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Rooibos Research on the Move

The SA Rooibos Council (SARC) is ramping up research efforts to better understand exactly how our indigenous Rooibos tea could help tackle some of the most prevalent diseases of our time.

A hefty R4.5-million will be invested into further researching Rooibos’ potential to reduce allergies, heart disease, diabetes and skin cancer between now and 2022. In SA alone, these diseases combined afflict more than 43 million people. Scientists will also investigate Rooibos’ impact on gut ora and to what extent it can lessen the side effects of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Joe Swart, Research Director for the SARC says:

“We want to provide both healthcare practitioners and patients with sufficient proof of Rooibos’ efficacy in helping to prevent and manage certain diseases. We’ve reached an exciting stage in the Rooibos research journey. After years of systematic and thorough research conducted on specifically Rooibos’ impact on heart health, we will be progressing to intervention trials on humans – the final leg of the research phase.”

Joe Swart, Research Director for the SARC

One study that has been given the green light is Rooibos’ impact on hayfever and chronic rhinitis, which will be conducted by the UCT Lung Institute, while the Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and the Massey University in New Zealand will combine their expertise to look at how the herbal tea can improve glycaemic control in people with pre-diabetes and/or type II diabetes. Further research will also be conducted by various teams of scientists at CPUT into Rooibos’ potential to boost athletic performance; its effect on autoimmune skin diseases, such as psoriasis and vitiligo; and its chemo-preventative properties in the early stages of skin cancer.

“Without a doubt, Rooibos research is on the move,” says Swart. “We are at the threshold of a new era of natural products research globally, which could give rise to multiple new medicinal applications for herbs such as Rooibos.” Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, says it is encouraging to see the volume of research being done on Rooibos, which has become one of SA’s most sought-after exports.

In addition to providing more than 8 000 jobs with further employment being created in upstream manufacturing activities, Rooibos is poised to further boost the Western Cape’s coffers by way of agritourism, turning Clanwilliam – the heartland of Rooibos – into an attractive tourism destination. The recent launch of the ‘Rooibos Route’ is already bearing the fruit of the success that can be had from combining agricultural production with tourism.

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