Good news from a new article in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine: knowledge of local medicinal plants is still fairly strong even in a native community only 4 km from a city center and bisected by a highway. The majority of the population still relies exclusively on medicinal plants for self-medication.
In the community of Bajo Quimiriki, despite the vicinity to the city of Pichanaki, traditional plant knowledge has still a great importance in the daily life: 402 medicinal plants were indicated by the informants for the treatment of 155 different ailments and diseases.
Scientists interviewed Asháninka community members who recognized 402 medicinal plants and knew their uses. 84% were wild plants and 63% were collected from the forest. There were only 2% exotics. Knowledge of the plants was significantly correlated with age and gender, with women significantly outscoring men.
Women described a medicinal application in a higher number of [plants]: they scored a total of 310 record of use versus 206 total records of use by men.
Of the 72 plants that researchers had pre-marked, women described one or more medicinal use of 49.5%, while men did so in 26.6%. Unfortunately, the Asháninka language is vanishing, and most younger community members know only the Spanish names of their traditional plants.
The children of the community spend most of the day at school, where they are taught in Spanish. This decreases their chances to learn about the uses of the medicinal plants from the older people.
Among the most interesting discoveries is that plant use by the Peruvian native population correlated well with that of the Malinké of Mali, in West Africa. There is always a stronger likelihood that a benefit is real when widely dispersed populations use the same plant for similar conditions.
This is a fascinating study and the full text is available free of charge at the link.
Asháninka medicinal plants: a case study from the native community of Bajo Quimiriki, Junín, Peru. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010; 6 : 21.
Move over Artemisia (well, maybe). There are two new antimalarial plants in the news this year.
From Brazil, Caesalpinia pluviosa (stem bark) ethanol extract was effective against the two main strains of the malaria parasite.
It’s important that we continue to find new antimalarials because the parasite becomes resistant. The current main therapy is ACT (artemisinin-based combination treatment), introduced when the parasite became resistant to chloroquine, a quinine derivative. Now artemisinin resistance is becoming increasingly common and no new class of antimalarial has been introduced since 1996. The authors warn “the discovery of new potential anti-malarial compounds is urgently needed.”
Caesalpinia is a legume with numerous local medicinal uses, many of which have a rational basis. The plant is antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Apparently, it is also anti-malarial. In previous research, the crude extract proved inactive. The current research started in vitro testing various extracts against Plasmodium in glassware. Finding activity, research moved to in vivo research in infected mice. Chemical analysis showed that a new molecule, at first thought to be quercitin, appears to be the most active compound against malaria.
In the in vitro test, two fractions were significantly effective. The crude extract was not. In mice, the crude extract was somewhat effective, though not as effective against chloroquine resistant malaria. The ethanol extract was effective against both. What’s more, it was synergistic with the artemisinin based drug artesunate, so the two together are more effective than the combined effect of both. The plant extract alone was around 50% effective, artesunate around 60% and the combination around 80%.
The full article is HERE.
Halfway around the world, in Senegal, an ethnopharmacological survey pointed to the local medicinal plant Icacina senegalensis a native plant long used in Senegal to treat malaria. Crude extract and various fractions proved anti-plasmodial (Plasmodium is the malaria parasite) with no toxicity.
Astonishingly, this is the first time the plant has been tested, despite being the traditional remedy in perhaps the most mosquito infested and malaria afflicted part of West Africa. “This is the first scientific demonstration of the anti-plasmodial activity of I. senegalensis leaf extracts in a standard in vitro assay based on pLDH detection”
The crude methanol extract and fractions were tested for both effectiveness and toxicity (haemolytic effect). None of the extract fractions exhibited cytotoxicity to the limit of detection. By far the most effective fraction was the nonpolar (not water soluble) fraction of the methanol extract, with the polar fraction being the least effective.
It would be interesting to see how ethanol extracts fare, since methanol is toxic.
Full article is HERE.
