Rooibos is rich in flavonoids such as aspalathin, which is a unique C-glycosyl dihydrochalcone, that is used as a traditional herbal tea. This study was designed to evaluate the in vitro xanthine oxidase (XOD) inhibitory activity of the aspalathin-rich fraction (ARF) and purified aspalathin from rooibos. The hypouricemic effects of the ARF and aspalathin on hyperuricemic mice were also assessed. The ARF was prepared from aqueous extract of unfermented rooibos leaves and stems, and it was collected by column chromatography; the aspalathin content in this fraction was 21.4%. The ARF and aspalathin inhibited XOD in a dose-dependent manner. The concentrations of the ARF and aspalathin required to inhibit XOD at 50% (IC50) were 20.4 μg/mL (4.4 μg/mL aspalathin equivalents) and 4.5 μg/mL, respectively. Lineweaver–Burk plot analysis indicated that aspalathin was a competitive inhibitor of XOD, and the inhibition constant (Ki) was 3.1 μM. In hyperuricemic mice induced by inosine-5’-monophosphate, treatment with the ARF and aspalathin significantly suppressed the increased plasma uric acid level in a dose-dependent manner. The suppressed plasma uric acid level in mice could be attributed to the XOD inhibitory activity of the ARF and aspalathin. Further study is required to determine the effect of aspalathin or its metabolites on XOD activity in vivo.
Aspalathin isolated from Aspalathus linearis, which is referred to as rooibos, was shown to potently inhibit xanthine oxidase inhibitory activity and effectively lower the plasma uric acid level in mice. Upon confirmation of the results in a human study, the extracts of unfermented rooibos are expected to be used for the prevention of gout and hyperuricemia.