Rooibos can undo some of the damage caused by the sun’s harmful ultra-violet rays, according to a report released by the South African Rooibos Council.
Once the skin has been exposed to the sun’s rays, rooibos extracts have the ability to remove precancerous damaged cells and to block the onset of inflammation, said Professor Wentzel Gelderblom, a lead researcher in the study.
“It does so by stopping the multiplication of cancerous cells and removing these cells through programmed cell death, in other words, prompting them to commit suicide,” said Gelderblom, who is with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) Institute of Biomedical and Microbial Biotechnology.
But more tests need to be done before an after-sun skincare product can be brought to market, Gelderblom said. “We are currently developing biomarkers, representing critical biological processes of how rooibos tea protects against skin cancer. 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 utilized 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.”
Preliminary findings show that rooibos extracts are more effective during the early stages of skin cancer development, he added, as they are able to facilitate the removal of UVB-damaged cells, thereby delaying their progression into a tumor.
Two earlier studies found that rooibos has properties that can effectively reduce skin tumors caused by harmful exposure to UVB rays. One study was conducted by the Oxidative Stress Research Centre at CPUT, while the other was conducted by Medical Research Council’s Promec unit. Both studies received funding from the South African Rooibos Council, according to the South African Online News Service IOL.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with about 20,000 reported cases every year, which results in more than 700 deaths, according to the council.