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A plant found in tropical Africa is being studied for its strong antioxidant properties
Beyond turmeric, chia seeds, and goji berries are medicinal plants that have been used since the beginning of human history, which we have yet to explore fully. In a recent study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a team from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria identified Feretia apodanthera, a plant native to the African continent, to have potent antioxidant properties. The team also revealed that the plant can also provide relief against inflammation, which opens up the possibility of using it as a natural alternative to commonly prescribed medication.
In traditional medicine, F. apodanthera, which is called kuru-kuru in northern Nigeria, is known to treat a variety of conditions. The roots are used to improve erectile function in men and treat stomach upset, while the other parts of the plant are used as treatments for conditions like renal and urinary infections, infectious wounds, and even venereal diseases like syphilis. Earlier studies on F. apodanthera have shown that it was effective against issues with cognition, oxidative stress, seizures, and memory impairment. However, more recent studies have looked into the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the plant. In their study, the researchers identified this effect to be caused by the presence of metabolites in the plant.
For the study, researchers investigated both the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect of F. apodanthera. To mimic the effect of inflammation in rats, researchers injected the animals with carrageenan; however, some rats were fed with the plant extract prior to the treatment. After the injection, the rats were observed for changes in paw thickness and amount of protection offered by the extract. In addition, they also used various in vitro tests to determine its phytochemical and antioxidant properties.
The researchers indicated the phytochemicals present in F. apodanthera which include saponins, triterpenes, tannins, flavonoids, cardiac glycosides, and steroids — all of which are known for its potential anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, flavonoids can be useful against acute inflammation by inhibiting the activation of pro-inflammatory enzymes such as protein kinase C and phospholipase A2, among others. Similar traits are seen in other phytochemicals, as these can reduce histamine expression and reduce carrageenan-induced inflammation or regulate the production of nitric oxide that worsens the inflammation process.
Based on the results, the ethanol extract of F. apodanthera was the most potent antioxidant agent among the other isolates that were obtained. It also had the lowest maximal inhibitory concentration, with the values of the F. apodanthera extract closely resembling that of vitamin C, another popular antioxidant. According to the researchers, this may be influenced by the process by which the extract was derived. In addition, the animal study also found that F. apodanthera inhibited biomarkers for inflammation for five continuous hours, in particular, histamine and prostaglandin. The level of anti-inflammation activity of F. apodanthera was even higher than that of ketoprofen, a common drug for treating inflammation.
“These results suggest that the extract of Feretia apodanthera may possess some antioxidant properties and provide relief against inflammation making it a possible future therapy for inflammation,” the researchers wrote in their report. “This may be the reason for the use of the extract in folklore medicine.”