J Ethnopharmacol. 2019 Apr 16:111881. Epub 2019 Apr 16. PMID: 31002838
Long-term administration of Aspalathus linearis infusion affects spatial memory of adult Sprague-Dawley male rats as well as increases their striatal dopamine content.
ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Everyday use of the herbal tea rooibos, produced from Aspalathus linearis (Brum.f) Dahlg. (Fabaceae) is customary in South Africa, a continuation of its historical use by indigenous people. Although evidence of its traditional indications is anecdotal, rooibos tea is regarded as a general health tea.AIMS OF THE STUDY: Available contemporary research indicates to broad cell protective activity of rooibos focusing on its antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperglycaemic and antithrombotic features affecting metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular risk and neuroprotection. Nevertheless little is known about its impact on brain functions. The present experiment aimed to evaluate the possible behavioural and neurochemical effects of long-term oral administration of"fermented"rooibos herbal tea (FRHT) infusions to adult male Sprague-Dawley rats.MATERIALS AND METHODS: Infusions, prepared using 1, 2 and 4 g of"fermented"(oxidised) A. linearis leaves for 100 ml of hot water, were characterised in terms of flavonoid content by ultra-high and high performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC-qTOF-MS, HPLC-DAD) and administered to rats as sole drinking fluid for 12 weeks. Spatial memory behaviour was assessed in a modified version of the Morris water maze. Dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin and their metabolite levels (DOPAC, 3-MT, HVA, MHPG, 5-HIAA) were quantified in prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and striatum by HPLC-ECD. Body weight and blood glucose level were additionally estimated.RESULTS: All FRHT-treated rats showed improvement of long-term spatial memory defined as increased number of crossings over the previous platform position in SE quadrant of the water maze. It was not accompanied by excessive motor activity. Striatal dopamine and its metabolite 3-MT (3-methoxytyramine) levels were increased in treated rats. There were no differences in body weight gain between control and treated animals but blood glucose level was significantly lower in the latter ones.CONCLUSION: The improvement of long-term memory in FRHT-treated rats and stimulating impact of FRHT on their dopaminergic striatal transmission support the wellness enhancing effect of rooibos tea, contributing to a better understanding of the neurological background of traditional habitual consumption of this herbal tea.