How to combat sun damage with Rooibos

With Europe experiencing its second-warmest June on record since 1979, the record-breaking temperatures are causing vast numbers of people to visit coastal areas and rivers leading to an increased risk of water safety incidents. Health issues are not only limited to people vulnerable to extreme heat but may also lead to potentially serious illnesses or danger to life. Most crucial is to stay hydrated and protected and prevent sun damage.


Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of Extreme Events and Health Protection at the UK Health Security Agency is quoted as saying “Most of us can enjoy the hot weather when it arrives, but it is also important to keep yourself hydrated and to find shade where possible when UV rays are strongest, between 11 a.m and 3 p.m.”

As South Africans, we are well acquainted with the hydrating benefit of Rooibos. Excessive sweating can easily lead to dehydration, but rooibos tea can help you hydrate quickly as it contains polyphenol antioxidants, including flavonoids and phenolic acids that are potent free radical scavengers aiding accelerated rehydration.

Sunburn, rashes, blisters and eczema

Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council says, “While most think of it as just a tea, Rooibos is a multi-purpose survival tool that can help you stay hydrated, deal with aches and pains and keep you focused and alert in a crisis. Scientific studies have validated the health properties of Rooibos on the skin, thus if you or your children are badly sunburnt, have blisters or are seeking relief from insect bites or rashes, turn to Rooibos for help. It’s the abundance of polyphenols or antioxidants in the tea, which gives it its restorative power.

Soaring temperatures, swimming and spending hours in the sun can also cause eczema flare-ups in summer. Warm and humid weather often leads to more sweating, which aggravates the condition. Research shows that Rooibos tea can soothe skin irritations and help improve dermatological conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, due to the high level of flavonoids, which encourages the body to destroy unwanted pathogens. The tea is also hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, which means it can be used on the most sensitive of skin types and can treat and alleviate inflamed skin and bacterial infections too. You can drink the tea and/or soak in a bath of Rooibos to relieve symptoms.

Skin cancer

Research has shown that Rooibos may help prevent the development of skin cancer. Rooibos exacerbated cell death in UV-exposed cells, which could play a role in cancer prevention. It also concluded that rooibos may prevent skin cancer by delaying the progression of abnormal cells, interfering with their growth and viability.

Dr Tandeka Magcwebeba, a post-doctoral fellow at Stellenbosch University who has done extensive research on the anti-cancer properties of Rooibos on the skin, says the topical application of Rooibos may offer protection against the early stages of cancer development in the skin. “Once the skin has been exposed to the sun’s UV rays, Rooibos extracts have the ability to remove precancerous damaged cells and also block the onset of inflammation. It does so by stopping the multiplication of cancerous cells and removing these cells through programmed cell death – in other words, prompting the cells to commit suicide.

“While Rooibos is not a medicine, it is an affordable drink with proven health-promoting properties. Research is ongoing to find all the answers about this unique South African product.”

Prof Elizabeth Joubert, Agricultural Research Council, Infruitec-Nietvoorbij