Researchers at Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy look at liver cancer and the remedies, natural and synthetic, that can prevent and treat it. The abstract sets up the need for this research:
Despite significant advances in medicine, liver cancer, predominantly hepatocellular carcinoma remains a major cause of death in the United States as well as the rest of the world. As limited treatment options are currently available to patients with liver cancer, novel preventive control and effective therapeutic approaches are considered to be reasonable and decisive measures to combat this disease. Several naturally occurring dietary and non-dietary phytochemicals have shown enormous potential in the prevention and treatment of several cancers, especially those of the gastrointestinal tract.
The article then descrive the largest group of phytochemicals used for medicine in India and China: terpenoids, some of which are currently in clinical trials as anticancer agents. Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the third highest cause of cancer-related deaths in the world, with a five year survival rate below 9%. The incidence of liver cancer in the US has risen 70% in the last 25 years. The authors comment on treatment and prognosis:
HCC (hepatocellular carcinoma) prognosis remains dismal despite many treatment options. Overall, the cure rate among patients who undergo resection is not very high and for those patients who are not eligible for surgery or percutaneous procedures, only chemoembolization appears to improve survival…
Sorafenib, the only drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of advanced HCC, increases the median survival time by less than 3 mo. However, this drug does not defer the symptomatic progression of the disease, costs about $5400 per month for treatment, and exhibits severe adverse effects, including a significant risk of bleeding. These drawbacks necessitate the search for novel preventive and therapeutic approaches for this disease.
After a review of what terpenoids are and how they are used, the article looks at plants and plant compounds with anticancer effects. “Terpenoids have been found to be useful in the prevention and therapy of several diseases, including cancer, and also to have antimicrobial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiviral, anti-allergenic, antispasmodic, antihyperglycemic, antiinflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties.”
In terms of anticancer properties the article points out that a large number of triterpenoids suppress the growth of many types of cancer cells “without exerting any toxicity in normal cells,” and that preclinical studies show triterpenoids have chemopreventive and therapeutic effects against colon, breast, prostate and skin cancer.
This is the first review we have found that focuses exclusively on liver cancer. Of the compounds under current study, these appear to be the most promising:
The only monoterpene studied was geraniol, which inhibits the growth of liver cancer cells by inhibiting HMG-CoA.
The diterpene andrographolide from Andrographis paniculata inhibited growth by apoptosis (inducing “programmed cell death” in the tumor cells) and two other mechanisms. Two other diterpenes are discussed.
The largest number of compounds studied are the triterpenes, with many active compounds, including those from Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa), astragalus, Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), Trichosanthes kirilowii, Aesculus (horse chestnut), Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), Ginseng, Gynostemma, Bosewellia serrata, Aralia, Gentian and others.
The tetraterpenes are known as carotenoids and include the most common form of vitamin A (beta carotene) and astaxanthin, the compound that makes shrimp and salmon pink. Fukoxanthin, from seaweed, and lycopene from tomatoes also showed significant activity.
Sesquiterpenes with anticancer activity in liver cells include bisabolol from chamomile and zerumbone from wild ginger.
Animal studies for activity against liver cancer are much less common, despite promising results from in vitro studies. Of these, geraniol again showed the ability to suppress liver carcinogenesis and limonene showed efficacy against HCC. Andrographis had “potent antitumor activity” by oral administration. Bacoside A, from Bacopa monniera delayed development and growth of tumors, and cucurbitacin B reduced tumor volume and tumor growth. Escin (from horse chestnut) and ginseng reduced tumor growth, as did glycyrrhizin from licorice.
Several studies showed a lack of efficacy for triterpenes, so look at the original article for a balanced view. It’s available free, online, HERE.
World J Hepatol. 2011 September 27; 3(9): 228–249.
Hepatoprotective properties of kombucha tea against TBHP-induced oxidative stress via suppression of mitochondria dependent apoptosis.
This popular drink is now being sold in most stores when just a few years ago it could only be found in health food stores. This article indicates kombucha is beneficial against liver disease.
