Rooibos is a good source of antioxidants and is the only known source of a potent antioxidant aspalathin, which could play a role in combating several lifestyle diseases.
Rooibos Health Facts
Unlike black and green teas, Rooibos is naturally caffeine free (not decaffeinated) and therefore suitable for children, infants and breast-feeding mothers.
Rooibos has proven cancer-fighting properties in animal research studies, and exciting new research points towards the role that Rooibos can play in promoting heart health and preventing diabetes.
Rooibos contains low amounts of tannin (tannins are astringent, bitter-tasting plant polyphenols that bind and precipitate proteins and interfere with iron absorption in the body.)
After centuries of use, no negative side effects of Rooibos have ever been recorded.
ROOIBOS SCIENCE AND HEALTH
People have been talking and writing about the health benefits of Rooibos since the late 1960’s. This widespread anecdotal evidence and the presence of a blend of antioxidants in the product, whet the research appetites of several scientists in South Africa and around the world. They are testing and analysing Rooibos intensively to evaluate the potential health properties and to study the complex mix of active ingredients in Rooibos. The active ingredients in Rooibos are polyphenolic compounds. Polyphenols are characteristic chemical structures produced by plants.
A convincing body of evidence confirming the potential health properties of Rooibos has been built up, mostly based on in vitro work (in test tubes) and in vivo work (with live animals). Many articles on the properties and health benefits of Rooibos have been published in the South African and international scientific literature, including several research articles in high-impact, peer-reviewed scientific journals. [link to Research References]
The next step is to confirm that the same health benefits can be proven in the human body. A research team at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, led by Dr Jeanine Marnewick, is now taking on the challenge of the first ever clinical Rooibos studies in adults who are at risk for developing heart disease. There study started in June 2007 and the first results are expected early in 2008. Their research is co-funded by the South African Rooibos Council. (also see HEALTH RESEARCH )
- Rooibos contains a complex and abundant blend of antioxidants.
- Rooibos is the only known source of a specifically beneficial and rare antioxidant called aspalathin.
- Unfermented (green) Rooibos has higher levels of antioxidants than traditional, fermented Rooibos.
- The antioxidants in Rooibos are potent enough to measurably elevate the antioxidant levels in blood, thereby boosting the body’s internal defence systems against disease. The effect peaks about one hour after drinking 500 ml Rooibos tea.
- The antioxidant content of Rooibos also depends on the soil conditions of the region where the plant was grown, and on how the infusion was prepared, i.e. ratio of leaves to water, temperature of the water, extraction time, stirring, etcetera.
- Rooibos slows down the development of cancerous skin lesions.
- The complex mixture of polyphenols in Rooibos may help protect against free radicals. (Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage the DNA in cells, leading to cancer.)
- These free radicals can also oxidise cholesterol, leading to clogged blood vessels, heart attack and stroke. The antioxidants in Rooibos can neutralize these free radicals and help to limit their impact.
- Rooibos increases the antioxidant status of rat’s livers. This could result in Rooibos being used in the treatment of chronic liver disease. Based on recent research done in the Slovak Republic, this research team recommend Rooibos for people with chronic liver problems.
- Rooibos protects the brains of aged rats against oxidative damage. This could play a role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Many of these findings require more research before specific recommendations about the use of Rooibos can be made, and therefore several research groups around the world are currently working on Rooibos. [also see Ongoing Research ]
HOW ROOIBOS MAY HELP TO PREVENT CANCER
- Rooibos may prevent the healthy cell from undergoing mutagenesis (by binding free radicals, increasing the antioxidant capacity of the liver and helping the liver to cope with carcinogens).
- Rooibos may prevent a cell with damaged DNA from becoming a cancerous cell.
- Rooibos may prevent cancerous cells from multiplying and forming a cancerous tumour.
Some of the Rooibos research at South Africa’s Medical Research Council focuses on how Rooibos inhibits the development of cancer cells.
When a healthy cell is exposed to things such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, the sun, pesticides, chemicals in our environment, viruses or even a high fat/high salt diet, at high levels or for a long time, its DNA may be irreversibly damaged. This is the first step in the development of cancer, but does not always lead to cancer.
With ongoing exposure to these detrimental factors, the cell may lose its ability to control the cellular growth processes and become a cancer cell.
If the exposure continues, the cancer cell can start to multiply and form a mass of cells, called a tumour.
MORE ROOIBOS HEALTH BENEFITS
- Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free (no decaffeination required).
- Rooibos is low in tannin.
- No negative effects of Rooibos have ever been recorded.
- Many people report that Rooibos relieves allergies, sleep disorders, digestive problems and headaches. However, these claims are not yet supported by scientific research.
- Many physicians (especially in South Africa) recommend Rooibos to soothe infant colic, but no formal studies have been done on this.
- Rooibos can be enjoyed by those who want to avoid the stimulating effects of caffeine, especially late at night. Because of its zero caffeine content, Rooibos is also suitable for babies and infants, as well as for breast-feeding mothers.
- Rooibos is suitable as a fluid and electrolyte replacement for athletes.
“Rooibos and honeybush teas provide a natural, rich source of compounds beneficial to your health and people should see these herbal teas as part of a healthy, sensible lifestyle that could alleviate the risk of cancer, and reduce its possible extent.”
“While Rooibos is not a medicine, it is an affordable drink with potential health-promoting properties. Research is ongoing to find all the answers about this unique South African product.”