Anti-inflammatory, anticholinesterase, antioxidant and phytochemical properties of medicinal plants used for pain-related ailments in South Africa

O A Fawole, S O Amoo, A R Ndhlala, M E Light, J F Finnie, J Van Staden
Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2010 February 3, 127 (2): 235-41

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Extracts of seven South African medicinal plants used traditionally for the treatment of pain-related ailments were evaluated.

AIMS OF THE STUDY: The study was aimed at evaluating medicinal and therapeutic potentials of the investigated traditional medicinal plants. Plant extracts were evaluated for anti-inflammatory activity and other pharmacological properties such as anticholinesterase and antioxidant activities. Phytochemical analysis of total phenolic contents, condensed tannins, gallotannins and flavonoids in the aqueous methanol extracts of the medicinal plants were also carried out.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The evaluation of anti-inflammatory activity of 50% methanol (50% MeOH), petroleum ether (PE), dichloromethane (DCM) and ethanol (EtOH) plant extracts was done against cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 (COX-1 and COX-2) enzymes. 50% MeOH, PE, DCM and EtOH extracts were tested for acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibition, while 50% MeOH extracts were tested for 2,2-diphenyl-1-picryl hydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging activity and ferric-reducing power in the antioxidant assays. Total phenolic compounds, condensed tannins, gallotannins and flavonoids were quantitatively determined using spectrophotometric methods.

RESULTS: At the screening assay concentration (0.25 microg/microl), 13 extracts showed good COX-1 inhibitory activity (>50%), while good activity was observed in 15 extracts against COX-2 enzyme. All the extracts of Crinum moorei (bulbs) showed good inhibition against both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. Though not significantly different (P=0.05), the highest COX-1 percentage inhibition (100%) was shown by Aloe ferox leaf PE and Colocasia antiquorum tuber DCM extracts, while Colocasia antiquorum tuber PE extract exhibited the highest (92.7%) percentage inhibition against COX-2. Crinum moorei bulb DCM extract showed the lowest EC(50) value (2.9 microg/ml) in the AChE assay. In addition, good to moderate bioactivities were observed in some extracts of Aloe ferox (leaves), Crinum moorei (bulbs) and Pycnostachys reticulata (leaves) in all the assays. The presence and/or amounts of phenolic compounds varied with plant species.

CONCLUSION: The results obtained in this study validate the use of the investigated medicinal plants in South African traditional medicine for pain-related ailments.

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