Rooibos and Cancer Health Facts

Posted by Elsie Correia on

People have been talking and writing about the health benefits of Rooibos since the late 1960s. This widespread anecdotal evidence and the presence of a blend of antioxidants in the product, whet the research appetites of several scientists in South Africa and around the world.

They are testing and analysing Rooibos intensively to evaluate the potential health properties and to study the complex mix of active ingredients in Rooibos. The active ingredients in Rooibos are polyphenolic compounds. Polyphenols are characteristic chemical structures produced by plants.

Rooibos Antioxidants

  • Rooibos contains a complex and abundant blend of antioxidants.
  • Rooibos is the only known source of a specifically beneficial and rare antioxidant called aspalathin.
  • Unfermented (green) Rooibos has higher levels of antioxidants than traditional, fermented Rooibos.
  • The antioxidants in Rooibos are potent enough to measurably elevate the antioxidant levels in blood, thereby boosting the body’s internal defence systems against disease. The effect peaks about one hour after drinking 500 ml Rooibos tea.
  • The antioxidant content of Rooibos also depends on the soil conditions of the region where the plant was grown, and on how the infusion was prepared, i.e. ratio of leaves to water, temperature of the water, extraction time, stirring, etc.

Rooibos vs Cancer, Heart Disease, and More

Rooibos slows down the development of cancerous skin lesions. The complex mixture of polyphenols in Rooibos may help protect against free radicals. (Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage the DNA in cells, leading to cancer.) These free radicals can also oxidise cholesterol, leading to clogged blood vessels, heart attack and stroke. The antioxidants in Rooibos can neutralise these free radicals and help to limit their impact.

Rooibos May Help To Prevent Cancer

Rooibos may prevent the healthy cell from undergoing mutagenesis (by binding free radicals, increasing the antioxidant capacity of the liver and helping the liver to cope with carcinogens). Rooibos may prevent a cell with damaged DNA from becoming a cancerous cell. Rooibos may prevent cancerous cells from multiplying and forming a cancerous tumour. Some of the Rooibos research at South Africa’s Medical Research Council focuses on how Rooibos inhibits the development of cancer cells.

How Cancer Develops

When a healthy cell is exposed to things such as cigarette smoke, alcohol, the sun, pesticides, chemicals in our environment, viruses or even a high fat/high salt diet, at high levels or for a long time, its DNA may be irreversibly damaged. This is the first step in the development of cancer, but does not always lead to cancer. With ongoing exposure to these detrimental factors, the cell may lose its ability to control the cellular growth processes and become a cancer cell. If the exposure continues, the cancer cell can start to multiply and form a mass of cells, called a tumour.

The South African Rooibos Council has teamed up with popular lingerie brand Storm in A-G Cup and CANSA to create a bra made almost entirely of Rooibos tea bags which will be auctioned in aid of breast cancer awareness. Thank you for donating your tea bags in August and contributing to this worthy cause.


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