distinctly South African teas have been fingered for their potential to treat
two of the country’s biggest cancer killers.
research, presented recently at the Cancer Association of South Africa’s
Research in Action Conference, showed that rooibos and honeybush both have
anti-cancer properties that may be useful in the treatment of prostate and
the two most common cancers affecting South Africans. One in every 26 men will
be affected by prostate cancer in their lifetime, while one in every 33 women
will develop breast cancer, according to the latest data from the National
high levels of antioxidants, rooibos has long been known for its ability to
help prevent cancer from developing, but this new research shows that it could
potentially also be used to treat – but not cure – the disease.
Read: 10 ways to prevent cancer
laboratory studies, Stellenbosch University (SU) biochemist Prof Amanda Swart
found rooibos extract interferes with the male sex hormone dihydrotestosterone
– which is one of the main drivers of prostate cancer. This action is similar
to that of current drugs used in the treatment of prostate cancers.
cautiously optimistic saying that although the effects of rooibos are
favourable in cell models, it should not be seen as a cure.
research is ongoing and our findings may implicate rooibos to support
therapeutic approaches to prostate cancer,” says Swart.
biochemist Prof Ann Louw studied the cancer-killing abilities of another fynbos
variety also used for tea, honeybush. The idea of testing it for medicinal
purposes came from anecdotes that communities in Langkloof Valley in the
Eastern and Western Capes use it to treat menopause symptoms.
Molecular testing showed that honeybush extract contained chemicals that
can either block or increase oestrogen, which may drive the growth of some
types of cancers.
Although still in the testing phases, honeybush-derived therapy may one
day be used as a second-line drug against some of these cancers. However Louw warned
that the honeybush’s medicinal values varied greatly between harvests and may
depend on as yet unknown environmental conditions
“You can harvest a good batch from a specific field this year, but two
years later it won’t have exactly the same compounds,” says Louw. – Wilma Stassen, Health-e
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Image: Rooibos tea from Shutterstock
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