What is it about Rooibos that South Africans love? Is it because it’s so mild and soothing that even babies can enjoy it as it eases away their tummy cramps, or because more and more it’s being hailed around the world for its health-giving benefits?
One of South Africa’s experts on Rooibos, Dr Jeanine Marnewick from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, is leading the field in research into the health benefits. She has looked into the effect of the high levels of antioxidants and polyphenols in Rooibos on a condition called “oxidative stress” in the cells of the body. Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals – an unstable molecule of oxygen – and the ability of the body to use antioxidants to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects. The more free radicals that are active, the greater the likelihood of developing diseases, such as heart disease, inflammation, chronic fatigue and cancers.
Rooibos, particularly the green extract used in African Extracts skin care, is extremely high in antioxidants. Dr Marnewick’s research led to a finding that drinking six cups of rooibos tea a day would help reduce heart disease, while other recent findings in Spain show that antioxidants in rooibos help prevent the storing of fat cells in and around the liver and other organs.
While very few human trials have been done on the effects of rooibos extract on the skin, research findings at Stellenbosch University have shown that green rooibos extract plays a role in preventing the development of skin cancer and delays the onset of malignant tumours. Dr Tandeka Magcwebeba, who conducted the study as part of her doctorate in Biochemistry, found that rooibos extracts help stop the multiplication of cancerous cells and cause them to become inactive.
Dr Marnewick, speaking at the launch on African Extracts Advantage range, says there’s no reason why the benefits of drinking Rooibos tea should not extend to use on the skin. She recommends this remedy for sunburned skin: Run a lukewarm bath and throw in a handful of Rooibos teabags. Wait several minutes for the Rooibos to infuse the water and relax while this South African treasure works its magic.