Medicinal qualities and health benefits
Although much formal research is still needed in humans, there is abundant anecdotal evidence that Honeybush is beneficial to human health, and has been used extensively by the local people for these purposes:
- Lactation. It is thought to stimulate milk production by nursing mothers. There are even reports of dairy farmers feeding it to their cows to increase their milk output!
- Infantile colic. Although it's not clear how it works, honeybush has been given to colicky babies with apparent benefits, and no ill-effects.
- Respiratory. Honeybush contains Pinitol, and has been used as an expectorant and treatment for respiratory complaints, and coughing. It has even been used in the past as a herbal treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis before effective drugs were available.
- Menopause. Similar to other traditional remedies like Evening Primrose, Black Cohosh and Soy, honeybush is thought to act as a phyto-estrogen, thus relieving some of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause.
- Antioxidants. Oxidative stress and the release of free radicals are the underlying mechanism in the development of many degenerative illnesses, including diabetes and cancer. The antioxidants in Honeybush may help “mop up” these harmful free radicals.
- Diabetes. As discussed above, Honeybush has been shown to reduce blood sugars to normal in mammalian studies, without causing hypoglycemia.
- Cholesterol. Total cholesterol levels were significantly reduced by taking Honeybush, while levels of HDL (so-called “good cholesterol”) were increased. This results in a lowering of the atherogenic index, and subsequent lowered risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Caffeine free. Honeybush is naturally caffeine free and so is ideal before bedtime or for people advised to avoid the stimulatory effects of caffeine.
- Sugar free. Honeybush is naturally sugar free and extremely low calorie. It is thus ideal for people struggling with Obesity, Pre-Diabetes, or Diabetes.
HOW DOES HONEYBUSH WORK?
The high concentration of mangiferin and hesperadin are thought to be responsible for the benefits. These phytochemicals are also found in other plants and are used as antidiabetic extracts by many practitioners of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
These natural chemicals are thought to work through various mechanisms at the cellular level, including:
- Up-regulation of glucose regulating enzymes, especially glucokinase, enhancing glycolysis and increasing glycogen synthesis.
- Correction of the abnormal glucagon secretion which occurs in type 2 diabetes (caused by worsening insulin resistance as the disease progresses). Honeybush restores the average pancreatic a-cell size to normal and reduces the overall pancreatic a-cell volume, with resulting correction of the a-cell to b-cell ratio in the pancreas. This “sparing” of the b-cells is similar to that of the prescription drugs sitagliptin and metformin, and implies that the b-cells need to release less insulin to maintain glucose balance.
- Inhibition of key enzymes in cholesterol synthesis and esterification in the liver.