Cape Town - It’s long been known as a health beverage due to its lack of caffeine and high level of antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
But researchers at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) have established that rooibos tea could also help improve your liver function and protect it against oxidative damage.
In a study that’s been done on rats so far, researchers found that the antioxidant-rich rooibos and red palm oil could protect the liver against a damaging chemical known as tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide (t-BHP). Its ingredients can protect the liver from tissue damage and could even reverse some of the damage already present in the organ.
The liver - the largest gland in the body - has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, and plays a major role in metabolism, protein synthesis and hormone production.
The researchers treated about 80 male rats with t-BHP over 10 weeks and gave them rooibos tea instead of water which helped to protect them against “structural, enzymatic and biochemical damage”.
The evidence was so compelling that the researchers have suggested the use of rooibos as a supplement for the prevention and treatment of liver disorders. The use of red palm oil had similar results and has also been recommended as a supplement.
The results of the study, which have been published in the March issue of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, suggested that rooibos tea and red palm oil, either taken alone or combined, were capable of alleviating t-BHP-induced or drug-induced liver damage.
The mechnanism of this protection might also slow down the oxidative degradation of lipids and modulation of anti-oxidant enzymes, which protect cells from radical damage.
Dr Wale Ajuwon, the lead researcher of the study, said although the research was done in animals, the data “gave us insight into mechanism of what might be taking place in the human body and I believe that they are useful to make recommendations to people”.
Given the fact that liver disease and drug-induced liver damage was a major cause of death around the world, Ajuwon said it was “exciting” to have evidence that rooibos tea could be used as a liver protector and an adjuvant (pharmacological) therapy for the management of liver disorders.
“These findings provide biological evidence that rooibos can protect the liver and that it has a potential to be used as a supporting treatment for liver disorders,” he said. – Cape Argus