Friday, July 20, 2007

Herbal Healer Q & A (Part V)

Q: I have a sister who took a trip to South Africa and she came back raving about a type of tea that has the benefits of green tea yet has no caffeine. What's the story on this?

-- Anna Butler, Des Moines, IA.

A: What your sister is talking about is Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), which is grown on the slopes of the mountain ranges in the Western Cape. Rooibos (meaning red-bush) is the product obtained from the needle-like leaves and fine stems of A. linearis (also known as Aspalathus contaminatus and Borbona pinifolia), after it has been cut, bruised, fermented and dried.

Recent clinical studies have been showing positive results with regards to the health properties contained in Rooibos. Medical science is only beginning to discover the many healthy advantages of Rooibos. Ongoing research and case studies confirm that there seems to be no end to its benefits.

It has been found to relieve insomnia, stomach cramps and constipation, as well as allergic symptoms such as hayfever and asthma. When directly applied to the affected area, it can significantly ease itching and skin irritations like eczema and acne, and has seen increasing use in the cosmetics industry as a natural additive for improving the complexion.

Rooibos can be strongly recommended for individuals suffering from nervous tension, mild depression or hypertension, due to its soothing effect and absence of caffeine. Mothers find Rooibos to be of benefit in common infant ailments like colic and stomach cramps. It also helps with diaper rash, relieving irritation when applied with every diaper change.

When given in addition to babies' normal feeding, Rooibos supplements the daily intake of calcium, manganese and fluoride needed by growing children for strong teeth and bones. Mothers themselves can also profit from drinking Rooibos. During pregnancy and breast feeding, the body's iron levels become depleted.

Rooibos contains very little tannin and thus does not have the negative effect on the absorption of iron. The lack of caffeine means a pregnant mother can drink Rooibos throughout the day without worsening pregnancy's two biggest discomforts, nausea and heartburn.

While the natural benefits of Rooibos appear limitless, perhaps the most intriguing findings yet come from Japan. New research into causes of the human body's aging process points to toxic compounds called free radicals, produced in our own bodies as a by-product of normal cell function. Free radicals attack healthy cells, and the accumulated damage over a lifetime contributes to aging and decline of the immune system. Japanese scientists have found Rooibos to contain a mimic of the enzyme super oxide dismutase (S.O.D.), an anti-oxidant which scavenges on free radicals, limiting their damaging effect.

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