Friday, 8 June 2012

Rooibos Tea for Dogs - Immune System Health, Cancer Inhibitor, Allergy Mediator

Aspalathus Linearis, common name Rooibos, also known as Red Bush or African Red Tea is an indigenous plant of South Africa - found in the Cedarburg region, north-west of Capetown. 

Rooibos is actually an herbal plant. The needle-like leaves and stems are harvested, crushed, fermented and dried. The plant has been used to make tea for hundreds of years.  Rooibos became a commercially grown crop in the 1930’s.

When the dried leaves are steeped they result in a rich red-colour tea that has numerous, proven health benefits. The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) has confirmed that red rooibus tea can reduce cancer, heart disease, slows aging as well as possessing other health benefits…I will provide an extensive list of benefits below.

Rooibos tea is just as beneficial for dogs as it is for humans. The tea is naturally caffeine free (caffeine is not good for dogs) and is low in tannin and free of oxalic acid - so unless your dog is suffering from iron deficiency (rooibos may slow down the absorption of iron) it is safe for your dog.
Below we will look at:
  1. The nutritional value of rooibos tea;
  2. The Health Benefits;
  3. How to add rooibos to your dog's daily diet;
  4. How combining the tea with a little cinnamon can help with your dog's oral care;
  5. How to use the tea topically to treat skin disorders due to allergies.

Nutritional Value and Health Benefits

Rooibos Tea Is:
  • Mineral rich: calcium, copper, fluoride, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc.
  • Rich in the anti-inflammatory flavinoid quercetin. Quercetin is a powerful, natural  antihistamine!
  • An excellent source of vitamin C
  • Rich in alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), an important antioxidant compound
  • Overall rooibos tea is a rich source of valuable, health supporting antioxidants
Rooibos is a Better Source of Antioxidants than Green Tea 
  • Rooibos tea contains 37 types of antioxidants, and overall offers about 50% more antioxidants than green tea
Rooibos tea offers an impressive list of health benefits: 
  • Allergy fighting properties - the tea contains anti-allergy properties and can be real aid in treating allergies and related skin problems, asthma, etc.
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-anxiety and calming properties - naturally calming and relaxing the tea can help relieve anxiety and relax your dog
  • Anti-spasmodic properties - rooibos tea is rich in anti-spasmodic agents it can help ease a sore stomach
  • Bone health promoting - as it is rich in bone building minerals calcium, manganese and fluoride
  • Cancer fighting, anti-mutagenic
  • Circulation enhancing - promotes good blood circulation and works to prevent hemorrhaging
  • Skin and fur health supporting - the AHA facilitates the healthy growth and maintenance of skin
    •  If your dog suffers from aliments of the skin such as itchiness and hot spots due to allergies the tea can really help to alleviate both discomfort and the inflammation of the skin
  • Heart health supporting - helps prevent heart disease
  • Immune system boosting - the antioxidants  also give the immune system a healthy boost
  • Anti-aging - the abundant antioxidants slow down the aging process

How To Add Rooibos to Your Dog’s Daily Diet

Brew the tea fresh on a daily basis or brew it and store in the refrigerator for several days. 

It's best to use organic rooibos tea. You can add the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon to the rooibos tea. Lemon is naturally anti-bacterial, anti-viral, immune-system boosting, a digestive aid and liver cleanser. Lemons contain bioflavonoids, calcium, citric acid, limonene, magnesium and vitamin C as well as other health promoting substances. Combined with rooibos tea the health benefits are multiplied. Lemon offers an amazing array of health benefits for your dog - you can read more here.

You can fill a bowl with rooibos tea and leave it next to your dog’s water bowl.

Your dog can self-select when she wants to have a sip. Leave the tea plain, or add some cinnamon (instructions and benefits noted below) or add fresh squeezed lemon and/or a drop or two of Manuka Honey, or other organic honey.

Make sure that your dog always has a bowl of fresh, plain water beside the bowl of rooibos tea.

