The South African Rooibos Council (SARC) is ramping up research efforts into how the indigenous tea could help tackle diseases, with R4.5-million to be invested into its potential to reduce allergies, heart disease, diabetes and skin cancer between now and 2022.
These diseases combined afflict more than 43-million people in South Africa.
Scientists will also investigate rooibos’ impact on gut flora and to what extent it can lessen the side effects of antiretroviral therapy.
Rooibos is a good source of unique and beneficial bio-actives such as antioxidants, different to those found in other teas, fruits and vegetables and is particularly rich in phytochemicals such as flavonoids and polyphenols which contribute to its health benefits.
“Due to the large and growing use of natural derived substances for healthy living all over the world, it is imperative that the SARC obtains reliable data as to rooibos’ healing potential, since many other herbal-based treatments lack definitive evidence," SARC research director Joe Swart said.
"We want to provide both healthcare practitioners and patients with sufficient proof of rooibos’ efficacy in helping to prevent and manage certain diseases. Over the last decade the SARC has invested significantly in research to do just that."
Swart said after years of systematic and thorough research conducted on specifically rooibos’ impact on heart health, the SARC would be progressing to intervention trials on humans in the final leg of the research phase.
The intervention trial will determine just how much rooibos – equivalent to a cup of tea – is required in a condensed form to serve the purpose of a nutraceutical to support heart health.
The 12-week-long trial, which will commence in August and whose findings should be made public by the end of 2022, is key to understanding how a dietary intervention such as rooibos can change the outcome of specifically cardiovascular disease risk factors.