Principal researcher (Food Science) at the ARC Infruitec–Nietvoorbij
"Honeybush must be a product that people want to buy again and again."
Converting plant into product
Honeybush is a plant with many benefits, and I am working towards unlocking its full potential. My research revolves around agro-processing: converting the plant into products, improving product quality and exploring new uses. The plant itself is mainly processed into a herbal tea and shows potential as a nutraceutical. Nutraceutical is the term used to describe plant extracts that have pharmaceutical and health-promoting qualities. Nutraceutical extracts are also used to prepare "functional foods", meaning foods that offer more than nutrition.
Why this matters
Honeybush must be a product that consumers want to buy again and again. Not only should a good quality product reach the market, but quality should also be consistent. Consumers are also becoming more aware of the possible health benefits of teas. Other exciting teas are appearing on the market, so we are trying to turn the spotlight onto this indigenous South African plant by highlighting its functionality. For example, the phenolic constituents of honeybush tea have beneficial properties, acting amongst others as antioxidants, and serve as a key driver for the development of new products. Not only do these compounds protect the plant against stress, but they can also protect us against diseases. If researchers can emphasise these benefits in a responsible and scientifically proven way, we can push for the development of more honeybush products,
About the researcher
Joubert holds a PhD degree in food science and is a principal researcher at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). The focus of her work during the past 38 years has been on product research relating to indigenous South African herbal teas: rooibos and honeybush. Joubert has published more than 170 scientific papers and four book chapters on the subject, and she is a co-inventor of several patents. Since the early 1990s, the scope of her research broadened to enhance the "healthy" image of these herbal teas and to move value-addition beyond their use as herbal teas. For this, she has forged collaboration with scientists from local and overseas institutions. She has received several awards during her career, of which the ARC Executive Management Award for outstanding achievement as a member of a multidisciplinary team on honeybush tea research (1999), the Indigenous Plant Use Forum "Plant-to-Product" Award (2009) for her role in the commercialisation of honeybush tea, and the Honorary Medal of the Faculty Natural Science and Technology of the South African Academy for Science and Arts (2018) for her research on rooibos and honeybush are specifically relevant to her research on South African herbal teas. In 2017, she was the lead editor of a special issue of the South African Journal of Botany on herbal teas.
Professor Lizette Joubert, a principal researcher at the ARC Infruitec–Nietvoorbij, is working toward improving quality and unlocking the full potential of honeybush tea as a functional food, focusing on its health-related qualities. (Photo: Engela Duvenage)