Rooibos is the champagne of South Africa: ours, and ours alone, and while others may grow and market a twiggy, smoky herbal brew, they can never call it Rooibos. Or even Le Rooibos, as the French once tried. Rooibos, as you know, has proven beneficial properties, creating a warm glow of self-righteousness in those who choose it over actual tea, or calling to mind the sunrise over the Lebombos for the homesick bachelor in his Putney flat. Now, a crack team of researchers are set to find out whether it does other things, like, oh, we don’t know, fight allergies, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, skin diseases, skin cancer and the side-effects of antiretrovirals, that’s all. Armed with a R4.5m grant from the SA Rooibos Council, Universities in SA and New Zealand will soon start to human-trial the effects of concentrated Rooibos on various conditions. They will also be looking at the effect of our national drink on the microbiome, that busy colony of bacteria on your gut that keep things ticking over.
Comment: A South African icon claiming a place in the alternative-medicine pharmacopeia.