, Vitamin K, manganese, and protein. The seeds are rich in fiber, potassium, magnesium and manganese. Research suggest moringa has several medicinal properties including being antiulcer, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antitumor, anticancer, blood sugar lowering, and as a  antioxidant. Due to its several medicinal properties it may help to treat several disease including Respiratory Infections, Asthma, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Cancer, Liver damage, Vascular Diseases, Bacterial Infections caused by salmonella and E.coli, Moringa can typically be found as whole dried leaves, in teas, or as powder to add to drinks and recipes.

4. Neem

Neem is a tree native to India and Sub Saharan Africa. All parts of the tree including the bark, leaves, fruit, seeds, and oil produce so many powerful medicinal benefits. One should ask what does it not treat. Research Suggest neem, in particular neem oil may aid with eye disorders, stomach upset, skin ulcers, cardiovascular disease, fevers, diabetes, gum disease, and liver disease among other things. It is believed to help treat chicken and small pox

Interestingly before the use of toothpaste and brushes by western civilization, africans have long been using neem twigs as chewing sticks to clean their teeth. And if you are the organic all natural type of person, now there are several brands that make all natural neem based toothpaste sold in many organic stores and on amazon. Another part of the plant that is commonly used medically are the leaves. Neem leaves are often steeped in hot water for several minutes to make neem tea. Neem can also be purchased in powder and capsule form.

Benefits and Uses of Neem By Plant Parts

  • Bark/twigs: antidermatic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, antibacterial, antitumor. Used to clean teeth and skin preparations 
  • Leaves: antidermatic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiseptic, antiviral. Used in medicine, teas, cosmetics, insecticides, insect repellent, and fertilizers
  • Seed: antimalarial
  • Oil: anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, fever reducer, blood sugar lowering, bactericidal, antimalarial, antifungal, pain reducing, antiprotozoal, antiviral, used in cosmetics, insecticide, insect repellent, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste

5. Bitter Leaf

Bitter Leaf  know as onugbu in the Igbo language of Nigeria has several purported health benefits. It is used to prepare several soups and stews in Africa, but has also long been used by traditional African doctors to treat malaria, parasitic infections and diarrhea. In Nigeria the twigs and sticks have also been used as chewing sticks to clean the teeth. But, what does the research say. The plant is rich in fiber alkaloids, saponins, flavonoids, and tannins, iron, manganese, zinc, and a good source of plant protein. Research suggest bitter leaf has an anti-diabetic effect through blood sugar lowering, blood pressure lowering, and anti-inflammatory activity in the body. Another study found antimicrobial properties of the plant with potent inhibition of staphylococcus aureus and pseudomonas aeruginosa, which may be why it's taught to be effective in treating infections in the body. Honestly I've never been a fan of bitter leaf in my egusi soup, but now I just might think twice about not using it. The value of bitter leaf is now well know it can be found online in capsuletea and dried leaves.

6. Hibiscus

Hibiscus is a flowering plant native to tropics across the globe including much of Africa. It has long been used to make herbal drinks in many countries. In Nigeria hibiscus drink is called Zobo, while across the globe it is also called roselle juice, bissap, or sorrel. The plant is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants which may be why its purported to work for treatment of colds.  Research suggest it may have several medicinal properties including being antibacterial,  kidney and liver protective, effects on lipid metabolism (anti-cholesterol), anti-diabetic by lowering blood sugar, and anti-hypertensive by lower blood pressure among other health effects on the body.You can typically either buy dried hibiscus flowers to steep in hot water. When boiling the leaves, ginger, sugar, or pineapple may be added to the water to enhance the flavor. Or you can buy pre packaged herbal tea with hibiscus used as an ingredient. There are numerous varieties of herbal tea on the market containing hibiscus. 

