Originally published September 6 2012
The unique superfood power of rooibos: Latest research
by Willow Tohi
(NaturalNews) Grown only in the small Cederberg region of South Africa, near Cape Town, rooibos tea is made from the leaves of the "red bush" plant, aspalathus linearis. Enjoyed for centuries by the indigenous people for its taste and medicinal properties, international awareness of this superfood only began a century ago, with its popularity growing steadily ever since, especially among the health conscious.
Most teas are derived from the Camillia sinensis plant, including black, white, green, and oolong. Rooibos is different and therefore considered more of an herbal drink or tisane than a true tea. It is called "red tea" or "red bush tea" because of the bright red color the leaves become during the oxidation process. Once brewed, rooibos tea will have a red color and a sweet, nutty flavor. (http://www.rooibostea.com/rooibos-tea-101.php)
The phytonutrients in rooibos offer many health benefitsLike any superfood, rooibos is full of health boosting phytonutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids. Amounts of each may vary depending on when and how the leaves were harvested and oxidized (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22920220), but all rooibos almost always has the following minerals:
• Fluoride, good for dental health
• Iron, to transport oxygen through the blood
• Magnesium, to build bones and release energy from muscles as needed, and more
• Potassium, to regulate blood pressure and protect against cardiovascular disease
• Sodium, (not table salt) for regulating nerves and muscles
• Zinc, for wound healing, skin and nail health, and immune system
• Several trace minerals as well, such as copper and manganese
With this many minerals, rooibos qualifies as a dietary supplement (http://www.rooibostea.com/rooibos-tea-as-a-health-supplement.php). It also has a variety of flavonoids, and potent antioxidants. Some of the health benefits associated with this impressive list of phytonutrients includes: stronger teeth and bones; increased immune function; decreased insomnia, headaches, irritability, soothed stomach cramps and colic, cardiovascular health and heart disease protection, cancer prevention, cellular protection, and many more, with no known side-effects.
The latest research findings support traditional uses of rooibosIn the 1960s a South African mother published a book on the health benefits of rooibos tea. It sparked interest in discovering the nutrition and health benefits of rooibos. Studies soon identified the antioxidant properties and other phenolic compounds. In the decades since, continued studies have identified more phytonutrients, explored how they work, and investigated applications for them. For example, in 2003 the American Botanical Council said there is no other natural resource that has as many antioxidants as rooibos. Two of them are rare: nothofagin, proven to protect against cancer, heart disease, and stroke; and aspalathin, which is only found in rooibos tea. (http://www.naturalnews.com/031536_rooibos_tea_South_Africa.html)
Aspalathin helps muscle cells use glucose more effectively, and maintain normal blood sugar levels. It is just one flavonoid among a wide spectrum of bioactive phenolic compounds. The phytonutrients are believed to aid stress-related symptoms linked to metabolic diseases. A study was done to see if rooibos could help maintain hormonal homeostasis to help prevent numerous clinical conditions such as hypertension, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistant type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Rooibos' aspalathin and nothofagin were investigated for their inhibitory effects on adrenal steroidogenesis and found to significantly reduce aldosterone and cortisol precursors, helping to balance hormones and reduce stress. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22101210)
One of the traditional uses of rooibos tea is for South African mothers to use rooibos tea to soothe infant colic, and calm hyperactivity. It seems rooibos offers additional benefits for children. Rotaviruses cause severe diarrhea in young children. The luteolin and vitexin in rooibos was found to be one of the edible plant extracts that had anti-viral activity strong enough to treat diarrhea caused by rotavirus infection. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22834653)
Antioxidants prevent oxidative stress, which causes degenerative problems on a cellular level to a variety of tissues, from organs to sperm. One study compared the effects of red rooibos, green rooibos, Chinese green tea, and commercial rooibos and green tea supplements on rat sperm. Sperm count and motility were found to be significantly higher for rats on red and green rooibos than any of the other groups (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22228422). Another antioxidant in rooibos is chrysoeriol. It is an effective bronchodilator, helps lower blood pressure, relieves spasms, and helps prevent and treat vascular disease by inhibiting the cause of hardening of arteries. (http://www.sarooibos.org.za)
The cardioprotective effects of the main polyphenolic compounds in both red and green rooibos tea were evaluated in a study using rat hearts. Results showed that rooibos extracts had the highest amount of flavonols and significantly improved aortic output recovery and decreased apoptosis (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21982437). Another study found green tea and rooibos to inhibit ACE activity (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22095883). Other ways rooibos keeps the heart healthy is by preventing oxidation of fat molecules in blood, enhancing glutathione, improving blood lipid profiles, and lowering LDL cholesterol. It also inhibits the angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE, which is associated with the development of cardiovascular disease including hypertension and heart disease. (146-the-science-of-why-rooibos-is-good-for-you)
Over the last decade, researchers have proven the therapeutic ability of rooibos in the fight against cancer, protecting the liver from disease, boosting the immune system, relieving allergies, and treating digestive disorders. To use rooibos therapeutically, studies from South Africa show optimum health benefit when drinking six cups throughout the day. (http://www.sarooibos.org.za/health-mainmenu-48)
The powerful antioxidants in roobios protect living cells from oxidative damage, which also slows or prevents cancer. Rooibos may also help the body remove cancerous cells that already have damaged DNA. Studies suggest rooibos may switch on certain genes that help to break down carcinogens stored in the body tissues for elimination (http://www.sarooibos.org.za). A study on herbal tea as a cancer preventative found total esophageal papilloma size in rats to be reduced by unfermented rooibos. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21541901)
One study found that special extraction of the alkaline extracts present in rooibos tea leaves seem to suppress HIV-induced cytopathicity, leading to the conclusion that daily intake may suppress HIV infection. (The extraction is important because regular rooibos tea doesn't have the anti-HIV activity). (http://www.naturalnews.com/035923_coffee_rooibos_energy.html)
Research validated powerhouse These studies are only a handful of noteworthy findings on the latest research of rooibos tea. Nutritional intervention with powerful phenolic constituents has a long, proven history.
As the medical industry's standard treatments often fail to halt and heal problems such as obesity and metabolic diseases, it is becoming increasingly common for them to turn to plant-derived polyphenols for safer and more effective therapies (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21211952). Current health research projects by the South African Rooibos Council including studies on: anti-aging properties of rooibos, rooibos effects on obesity, how rooibos improves performance during exercise, how rooibos combats stress, and the cancer-preventing properties of roobios.
Scientists around the world are investigating the complex chemical composition and bioactivity of rooibos. The bioavailability of its more than 25 phenolic compounds helps to explain its effectiveness at promoting health and longevity. It also explains why it is increasingly being investigated as a possible way to safely and effectively protect the human body from disease. Added to that, rooibos is safe to drink - prolonged use does not harm the kidneys, bladder, or liver, and it does not affect iron levels in the blood. And it doesn't have calories, caffeine, or other stimulants. One thing most rooibos researchers would agree on: adding polyphenols from rooibos tea to the daily diet is likely to help in overall health management.
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