Red Bush Tea

Scientific Name(s): Aspalathus linearis (Burm. f.) R. Dahlgr. Family: Fabaceae (beans)

Common Name(s): Red bush tea , rooibos tea

Uses

Although no significantly active compounds exist in the leaves, red bush tea has a high vitamin C content. It is being investigated as an anti-cancer drug and as a prevention for brain damage caused by aging.

Dosing

There is no clinical evidence to support specific dosage recommendations for red bush tea.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

A single article reports salmonella contamination from rooibos tea, possibly from lizard origin.

Toxicology

No reports have been identified regarding toxicity with red bush tea. There is one report of salmonella contamination from rooibos tea, possibly from lizard origin.

Botany

Red bush grows as a low bush, attaining a height of 4 to 5 feet. It has long, needle-like leaves and small colorful flowers. The plant is native to South Africa and is cultivated extensively for its commercial value as a substitute for common tea. The leaves and twigs are collected, washed, bruised, fermented, dried, cut and packaged for use in preparing teas. During this procedure, the leaves change from green to brick red due to the release of a red pigment found in the leaves and stems. 1 This plant is also referred to as Borbonia pinifolia Marloth or Aspalathus contaminata (Thunb.) Druce.

History

“Bush teas” are common throughout Africa and are frequently used as substitutes for common tea. Red bush tea has been popular in South Africa for decades, and commercial preparations are sometimes found in Europe and the US. One reason for the popularity of this tea is its almost total lack of physiologically active compounds. Consequently, red bush tea is selected as a fragrant, nonstimulating beverage. 2

Chemistry

Red bush tea is devoid of significantly active compounds. It contains no caffeine and is low in tannins (less than 5%). It contains a relatively high level of vitamin C (approximately 9.4%). 1 , 3

Uses and Pharmacology

Red bush tea and its CNS protective and mutagenesis suppressive effects have been studied.

Animal data

Suppression of mutagenic activity of “certain potent mutagens” has been performed in mice. 4 Oncogenic transformation of mouse cells induced by x-rays was suppressed in the presence of the tea extract. Suppression variability was dependent upon extract concentration and length of treatment time. 5 Prevention of age-related accumulation of lipid peroxides in rat brain has also been reported.

Clinical data

Red bush tea's protective effects against CNS damage in certain brain areas have been additionally demonstrated. 6 Flavonoids contained in the tea show antioxidative qualities both in vitro and in vivo. Red bush tea's radioprotective effects may be due to a “free radical scavenging” mechanism. 7 , 8

Dosage

There is no clinical evidence to support specific dosage recommendations for red bush tea.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

A single article reports salmonella contamination from rooibos tea, possibly from lizard origin. 9

Toxicology

No reports have been identified regarding toxicity with this plant or its teas.

Bibliography

1. Cheney RH, Scholtz E. Economic Botany 1963;17:186.
2. Watt J, et al. Medicinal and Poisonous Plants of Southern and Eastern Africa , 2nd ed. London: E & S Livingstone Ltd, 1962.
3. Tyler VA. The New Honest Herbal . Philadelphia, PA: GF Stickley Co., 1987.
4. Sasaki Y, et al. Mutation Research 1993;286(2):221–32.
5. Komatsu K, et al. Cancer Letters 1994;77(1):33–8.
6. Inanamni O, et al. Neuroscience Letters 1995;196(1–2):85–8.
7. Shimoi K, et al. Mutation Research 1996;350(1):153–61.
8. Yoshikawa T, et al. Adv Exp Med Biol 1990;264:171–4.
9. Swanepoel ML. S African Med J 1987 Mar 21;71(6):369-70.

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