Rooibos tea – already considered one of the nation’s favourite beverages – has the potential to delay and prevent the onset and progression of type 2 diabetes (T2D), according to a number of recent studies conducted by the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and their research partners, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC, Infruitec-Nietvoorbij, Stellenbosch), the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, the Polytechnic University of Marche based in Italy and the National Health Research Institutes in Taiwan.
Prof Christo Muller, Chief Specialist Scientist at the SAMRC, who has led a number of research projects focusing on the effectiveness of Rooibos in the treatment of T2D, confirms Rooibos’ potential to help control diabetes, in conjunction with healthy lifestyle changes.
“Diabetes is amongst the most prevalent diseases of the lifestyle of our time, with about one in 14 South Africans between the ages of 21 and 79 suffering from the condition. Many are also unaware that they have diabetes and are living with dangerously high blood sugar levels, increasing the likelihood of developing diabetic complications such as blindness, renal failure, amputation, heart attack and stroke, which is a frightening outlook.
“Our research found that an aspalathin-enriched extract of green Rooibos effectively lowered raised blood glucose levels in diabetic rats.
Aspalathin is a unique phenolic compound (an element produced by the plant to help protect itself from negative environmental factors), found only in the Rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis), which has been shown to contribute significantly to the biological benefits of Rooibos,” explains Prof Muller.
Other research at the SAMRC also shows promising cardio-protective benefits of aspalathin in a diabetic heart model.
In a more recent study, just completed by Prof Muller and his team of researchers, Rooibos extract achieved significant glucose-lowering results in diabetic non-human primates, which has been described as a breakthrough discovery. These results will be published next year. Human trials have been earmarked for 2018.
Prof Muller says that studies conducted on the health properties of Rooibos by the SAMRC and ARC, including those done in overseas laboratories, span more than 10 years’ worth of intensive work and points to the feasibility of developing a Rooibos-based anti-diabetic nutraceutical.
“Such a product could be of tremendous value to diabetics given that It could reduce the risk of some side-effects of traditional pharmacological treatments that are currently on the market. The domestic agricultural sector also stands to benefit since SA is currently the sole exporter of Rooibos. The plant grows exclusively in the Cederberg region situated in the northern part of the Western Cape.
“Rooibos is a unique South African plant, which offers almost limitless health benefits. The plant’s medicinal properties continue to astound scientists. I believe we’ve only just scratched the surface of Rooibos’ incredible healing potential,” he remarks.
The month of November is recognized around the world as Diabetes Awareness Month, which focuses on raising public consciousness of the signs and symptoms, and prevention of this condition. Here are some of the benefits that may be derived from drinking Rooibos tea:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes-associated cardiovascular disease
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure
- Preventing blood clots
For delicious diabetic-friendly recipes that include Rooibos tea, visit www.cookingfromtheheart.co.za – a healthy cookbook series funded by Pharma Dynamics and endorsed by the National Department of Health, the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA and the Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology.