that is as truly South African as biltong (dried red meat) and milk tart: Rooibos tea (redbush tea), or Aspalathus linearis, is a product that is enjoyed by millions of Africans and a great number of Americans! The tea only grows in South Africa in its natural state in a small area called Clan William, in the Western Cape. Americans was introduced to this humble product a few years ago by Annique Theron, the Mother of Rooibos - as the Americans refer to her.
An article in the Gazette in April this year not only questioned the existence of Annique Theron, but also the anti-allergic properties of the tea. Our South African Contributing Editor, Gerda Potgieter, Wrote the following article for the benefit of our readers.
“Americans were the first to refer to Annique Theron as the Mother of Rooibos, but it was South Africans that were proudly celebrating the 80th birthday of this remarkable lady last April, sharing with her wonderful memories and a history of goodwill and help to sick babies and sufferers from allergies.
Monday, 8 April 1968 - forty years ago – saw South African history in the making! Somewhere in Pretoria, capital city of South Africa, a young mother was having sleepless nights since the birth of her youngest child who suffered from colic. Annique Theron, the young mother, was having a difficult time with her baby who cried continuously from pain. The baby could also not hold down her food. Due to that the young mother could never give her baby cold milk to drink. On that momentous day, Annique was drinking her rooibos tea, the tea that she grew up with. Because the baby was crying non-stop from hunger and pain, she hastily warmed up the baby’s bottle-feed with the freshly brewed tea. For the first time since birth the baby slept peacefully for more than three hours! She not only slept better, she had also stopped vomiting and cried less.
At first Annique did not realise that she had stumbled upon a possible miracle. But, after a while she remembered that the tea had made the difference and repeated the process. Thanks to her own baby’s recovery, Annique could come to the conclusion that rooibos tea has therapeutic value for allergy-sufferers and she started to help other mothers with sick babies. And, over the years she has saved the lives of literally hundreds of babies and she also helped thousands of adults with a wide variety of allergies. Saving these babies and helping others became her mission in life; and after forty years she is still doing exactly that.
During the sixties there was not a lot known about rooibos tea and due to a lack of interest from a scientific point of view, Annique realised she had to do research on the therapeutic value of the tea herself. She committed herself to the daunting task of alleviating the various allergic reactions, like vomiting, colic, sleeplessness, eczema, ear infections, hay fever, and many others in order to verify her findings.
She also documented her findings in Allergies, an amazing discovery which was reprinted four times. This book was recently reprinted under the title, The Rooibos Baby. During the years it served as a reference framework for mothers struggling with their allergic babies.
Annique is driven by an honest desire to help others. This is evident in her launching a slimming product in the late sixties for adults to supplement their meals with a healthy drink, while helping them to lose weight. This slimming product, called Wonder Slim, was the forerunner of the Annique Skin Care and Health Products, established in 1970 with the launch of the first three products of her skin care series. By 1981 the business has grown to such an extent that, driven by her desire to help other women, Annique decided to share the benefits of her lucrative business.
She introduced a multi-level marketing strategy in order to motivate women to focus on the creation of wealth and to utilise lucrative opportunities for the benefits of their families. That was the perfect recipe for women to become independent in their efforts to create wealth for their families. This was so successful that today there is quite a number of her top achievers in South Africa who earn more out of her business than she herself. Through the years her business has on a regular basis created jobs for women, today a staggering more than 11,000 women; and it is still growing. The South African company also employs a huge number of permanent staff members and today there are more than 150 products on the market.
The 25th anniversary of the Annique business was celebrated in 1995 by expanding operations to the US and an article has appeared during that time in the Today’s Dallas Women. Annique spent months at a time in order to do training and follow-up promotions and group training workshops for independent distributors in America with Dallas as the head office of the local registered agent on behalf of the Annique company in South Africa. Today the Annique health and skin care products are exported to more than 25 countries world-wide.
Mother of four, grandmother of seven, and the founder of a highly successful family business, this remarkable woman is having the time of her life at the age of 80! She has recently been honoured by the Centurion Chamber of Commerce with the prestigious Centurion of the Year award bestowed upon her, based on her contributions over a number of years to the local industry and the communities. Recognition was also given to her outstanding business service delivery and her unselfish contributions to goodwill organisations, leading to the upliftment and the creation of awareness of South African communities. She is also one of the patrons of the Ambassadors Business Support Network (ABSN), a forum that aims to provide a platform for businesses and the diplomatic core and government to explore unique opportunities.
Dr Theron has distinguished herself academically, obtaining an MBA-degree and went on to obtain her Ph.D.-degree from the Commonwealth Open University at the age of 72. Her thesis, “Holism: A paradigm for dialogue between two worlds of healing: Conventional medicine and alternative treatments” is based on almost forty (40) years of experience she has obtained in her life and work. She is the writer of a number of articles and books and recently launched her autobiography during her 80th birthday anniversary. She will also be working soon on a new recipe book on rooibos tea, and plans a number of other exiting projects.
What did this discovery mean for South Africans, Americans and the rest of the world? Over the years Annique has been instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of sick babies and she has helped a great number of people with allergy-related illnesses. And, noby can put a price tag on these achievements.
The discovery also revived an ailing industry in South Africa especially, since Annique relentlessly promoted the benefits of rooibos tea all over the world – including America. A product once maligned; but nowadays revered as one of exceptional quality and taste, delivering all Annique has promised it to be all of these years!
In 1985 Annique and her husband travelled to Japan to introduce rooibos tea to that lucrative market. During the same year The University of Bloemfontein in South Africa completed an independent study, which verifies Annique’s findings on the therapeutic quality of the tea.
Annique’s discovery earned her in 1995 two golden medals from the World Intellectual Property Organization during the International Inventions Exhibition in Geneva: a gold medal for the discovery of the anti-allergic qualities of rooibos tea and a gold medal as Best Woman Inventor of the Year.
She has been instrumental in the creation of wealth for thousands of women all over the world. In 1989, when she was 60, local business women bestowed on her the coveted Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She has also received a number of other awards for her work to help babies and adults suffering from allergies and for the business opportunities she has created for women, empowering them to become financially independent.
It is also worth mentioning that in a recent article in the European magazine, Euro Cosmetics, the benefits of rooibos tea were praised by the researchers, Dr. Jane Tiedtke and Dr. Olaf Marks, who also praised and acknowledged Dr. Theron’s contribution in the field. In The New “White Tea” for Hair and Skin Care they explain how the ingredients of rooibos tea can be used internally and externally for stomach and digestive disorders, allergies such as hay fever and asthma, skin problems such as eczema, acne and nappy rash, nervous and sleep disorders, while it also combats the effects of aging and even hair loss. The first human clinical trials, led by Jeanine L. Marnewick, senior researcher van die Oxidative Stress Research Centre at the Cape Peninsula University, were held recently to establish whether rooibos tea can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular Week reported preliminary positive results for tests on 40 individuals with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Rooibos tea was around long before Annique’s discovery of the anti-allergic properties of the tea. But, Annique was the one who has discovered, if only by accident, that the tea has anti-allergic qualities. But, most importantly, she has not kept the good news to herself. She was determined to share her discovery with other mothers with allergic babies and did this by sharing her knowledge with no intention other than to help others. She also relentlessly promoted the tea nationally and internationally at a time where there was little known about the tea. She has not received any financial reward for her considerable efforts in promoting rooibos tea. She is motivated solely by generosity of spirit and for a passion to further the cause of healthy living. And for us South Africans, and especially for those who are privileged to know her well, Dr Theron is an icon; an entrepreneur and business women of stature; a mother to us all; and she deserves the name the American people has honoured her with: the Mother of Rooibos”.