Reactive species are products of normal cellular metabolism and may be deleterious or beneficial. At low/moderate concentrations, reactive species are involved in physiological roles including cell signalling, defense against infectious agents and mitogenic responses. However, unbalanced defense mechanism of antioxidants, overproduction of reactive species or incorporation of free radicals into the living system from the environment may result in oxidative stress, a deleterious process that can lead to damage of important cell structures, including lipids and membranes, proteins and nucleic acids. The role of oxidative stress as a contributing factor in the pathophysiology of various diseases is increasingly being recognized, and augmenting the oxidative defense capacity of the cell through the intake of antioxidants as a way of preventing free radical-mediated cellular injuries is becoming a popular strategy. Much attention is being focused on the health beneficial role of phenolic phytochemicals derived from plants. They are considered to play an important role as physiologically functional foods and for the prevention of clinical conditions related to oxidative stress, even though their modes of action may still not be fully understood. Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a popular South African tisane enjoyed for its taste and aroma. Rooibos has been made in the Cederberg mountain region of South Africa for generations and has been used medicinally for alleviation of allergies, asthma, infantile colic and skin problems. The potential antioxidative, immune-modulating, chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic actions of rooibos have been reported in several studies. This review provides a comprehensive data on the current knowledge of the biological and chemotherapeutic activity of rooibos and its major flavonoids. Most recent in vitro and in vivo (animal and human) studies were conducted with special attention paid to clinical conditions in which oxidative stress has been implicated. The conclusion described directions for future rooibos research to establish its activity and utility as a human chemopreventive and therapeutic agent.
Part of the book: Basic Principles and Clinical Significance of Oxidative Stress