Cancer Fighting Tea Shows Promise

By Meredith Bishop November 06, 2017 0

The Cederberg mountains near Cape Town, South Africa is the only one place in the world with the right soil and climate for the rooibos (pronounced roy-boss)plant to grow and where the native bushmen have been drinking a brew made from its needle like leaves for centuries. During the 17th century the Dutch East India Company operated a port from Cape Town and due to the high cost of importing tea from Europe the settlers discovered the rooibos plant and began to harvest the leaves and brew it as a tea substitute. In the second half of the 17th century a Russian migrate began to export the refined rooibos leaves as a specialty drink to other parts of the world.

Currently 8,000 tonnes of dried leaves are produced each year half of which is consumed in South African and the other half exported almost exclusively to developed nations primarily Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

When rooibos is often referred to as a type of tea this is wrong. Whether the final product is a black, green, white or oolong tea all true teas come from the camellia sinensis plant and contain caffeine in varying amounts. The rooibos plant contains no caffeine at all so is best classed as a herbal tea-like drink much like peppermint or chamomile.

In 1968 a young mother, Annique Theron, discovered the healing properties of rooibos when she used the brewed tea to warm her daughter’s bottle and for the first time in the child’s life she was able to sleep through the night and her allergic reaction to the milk was eased. Annique went on to write a book documenting the healing properties of rooibos in 1974 and went on to create a line of skin care products based on rooibos.

Even more remarkable than this however is the possibility that drinking rooibos tea regularly can protect against cancer and while clinical trials with humans are still years away trials using mice have shown greatly improved resistance to several different varieties of cancer.

Researchers investigating the properties of rooibos at the South African Medical Research Council strongly believe that rooibos extract will eventually be used in a variety of skin creams and sunscreens to protect against skin cancer and the brewed drink treated more as a preventative medicine than a tea replacement.

I'm pretty confident it will protect humans from environmentally and dietary-induced cancer, but to what extent isn't clear yet.
- Dr Jeanine Marnewick, South African Medical Research Council

Rooibos' ability to fight cancer comes from its high levels of antioxidants that boosts detoxifying liver enzymes and slows or halts DNA mutations. If allowed to form in the body these mutations can damage cells and contribute to the risks of cancers forming.

Controlled experiments in mice have demonstrated that rooibos is able to inhibit as much as 90% of bacterial mutations in DNA.

Further tests divided the mice into two separate groups with only one group being given high doses of rooibos daily. Both groups had cancer induced and were then monitored over several weeks. The group receiving rooibos daily showed no signs of cancer while the control group had visible skin lesions.

The head of clinical programmes at Cancer Research UK, Dr Richard Sullivan, was optimistic regarding the results shown by the South African researchers and noted that due to its lake of caffeine rooibos presented a near-zero toxicity proposition making it a much safer and more effective form of chemotherapy prevention than existing synthetic alternatives. He went on to caution that the results shown in mice were no guarantee that the same would be true in human trials and that rooibos could not be used as a direct method of compensating for poor diet, obesity or smoking.

As if a potential treatment for cancer weren't enough rooibos has even more health benefits, find out more here.


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