Rooibos is a plant, Aspalathus linearis, native to the West Cape province of South Africa. It’s used to create a caffeine-free herbal tea, sometimes called Red Tea, which is often touted for its health benefits. Besides its use as an herbal tea, rooibos was used in lotions, makeup, sunscreen, and other skincare products that are used topically (applied directly to the skin). A similar plant, honeybush, is linked to rooibos and can also be utilized to create a similar tea, often called bush tea.
Rooibos is often marketed for its own antioxidants, which are believed to have comparable cancer-preventing action to the antioxidants in green tea and other tea. Honeybush is often studied alongside rooibos, and it’s also known to contain antioxidants and is usually believed to possess similar properties. Both these plants show promise for preventing skin cancer, in addition to other kinds of cancer. This report surveys some of the new scientific studies enclosing rooibos, honeybush, skin cancer, and cancer generally.
Can topical use of rooibos in skincare products prevent skin cancer?
There is quite strong evidence from research on mice which indicates the topical use of rooibos might be helpful for preventing skin cancer. A study on mice, using its results published in 2005, found that extracts of rooibos, honeybushgreen tea strongly inhibited the formation of skin tumors, even once the mice were subjected to a chemical known to cause skin tumors. All extracts revealed strong effects, but green tea has been shown to be the best.
A more recent study exposed mice to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, so as to replicate the impact of sunlight radiation and bloating, and analyzed the degree to which rooibos and honeybush prevented tumors. The study found that both rooibos and honeybush decreased the rate of tumor formation, and also greatly reduced the size of tumors which did form. These results imply that rooibos and honeybush have advantages in terms of prevention of skin cancer, when contained in skincare products and sunscreens.
Although these results are promising, human studies haven’t yet been conducted, and little is known about the potential dosing required to attain concrete benefits in terms of prevention of skin cancer.
Can drinking rooibos tea prevent skin cancer or other cancers?
There’s significant scientific evidence indicating that antioxidants in rooibos tea can prevent cancer, even though the consequences of rooibos tea on skin cancer in particular haven’t been studied yet. Skin cancer is the end result of long-term damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Although only topical use of rooibos was analyzed for protecting against UV radiation, there’s evidence that drinking rooibos tea may protect against another kind of radiation, gamma rays.
Gamma rays are given off by some radioactive substances, and are among the most damaging kinds of radiation, causing radiation sickness and cancer even if no visible burns are caused. Quite unexpectedly, a study on mice, feeding them rooibos tea, discovered that drinking rooibos tea resulted in significant protection against radiation damage due to gamma rays. The analysis even identified a specific flavonoid, luteolin, which was found to describe this effect, through its action as an antioxidant. While it’s not known whether these effects would translate to the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation, and whether it might translate into prevention of skin cancer in people drinking rooibos, it does show that rooibos includes potent antioxidants that have the potential to stop cancer caused by some kinds of radiation damage.
Rooibos tea is a tasty, caffeine-free beverage that’s safe for regular consumption. Although little is known about whether drinking rooibos tea might actually stop skin cancer, there’s evidence that doing this could protect against certain sorts of radiation damage. There’s stronger scientific proof that the topical use of rooibos in sunscreens and skin care products may protect against skin cancer. Rooibos tea also has health benefits beyond those mentioned in this report. Drinking moderate amounts of rooibos tea surely can’t hurt, and is probably a very good idea.