7. Wormwood

Wormwood aka "Artemisiais the main ingredient behind Madagascar's purported Coronavirus Cure. But what does the research say. Artemisia has over 400 species, but there are 2 species in particular that can be found in Africa with purported medicinal benefits. Artemisia Afra is know as African wormwood, and Artemisia Annua is known as sweet wormwood. Lets first discuss Artemisia Afra. It is one of the most popularly used traditional medicines in north, southern, and eastern africa. The essential oil from the plant is what is primarily used. Research has found this plant to have several properties including antiparasitic, antispasmodic, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antihypertensive, and antidiabetic. It has long been used to treat respiratory issues and infections like colds, nasal congestion, coughs, bronchitis, and asthma through inhalation of infusions of the leaves or the essential oil vapors. It is also frequently used to calm GI problems like heartburn, dyspepsia, indigestion, and constipation. Its purported to have an analgesic effect to treat headaches, joint pain, and rheumatism when used with a warm compress. Artemisia annua and its derivative artemisinin has well know and researched anti-malaria effects and is now the base of many commercial malaria medications used in Asia and Africa.  Artemisinin is in fact toxic to malaria parasites by disrupting the heme metabolism capacity of the parasite. Unlike traditional african medicine, traditional chinese medicine is well studied and many pharmaceutical companies around the world even invest money in the study of traditional chinese medicine. Because of this artemisia annua is well researched as it is native to asia though now widely cultivated in the southern regions of Africa. Other than malaria, it is also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties used to treat many of the same ailments as artemisia afra. Currently there is no evidence that supports its use against Covid-19, however the African Union is currently conducting research to study its potentially efficacy against Covid-19.

8. Chamomile

Chamomile  has strong antioxidant activity rich in flavonoids and polyphenols. The flavonoids it contains include apigenin, apigenin7-O-glucoside, quercetin, patuletin, luteolin, and coumarin. Chamomile is recognized as an official drug and not just an herbal medicine in over 20 countries due to its widespread acceptance as a medicinal agent. Ancient Egyptians have been noted to use chamomile to successfully treat fever and malaria, and skin conditions like eczema, wounds, and ulcers. Research suggest that chamomile may be up to 60% as effective as hydrocortisone cream in treating skin conditions as well. One of chamomile's most well known uses is to to treat insomnia as it helps to calm the body. Similarly it has been used to treat anxiety and as a digestive relaxant to treat gastrointestinal disorders and upset stomach. Research found chamomile to be just as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in inhibition of COX-2 Enzyme Activity in the body. Increased COX-2 in the body is linked to several inflammatory conditions. This suggest that chamomile may aid in the treatment of inflammatory conditions like arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, alzheimer's, and cancer, but much more research is needed. Other than its strong antioxidant and aforementioned anti-inflammatory properties chamomile has several others which include being analgesic, antispasmodic, sedative, antidiabetic, anticancer, antidepressive, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antidiarrheal, cholesterol lowering, treatment of premenstrual syndrome, as well as antipruritic.

9. Soursop

Soursop Soursop also known as guanabana or graviola is a tropical fruit of the annona muricata tree native to Africa and other tropical regions. It is known to be rich in flavonoids, vitamin C, B vitamins, phosphorus, calcium and fiber. One of its most researched health benefits is cancer prevention. In an article written by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, they state that studies suggest that soursop may be effective against some types of cancers. Some research even suggest that soursop may be more potent in killing cancer cells and inhibiting tumor cell growth than chemotherapy while not disturbing normal cells as much as chemotherapy. It has been found to be most effective against prostate and pancreatic cancers. Other than cancer soursop has been purported to help treat respiratory infections, diabetes, rheumatism, high blood pressure, parasitic infections, pain, UTIs, stomach upset, and anemia. It used to be very difficult to find soursop products outside of the tropics, but now online you can find soursop leavesjuicesoil and even capsules containing soursop derivatives. 
Benefits of Soursop by plant part:

  • Leaves: cystitis, headaches, insomnia, cancer
  • Fruit/juice: arthritis, neuralgia, diarrhoea
  • Seeds: parasitic infections

10. Honey Bush

Honey Bush  is native to South Africa and has traditionally been used to treat digestive problems, promote lactation, and cure skin rashes, although there are no human studies to validate these uses. There are several studies that have identified over 18 antioxidants in honey bush and several animal studies that show honey bush to have potential antioxidant, anti-diabetic, antimutagenic, and immune enhancing effects in the body.


So if you don't feel the need to start drinking more tea now, I don't know what will convince you. The above teas although native to Africa, there are several tea brands that incorporate these plants and others into tea. Personally my favorite tea brand is Yogi Tea

I really love the plethora of flavors they carry and like how they give a detailed list of all the herbs used in each tea. So I can drink a different tea to suite all my different moods and feelings. Lastly each Yogi Tea bag comes with a different inspirational or philosophical quote to lighten your mood. 

Next time you are starting to feel under the weather, I definitely recommend you give one of our top 10 African tea picks a try!


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