Daily Dosage Based On Dog’s Weight

  • 1-10 lbs - less than 1/4 cup, 1-3 times per day
  • 10-20 lbs - 1/4 cup, 1-3 times per day
  • 20-50 lbs - 1/4-1/2 cup, 1-3 times per day
  • 50-100 lbs - 1/2-1 cup, 1-3 times per day
  • Over 100 lbs - up to 1 cup 3 times per day

When you add a little cinnamon to the rooibos tea you increase the health benefit:

Cinnamon has an extensive list of beneficial properties for oral care…it is an:
  • Anti-inflammatory;
  • Anti-microbial (fights bacteria, fungi, etc.)
  • Anti-septic;
  • Mild anesthetic;
  • Helps dissolve food particles and aids in the digestion of food. 
You dog gets the benefit of rooibos as well as an oral rinse!
It is extremely important to use dog-safe cinnamon, learn how to choose safe cinnamon. Learn how to choose safe cinnamon for your dog, and follow daily dosage guidelines provided here.

Use Rooibos Tea Topically to Treat Itching, Rashes and Hot Spots due to Allergies

As Rooibos tea contains anti-allergen properties. Rooibos tea is excellent for topical use to treat skin problems due to allergies. As well, the antioxidants in rooibos tea supports skin health and healing. Below you will find a recipe for:
  1. A soothing rinse
  2. A foot soak for itchy and or irritated paws
  3. A simple salve for irritated skin

Soothing Rinse

You'll need:
  • 2 tea bags of Rooibos Tea (also known as Red Bush Tea)
  • Optional ingredient, 1 fresh lemon

Preparation and Use:
  • Place the tea bags in hot water and allow to steep for 15 minutes
  • Remove the tea bags
  • Allow the tea to cool to slightly warm or room temperature as your dog prefers 
  • Squeeze the lemon, add the lemon juice to the tea
  •  The tea is now ready to use as a conditioning, soothing rinse or dip.
  • You don't need to rinse the tea off of your dog after application.


Foot Soak for Sore, Irritated Paws

If your dog or cat is suffering from allergies and/or resulting yeast infections of the paw (i.e. candida), or has come into contact with poisonous and/or toxic substances - giving your dog or cat a foot soak is very important to reduce discomfort, help treat the symptoms, remove harmful residue and stop your dog’s or cat’s need to lick and chew his/her paws. Toxins left on the paws can migrate into the dogs blood stream, and over time increase your dog's toxic load, compromise his/her immune system and trigger the development of cancer.

The most effective way to remove toxins (road salt, herbicides, fertilizers or pesticides) from your dog’s paws is to provide your dog with a 30 second foot soak. Depending on the size of your dog, you can do afoot soak in the bowl or basin, sink, bathtub, shower or in a small children’s pool. If you would like to see additional recipes for herbal foot soaks to alleviate sore, irritated paws you can read this article 'Natural, Herbal Remedies for Dogs, Cats with Sore, Irritated Paws'.

You'll need the following:
  • Rooibos Tea  - one or more bags of tea depending on the size of the tub
  • Optional ingredient, 1 to 2 fresh lemons
Place the tea bags in hot water and allow to steep for 15 minutes
  • Remove the tea bags and allow the resulting ‘tea’ to cool then add to the water in the soaking tub, or you can use the tea to warm the water in the tub - just always make sure that the resulting liquid for the soak is only warm or room temperature - never hot
  • Depending on the size of the tub - take 1 to 2 fresh lemons, squeeze for the juice and then add the juice to the cooled tea
  • Now you can soak your dog's or cat's paws
    • It is important to note that dunking/placing your dog’s or cat’s paws in the soaking solution is not as effective as soaking the paw for 30 seconds. After the soak just pat your dog’s or cat’s paws dry - do not rub them dry as rubbing can cause irritation


Soothing Salve

You can apply the dry rooibos tea powder to the spots directly using one of these options:
  • Open the tea bag and remove the tea powder, mix with a little 100% aloe vera juice or gel, apply
  • Soak the tea bag in hot water, allow to cool and place the cooled tea bag against the irritated skin
  • Soak the tea bag in hot water, allow to cool, open the tea bag and place the damp tea powder directly on the irritated skin


Red Rooibos vs Green Rooibos

Red rooibos and green rooibos come from the same plant. The difference between red rooibos and green rooibos is how the leaves are handled after the leaves are picked.