Kombucha, a fermented tea (KT) is claimed to possess many beneficial properties. Recent studies have suggested that KT prevents paracetamol and carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatotoxicity. We investigated the beneficial role of KT was against tertiary butyl hydroperoxide (TBHP) induced cytotoxicity and cell death in murine hepatocytes. TBHP is a well known reactive oxygen species (ROS) inducer, and it induces oxidative stress in organ pathophysiology. In our experiments, TBHP caused a reduction in cell viability, enhanced the membrane leakage and disturbed the intra-cellular antioxidant machineries while simultaneous treatment of the cells with KT and this ROS inducer maintained membrane integrity and prevented the alterations in the cellular antioxidant status. These findings led us to explore the detailed molecular mechanisms involved in the protective effect of KT. TBHP introduced apoptosis as the primary phenomena of cell death as evidenced by flow cytometric analyses. In addition, ROS generation, changes in the mitochondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release, activation of caspases (3 and 9) and Apaf-1 were detected confirming involvement of mitochondrial pathway in this pathophysiology. Simultaneous treatment of KT with TBHP, on the other hand, protected the cells against oxidative injury and maintained their normal physiology. In conclusion, KT was found to modulate the oxidative stress induced apoptosis in murine hepatocytes probably due to its antioxidant activity and functioning via mitochondria dependent pathways and could be beneficial against liver diseases, where oxidative stress is known to play a crucial role.Pathophysiology. 2011 Jun;18(3):221-34. Epub 2011 Mar 8.
Flaxseed is one of the most important oilseed crops for industrial as well as food, feed, and fiber purposes. Almost every part of the flaxseed plant is utilized commercially, either directly or after processing. The stem yields good quality fiber having high strength and durability. The seed provides oil rich in omega-3, digestible proteins, and lignans. In addition to being one of the richest sources of α-linolenic acid oil and lignans, flaxseed is an essential source of high quality protein and soluble fiber and has considerable potential as a source of phenolic compounds. Flaxseed is emerging as an important functional food ingredient because of its rich contents of α-linolenic acid (ALA), lignans, and fiber. Lignans appear to be anti-carcinogenic compounds. The omega-3s and lignan phytoestrogens of flaxseed are in focus for their benefits for a wide range of health conditions and may possess chemo-protective properties in animals and humans. This paper presents a review of literature on the nutritional composition of flaxseed, its health benefits, and disease-prevention qualities, utilization of flaxseed for food, feed, and fiber, and processing of flaxseed.
Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial.
This study shows the benefits of omega-3 supplementation.
Observational studies have linked lower omega-3 (n-3) polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and higher omega-6 (n-6) PUFAs with inflammation and depression, but randomized controlled trial (RCT) data have been mixed. To determine whether n-3 decreases proinflammatory cytokine production and depressive and anxiety symptoms in healthy young adults, this parallel group, placebo-controlled, double-blind 12-week RCT compared n-3 supplementation with placebo. The participants, 68 medical students, provided serial blood samples during lower-stress periods as well as on days before an exam. The students received either n-3 (2.5g/d, 2085mg eicosapentaenoic acid and 348mg docosahexanoic acid) or placebo capsules that mirrored the proportions of fatty acids in the typical American diet. Compared to controls, those students who received n-3 showed a 14% decrease in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulated interleukin 6 (IL-6) production and a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms, without significant change in depressive symptoms. Individuals differ in absorption and metabolism of n-3 PUFA supplements, as well as in adherence; accordingly, planned secondary analyses that used the plasma n-6:n-3 ratio in place of treatment group showed that decreasing n-6:n-3 ratios led to lower anxiety and reductions in stimulated IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) production, as well as marginal differences in serum TNF-α. These data suggest that n-3 supplementation can reduce inflammation and anxiety even among healthy young adults. The reduction in anxiety symptoms associated with n-3 supplementation provides the first evidence that n-3 may have potential anxiolytic benefits for individuals without an anxiety disorder diagnosis. ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00519779.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Jul 19.
