Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation is one of the major predisposing risk factors of skin cancer. The anticancer and photoprotective effects of unoxidized rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia) herbal teas, containing high levels of dihydrochalones and xanthones, respectively, have been demonstrated in skin cancer models in vivo. In the current study, the anti-inflammatory effects of methanol and aqueous extracts of these herbal teas were investigated in a UVB/HaCaT keratinocyte model with intracellular interleukin-1α (icIL-1α) accumulation as a biomarker. Extracts of green tea (Camellia sinensis) served as benchmark. Both extracts of green tea and rooibos, as well as the aqueous extract of C. intermedia, enhanced UVB-induced inhibition of cell viability, proliferation and induction of apoptosis, facilitating the removal of icIL-1α. The underlying mechanisms may involve mitochondrial dysfunction exhibiting pro-oxidant responses via polyphenol-iron interactions. The methanol extracts of honeybush, however, protected against UVB-induced reduction of cell growth parameters, presumably via antioxidant mechanisms that prevented the removal of highly inflamed icIL-1α-containing keratinocytes via apoptosis. The dual antioxidant and/or pro-oxidant role of the polyphenolic herbal tea constituents should be considered in developing preventive strategies against UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis. The indirect removal of UVB damaged keratinocytes by herbal tea extracts via apoptosis may find application in the prevention of photo-induced inflammation.
Keywords: UVB irradiation; anti-inflammatory effects; antioxidants; dihydrochalcones; flavanones; herbal tea polyphenols; xanthones.