Updated 25 January 2017

Can rooibos protect you from the effects of UVB exposure?

You can drink it hot or cold, in a cocktail or mocktail. The fact is, rooibos tea is a versatile brew.

It’s also not a true tea but rather a herb, according to the Rooibos Council. Rooibos gets its vibrant colour during the post-harvest fermentation process and contains no colourants or preservatives. 

More than just a tea

Although many people enjoy rooibos as a tea, research is proving that it has far more powerful qualities. Researchers from the SA Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Cape Town Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) have spent the 11 years studying rooibos and how it can protect against skin-cell inflammation. 

One of the lead researchers Prof Wentzel Gelderblom, based at CPUT’s Institute of Biomedical and Microbial Biotechnology, says rooibos extracts have the ability to remove precancerous damaged cells and also block the onset of inflammation from skin exposed to UV rays.

Read: Skin damage continues for hours after UV exposure

How does it work?

Polyphenols (antioxidants) – a natural compound found in rooibos – gives it its restorative power. These compounds are linked with the prevention of various chronic disorders, including skin cancer.

Read: The health benefits of rooibos 

Can we expect a miracle cure? 

“We are currently developing biomarkers, representing critical biological processes of how rooibos tea protects against skin cancer,” explains Prof Gelderblom. “These will then be validated in mouse skin before commencing trials in humans.

“These biomarkers involve sophisticated molecular techniques that will help us to assess rooibos’ protective effects in very small skin biopsies, which will eventually be utilised to conduct our mouse and clinical trials in humans. Doing so will also help us to more precisely determine the quantity of rooibos extract needed to prevent the development of skin cancer.”

Read: Rooibos tea could be a good way to prevent kids overheating

Early days

“Preliminary findings show that rooibos extracts are more effective during the early stages of skin cancer development as they can facilitate the removal of UVB-damaged cells, delaying their progression into a tumour.”

Read more: 

Count your moles and know your skin cancer risk

Indoor tanning causes common skin cancers

Can rooibos help you lose weight?


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