Rooibos protects skin

People who spend a lot of time in the sun should consider using a skin care product containing rooibos extracts to prevent the development of skin cancer and delay the onset of malignant tumours.

This is one of the findings of a recent study in which normal and cancerous skin cells were analysed to determine how exactly rooibos extracts in skin care products such as soaps, sun creams and lotions help stop the development of skin cancer. Lower concentrations of rooibos extracts may be able to prevent the development of skin cancer by stopping the multiplication of cancerous cells and removing these cells by prompting them to commit ?suicide?, says Dr Tandeka Magcwebeba, who conducted the study as part of her doctorate in biochemistry at Stellenbosch University. ?Once the skin has been exposed to the sun?s ultra violet rays, rooibos extracts will remove precancerous damaged cells and also block the onset of inflammation ? the latter promoting the formation of tumours in skin.? According to Magcwebeba, it is better to use rooibos extracts during the early stages of cancer development when they are more effective in prolonging the progression of cancerous cells into a tumour. She says one of the major reasons why rooibos extracts are incorporated into skin care products is because they contain natural compounds (polyphenols) which give them their anti-oxidant properties. The presence of these compounds in an extract may also help to predict its activity and may serve as a measure of quality control to ensure that rooibos extracts are biologically active before being used in cosmetic products. Magcwebeba is quick to point out that her study focused on promoting the use of rooibos extracts in an ointment rather than consuming it as a beverage to protect the skin. ?Studies on well-researched skin products have shown that topical application is more effective as the product is easily absorbed when it is directly applied on the skin.?

Fynbos could help treat breast cancer

Breast cancer is responsible for the most cancer-related deaths among women.

However, in the near future, fynbos could help curb it, says Dr Koch Visser of the Department of Biochemistry. In a recent doctoral study he found that the fynbos plant, Cyclopia, used to make honey bush tea, may help stop the development of breast cancer. Visser specifically looked at the effect of Cyclopia extracts on breast cancer cells to figure out the possible molecular mechanism behind this effect. ?We found that Cyclopia extracts prevent the oestrogen-induced growth of breast cancer cells by targeting and inhibiting oestrogen receptor subtypes that promote the growth of these cells,? says Visser. ?I?m particularly excited about the discovery that Cyclopia extracts are absorbed through the digestive tract, while remaining nontoxic even at high concentrations. Also, the extracts do not stimulate the growth of the uterus.? Visser says this finding is important because several studies have shown that certain drugs used to treat breast cancer increase the risk of cancer of the uterus. ?At this stage it is still too early to say with certainty what the final form of the medicine made from Cyclopia will be and how often it will have to be used.? Visser says women aged 50 and older may benefit from research on Cyclopia because they have a greater chance of developing breast cancer. They are also more likely to use hormone replacement therapy because the natural production of oestrogen decreases dramatically during menopause, he adds. RESEARCH AT STELLENBOSCH 2014 The fynbos plant, Cyclopia, used to make honey bush tea, may help stop the development of breast cancer. Tandeka Magcwebeba, Department of Biochemistry tmagcwebeba@sun.ac.za Koch Visser, Department of Biochemistry kochv@sun.ac.za 41

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