After consuming copious amounts of alcohol during the festive season, it might do the majority of the population good, if South Africans resolve to follow the recent trend in the UK, where an increasing number of Brits have swapped booze for healthier beverage options, such as tea, for an entire month. This is known as ‘Dry January’.
‘Dry January’ is a relatively new custom, which was first registered as a trademark by the UK charity, Alcohol Concern, in 2014, where over 17 000 Britons stopped drinking alcohol that month. A survey found that after six months following the month of January, more than 72% of them had kept harmful drinking episodes at bay. The concept has also gained traction in the United States and attempts to get people to rethink their relationship with alcohol.
Some people, however believe that home-grown Rooibos could to a certain extent lessen the effects of heavy drinking that is typically associated with the holidays.
Ernest du Toit, Director of the SA Rooibos Council says it’s probably not possible to completely reverse the damage caused by heavy drinking, but Rooibos is likely to aid in mitigating some of the adverse effects.
“According to scientific research, heavy drinking can increase your risk of serious health problems like liver disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and peptic ulcers, amongst others. While on the other end of the scale, knocking back a cup of Rooibos fights inflammation and protects us from chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
“In general, incorporating Rooibos tea into your diet is a good way to maintain health, since it is rich in antioxidants. These vital substances keep the body functioning optimally as they eliminate free radicals that place the cells of the body at risk from being damaged or destroyed,” he says.
Here’s how Rooibos counteracts the impact of alcohol:
|Bodily function / disease||Alcohol||Rooibos|
|Liver function||If you drink more than 3 to 4 units a day, then it is likely that you will have developed fatty liver disease – the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease.||Encourages proper liver functioning and inhibits fatty liver disease.|
|Cancer||Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of 7 different cancers. Cancers linked to alcohol include: mouth cancer, pharyngeal cancer (upper throat), oesophageal cancer (food pipe), laryngeal cancer (voice box), breast cancer, bowel cancer and liver cancer.||Rooibos contains powerful antioxidants that fight free radicals that contributes to the formation ofcancer.
|Cardiovascular health||Frequent alcohol consumption can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, raise blood pressure and increase the levels of fats called triglycerides in the body. It can also lead to heart muscle disease, called cardiomyopathy. Binge drinking can cause irregular heart rhythms called arrhythmia.||The main heart-health promoting compound in Rooibos tea is Chrysoeriol – an antioxidant that helps to prevent and treat vascular disease by inhibiting the migration of smooth muscle cells inside the aorta – a key cause of the narrowing or hardening of the arteries that may lead to a heart attack. Chrysoeriol is also an effective bronchodilator, and helps to lower blood pressure and relieve spasms.|
|Diabetes||Heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can trigger type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a common side effect of pancreatitis. Alcohol contains a log of calories, which increases your risk of becoming overweight and your risk of developing diabetes.||Aspalathin – a unique phenolic compound (an element produced by the plant to help protect itself from negative environmental factors) found only in Rooibos, has been proven to effectively lower raised blood glucose levels and thereby delay and prevent the onset and progression of type 2 diabetes.|
|Insomnia||Alcohol interferes with the brain’s built-in system for regulating a person’s need for sleep. Alcohol disrupts sleep and the quality of sleep is diminished. Additionally, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases your need to go to the bathroom and causes you to wake up more frequently||Rooibos is caffeine free and keeps your body’s cortisol levels (stress hormones) in check, therefore it will soothe and ease nervous tensions thereby promoting a good night’s rest.
|Excessive drinking can cause ulcers in the oesophagus, acid reflux and heartburn. Stomach ulcers and inflammation of the stomach lining can also occur.||Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant pigment or flavonoid found in Rooibos. It’s used to treat various conditions including peptic ulcers.|
Du Toit explains that while moderate drinking (no more than one glass of red wine a day) could protect some people against heart disease, scientists aren’t sure if those healthy effects come from red wine or from other good lifestyle choices that light drinkers make, since a healthy diet and exercise provide many similar benefits, while the health advantages of Rooibos tea have been found to be conclusive.
“Rooibos tea can be enjoyed by everyone and in many different guises. In fact, people living with existing heart conditions, high blood pressure, diabetes, a history of stroke or high cholesterol are encouraged to drink Rooibos tea as a way to better manage their condition, along with making other lifestyle changes.
“Swapping alcohol for a cup of Rooibos might just be the best New Year’s resolution you can make,” concludes du Toit.