Magical properties of rooibos

Vuyolwethu Ndongeni

SCIENTISTS have long known the health properties of rooibos, but a Port Elizabeth professor and her team have taken it a step further.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) Professor Maryna van de Venter along with Dr Trevor Koekemoer of the department of Biochemistry and Microbiology have teamed up to research antioxidants in rooibos, which are said to postpone aging.

“The aspect that we’re looking at is the fat underneath the skin. With aging, we lose that fat, and so instead of storing the fat under your skin we store it in bad places,” said Van de Venter.

“This causes the development of certain types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. If we can restore the fat under the skin, then we may postpone these negative effects.”

Van de Venter, who has been working on medicinal plants for 12 years, has also studied the effects of Sutherlandia frutescens and its effects on Type 2 Diabetes, now is particularly optimistic about the prospects of this proudly South African product, which is endemic to the Western Cape.

“Rooibos only grows in certain parts of South Africa. It makes it all the better that it is such a uniquely South African product,” she said.

While there have been numerous research studies done on the antioxidants in rooibos, Van de Venter said, “we know about its good properties, so if we can look more into those good properties, it would not only improve our health, but the economy too”.

“Although we suspect that the antioxidants will have these properties, like improving our health and postponing the effects of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, we can’t be sure until we do this research”.

The rooibos research, entitled, “The anti-aging potential of rooibos: Preserving preadipocyte function,” that Van de Venter and Koekemoer are embarking on will also assist in recognising the most effective antioxidants.

Antioxidants are vitamins and other nutrients that protect our cells from the damage caused by free radicals associated with cancer and heart disease.

They can be found in most fruits, vegetables and medicinal herbs.

“There are many antioxidant products available but we have to identify the most suited to combating the effects of aging. I think rooibos is special because of the many health benefits that have been shown already.

“And it is much nicer to drink a cup of tea than taking a pill.”

The professor, who grew up drinking rooibos tea, encourages long-term consumption of rooibos tea.

“You can’t drink it for a week and then stop and expect that it will show results.

“Rooibos should be consumed for the many benefits that have been shown already, not just the anti-aging,” she said.

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