It seems like every day we discover a new benefit of tea. Rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, most teas have big benefits for overall health, and there are many varieties out there with specific effects. The remarkable thermogenic effect of green tea and its ability to assist weight loss is probably the best known of these.
Rooibos tea, also called 'Bush Tea', is known for its red leaves. It originally comes from South Africa, but is gaining popularity in the western world because it is rich in beneficial compounds like ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and other antioxidants. On top of this, the tea contains very low levels of caffeine and tannins.
Rooibos Tea Benefits
Rooibos has been of interest to researchers for a while because of its potential effect on bone health. Not only is it free from caffeine which is known to leach calcium from the bones, but a number of flavonoids in Rooibos tea are thought to mimic the protective effect that the female hormone oestrogen has on bone. A group of researchers from Canada set out to investigate further.
The researchers identified two flavonoids in the tea, Luteolin and Orientin, that were thought to have a beneficial effect on the health of bone. These flavonoids were isolated and applied to human bone cells at a number of diferent concentrations. The researchers compared this growth to the growth of untreated bone cells.
These effects were measured in a number of different ways – researchers looked at the amount of mineral the bone cells laid down, which is a sign of health and growth. They looked at the activity of the mitochondria, which is the cell's energy centre, and they looked at levels of regulatory proteins associated with bone growth. On top of this, they measured levels of toxic compounds.
Can Rooibos Boost Bone Density?
The results showed that Luteolin and Orientin, at a number of concentrations, encouraged bone cells to lay down more mineral. Treated cells showed greater mitochondrial activity and higher protein levels, and lower levels of toxic compounds. These results were very encouraging, and support the data from previous epidemiological studies that has suggested tea can help bone growth.
Reduction in bone density is something that can effect men and women as they age. Athletes in heavy training also need to make sure they care for their bones, because they are the framework for the muscles, and a fracture or injury can be devastating.
These results are far from conclusive, but this study was a vital first step in understanding the role of rooibos tea in bone health. Before Luteolin and Orientin can be put to work in the medical treatment of osteoporosis and strengthening bones, they need to undergo further testing to establish their safety and efficacy. It would not be surprising to see these two flavonoids to show up in bone and joint support supplements in the future.
In the meantime, we know rooibos tea is safe and healthy, tastes great, and there's a pretty good chance that it's helping your bones. Pour yourself a cuppa!
Nash LA, Sullivan PJ, Peters SJ, Ward WE. Rooibos flavonoids, orientin and luteolin, stimulate mineralization in human osteoblasts through the Wnt pathway. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2014 Dec 8.