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J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Mar 1;110(1):16-22. Epub 2006 Sep 5.

Evaluation of Athrixia bush tea for cytotoxicity, antioxidant activity, caffeine content and presence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

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  • 1Phytomedicine Programme, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa.


In South Africa, Athrixia phylicoides DC. (bush tea) is widely used as a beverage, cough remedy and purgative. The commercialization of this tea in a similar vein to rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), is being considered. Traditional infusions and decoctions, as well as water and ethanol extracts, were prepared and screened. A related species, Athrixia elata Sond. (daisy tea), was included in many of the assays as a comparison. Extracts of Athrixia phylicoides and Athrixia elata were tested for toxic effects to brine shrimp larvae and the Vero kidney cell line. In both assays, the traditional preparations and aqueous extracts had little effect, but the ethanol extracts were relatively toxic. Antioxidant activity comparable to that found in rooibos was established. No detectable levels of caffeine were present in the Athrixia extracts following analysis using TLC and I/HCl spray reagent. Neither screening using spectrophotometry nor confirmation using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analyses showed evidence of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Athrixia phylicoides. Although a wider range of studies needs to be conducted prior to commercialization, these results support the development of bush tea as a healthy alternative to caffeine-containing beverages.

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