Common mullein weed (Verbascum thapsus ) has a large number of synonyms and old local “nick names” which connect the plant with mycobacteria. A strong history of medicinal use has been uncovered for the treatment of tuberculosis, tubercular skin disease, leprosy, and mycobacterial disease in animals. Here, we examine problems encountered in treating such diseases today, the historical and scientific links between mullein and pathogenic bacteria, and the possibility that this common weed could harbour the answer to beating one of the world’s biggest infectious killers.
Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011. pii: 239237. Epub 2010 Sep 19.
Cruciferous vegetables, tomato sauce, and legumes have been associated with reduced risk of incident advanced prostate cancer. In vitro and animal studies suggest these foods may inhibit progression of prostate cancer, but there are limited data in men. Therefore, we prospectively examined whether intake of total vegetables, and specifically cruciferous vegetables, tomato sauce, and legumes, after diagnosis reduce risk of prostate cancer progression among 1,560 men diagnosed with non-metastatic prostate cancer and participating in the Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor, a United States prostate cancer registry. As a secondary analysis, we also examined other vegetable sub-groups, total fruit, and sub-groups of fruits. The participants were diagnosed primarily at community-based clinics and followed from 2004-2009. We assessed vegetable and fruit intake via a semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire, and ascertained prostate cancer outcomes via urologist report and medical records. We observed 134 events of progression (53 biochemical recurrences, 71 secondary treatments likely due to recurrence, six bone metastases, four prostate cancer deaths) during 3,171 person-yrs. Men in the fourth quartile of post-diagnostic cruciferous vegetable intake had a statistically significant 59% decreased risk of prostate cancer progression compared to men in the lowest quartile (hazard ratio (HR): 0.41; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.22, 0.76; p-trend: 0.003). No other vegetable or fruit group was statistically significantly associated with risk of prostate cancer progression. In conclusion, cruciferous vegetable intake after diagnosis may reduce risk of prostate cancer progression.
Nurses have read the statistics on the numbers of prescription medications seniors take each day and the pitfalls and diverse problems that occur as a result. Various scenarios contribute to this problem: multiple healthcare providers prescribe medications; the use of over-the-counter products and herbs or alcohol cause medication interactions; and patients increase, decrease, skip, or repeat doses. When medications are not taken correctly, an increase in the number of physician or emergency department visits and hospitalizations results. Patients who come to a rehabilitation unit after joint replacement or hip-pinning surgery, stroke, or for treatment of other conditions may be prescribed medications that differ from the drugs they were taking at home. These patients and their families need to learn how to safely take their new medications. This presentation describes how five nurses developed a medication safety program consisting of four segments: Making Your Medication List; Talking to Your Healthcare Team About Your Medications; Safely Storing, Taking, and Destroying Your Medications; and Knowing the Difference Between Allergies, Side Effects, and Interactions. This article also describes the development of the script and PowerPoint program, lessons learned from the first presentation, and implications for rehabilitation nurses. The information presented in this series can help patients and families take charge of their medications. The team of community educators who wrote this article encourages the integration of this program into readers’ local patient communities because standards of care and resources vary in the communities that nurses serve.
When a study illustrates all healing aspects of an herb and calls it a “cure-all”, I feel it is worth a read. Western herbalists have known the worth of Gotu Kola, Centella asiatica. At the end of the abstract, I have attached a link to the complete study.
In recent times, focus on plant research has increased all over the world. Centella asiatica is an important medicinal herb that is widely used in the orient and is becoming popular in the West. Triterpenoid, saponins, the primary constituents of Centellaasiatica are manly believed to be responsible for its wide therapeutic actions. Apart from wound healing, the herb is recommended for the treatment of various skin conditions such as leprosy, lupus, varicose ulcers, eczema, psoriasis, diarrhoea, fever, amenorrhea, diseases of the female genitourinary tract and also for relieving anxiety and improving cognition. The present review attempts to provide comprehensive information on pharmacology, mechanisms of action, various preclinical and clinical studies, safety precautions and current research prospects of the herb. At the same time, studies to evaluate the likelihood of interactions with drugs and herbs on simultaneous use, which is imperative for optimal and safe utilization of the herb, are discussed.
Indian J Pharm Sci. 2010 Sep;72(5):546-56.