Background: Rooibos tea is known to be caffeine free with abundant flavonoids. Aspalathin and nothofagin, the main flavonoids contained in Rooibos tea, have stronger anti-oxidative activity than other flavonoids. As oxidative stress can induce inflammation, the anti-inflammatory effects of Rooibos tea were investigated using a rat colitis model.
Methods: Seven-week-old Wister rats were divided into two groups: one group given Rooibos tea, and one given water. After four weeks of breeding, serum superoxide dismutase (SOD) levels were determined using the Electron Spin Resonance analysis. Urine 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) concentrations were also determined as reflections of DNA damage using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Furthermore, rats were administrated dextran sodium sulfate (DSS), which is known to induce colitis in rodents, with or without Rooibos tea to evaluate its anti-inflammatory activity. Clinical symptoms, hemoglobin, serum iron and SOD levels were compared between the groups.
Results: There were no significant differences in bodyweight gain or laboratory data between the groups. The serum SOD levels were significantly increased, and urine 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine levels were significantly decreased in the Rooibos group compared with the controls (P < 0.05 in each). After DSS administration, the serum SOD levels were significantly higher in the Rooibos group compared to the controls (P < 0.05). As a result, a decreased hemoglobin level, observed in the control group, was prevented in the Rooibos group after the DSS challenge.
Conclusion: Rooibos tea may prevent DNA damage and inflammation by its anti-oxidative activity in vivo. As Rooibos tea is free from caffeine, routine intake may be safe and useful in reducing oxidative stress in children.