Antioxidant and pro-oxidant activities of aqueous extracts and crude polyphenolic fractions of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis)
Unfermented rooibos tea is known to contain higher levels of total polyphenols and flavonoids than its fermented counterpart, making it the obvious choice for the preparation of flavonoid-enriched fractions. Evaluation of aqueous extracts and crude polyphenolic fractions of unfermented and fermented rooibos showed anti- and/or pro-oxidant activities, using a linoleic acid-Tween-buffer emulsion for lipid peroxidation and the deoxyribose degradation assay, based on a Fenton reaction model system containing FeCl 3-EDTA and H2O2 for the generation of hydroxyl radicals. Except for the ethyl acetate fraction, with the highest total polyphenol (TP) content and offering the least protection presumably due to pro-oxidant activity, the inhibition of lipid peroxidation by the samples correlated moderately with their TP content in a linear relationship (r = 0.896, P < 0.01). Using the deoxyribose degradation assay, the pro-oxidant activity of the aqueous extracts and their crude polymeric fractions (0.1 mg/mL in the reaction mixture) was linear with respect to their dihydrochalcone (aspalathin and nothofagin) (r = 0.977, P = 0.023) and flavonoid (r = 0.971, P = 0.029) content. Pro-oxidant activity was demonstrated for pure aspalathin. Using the same assay, but with ascorbate added to regenerate Fe3+ to Fe 2+, the aqueous extract and crude polymeric fraction of fermented rooibos displayed hydroxyl radical scavenging activity. Fermentation (i.e., oxidation) of rooibos decreased the pro-oxidant activity of aqueous extracts, which was contributed to a decrease in their dihydrochalcone content. The in vitro pro-oxidant activity displayed by flavonoid-enriched fractions of rooibos demonstrates that one must be aware of the potential adverse biological properties of potent antioxidant extracts utilized as dietary supplements. © 2005 American Chemical Society.