How Green Rooibos Tea Leaves are Made

The natural enzymes in the plant leaves react with the ambient air and sunshine to naturally turn the leaves red. To prevent the natural process of leaf color-change:
  • After harvesting the green leaves are steamed and dried as quickly as possible.
  • Steaming the leaves halts the natural process that would normally occur once leaves are removed from the plant.

How Red Rooibos Tea Leaves are Made

Red rooibos tea leaves are not steamed after they've been picked. 
  • The green leaves are harvested, shredded and allowed to dry naturally in the sun.
  • The leaves naturally turn red as they air dry in the sun as the enzymes naturally present in the leaves react to oxygen in the air.

Which is Better? Red Rooibos or Green Rooibos Tea

Green rooibos and red rooibos are rich in antioxidants which provide the health promoting properties of rooibos tea. Both green and red rooibos provide the health benefits outlined in the sections above.
However, a study conducted in South Africa has shown that red rooibos is more effective than green rooibos in fighting cancer.
As well, red rooibos and green rooibos have a different taste.
So how to choose? Select based on the issue you want to prevent or treat. You can also allow your dog or cat to self-select which they prefer, green or red.  You can read more about self-selection here.



None unless your dog is hypersensitive (intolerant or allergic) to rooibos, in which case do not use.

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld 


  1. Wow! Thank you for this article. I began to love drinking Roobios tea a few years ago. I never thought of using it with my dog.

    Could you share any links you have to research (humane or canine)? I would very much like to have those to share on my Dog Leader Mysteries. Keep Your Dog Healthy.

    And if we are not already 1st connections, I invite you to add me.

  2. Do you know if rooibos is safe for cats, if not internally at least externally to soothe the skin?

    Thank you for your help.

    1. Rooibos is safe for your cat - in fact my cats sometimes drink it. And yes it is safe to use topically on a cat as well...

      1) Natural Remedies for Dogs, Cats with Sore, Irritated Paws
      If your dog or cat is suffering from allergies and/or resulting yeast infections of the paw (i.e. candida), or has come into contact with poisonous and/or toxic substances - giving your dog or cat a foot soak is very important to reduce discomfort, help treat the symptoms, remove harmful residue and stop your dog’s or cat’s need to lick and chew his/her paws…

      2) DIY Recipes for Safe, Natural, Herbal, Homeopathic Shampoos and Rinses for Dogs
      Despite the fact that a manufacturer may label and advertise a shampoo for dogs as safe, all-natural or organic does not mean that the product is actually safe, organic or natural. While a product may contain one or more safe ingredients it may also include multiple toxic/carcinogenic ingredients. Unless you are 100% sure of the quality of the product you are better off making your own dog shampoo - it is simple and easy to make. Here are some recipes…but first please note, as with any shampoo make sure to keep the soap out of your dog’s eyes...

  3. This is great super informative and helpful!

  4. On another page for recipe for the soothing rinse with Rooibos tea plus lemon, the instructions read to add tea bags AND lemon juice to hot water and steep for 15 minutes. In the instructions above, you add the juice of a lemon after the tea has cooled. Which is correct? Or does it matter?

    1. Does not matter - however I usually just add it when cooled.

  5. Can dog drink Green Rooibos Tea(similar to the method by which green tea is produced) and Honeybush Tea(similar to that of rooibos but a little sweeter and has many similarities with rooibos.)?

    1. Yes Green Rooibos is fine provided you make sure there are no teas mixed into the Green Rooibos that are not decaffeinated.

  6. Hi Karen, are cinnamon and lemon safe for a cat

    1. read my article on lemon, and my article on cinnamon

  7. Hi karen,

    Is rooibus safe for puppies under 6 months?

    1. Hi Karen, thank-you for reply. Vital Rooibus tea bags in Australia that are certified organic and say oxygen bleached tea bags are they okay? Thank-you Maria

    2. Hi Maria - no oxygen bleached bags - purchase loose leaf rooibos.

  8. Wow this information is really helpful.
    My dog has a skin infection around his eye area,and we've had it treated by the vet but it just came back.
    Will definitely try the rooibos tea method.☺


Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

4.0 Leave a Comment

I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats