Pharmacological evaluation of Alstonia scholaris: anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects

Jian-Hua Shang, Xiang-Hai Cai, Tao Feng, Yun-Li Zhao, Jing-Kun Wang, Lu-Yong Zhang, Ming Yan, Xiao-Dong Luo
Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2010 May 27, 129 (2): 174-81

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Alstonia scholaris (Apocynaceae) has been historically used in "dai" ethnopharmacy to treat chronic respiratory diseases. The leaf extract, developed as a commercially available traditional Chinese medicine, used to release tracheitis and cold symptom, has also been prescribed in hospitals and sold over the counter in drug stores.

AIM OF THE STUDY: The investigation evaluated the anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities of the ethanolic extract, fractions and main alkaloids of Alstonia scholaris leaf to provide experimental evidence for its traditional and modern clinical use. Besides, to discover the active fraction and components for further better use in Chinese medicine is hopeful.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The leaf of Alstonia scholaris was extracted with ethanol and then separated into different fractions. Furthermore, alkaloids were isolated by phytochemical method. The analgesic activities were investigated using acetic acid-induced writhing, hot-plate and formalin tests in mice. The anti-inflammatory activities were carried out in vivo and in vitro, including xylene-induced ear edema and carrageenan-induced air pouch formation in mice, and COX-1, -2 and 5-LOX inhibition.

RESULTS: It has been exhibited that the EtOAc and alkaloid fractions reduced acetic acid-induced writhing response in mice, significantly. The ethanolic extract, EtOAc and alkaloid fractions remarkably inhibited xylene-induced ear edema. Further investigation was focused on the alkaloids fraction and three main alkaloids isolated from the alkaloids fraction, in different animal models. Alkaloids reduced acetic acid-induced writhing response, and xylene-induced ear edema in mice. In the hot-plate test, alkaloids did not increase the latency period of mice obviously. In the formalin test, alkaloids did not inhibit the licking time in first phase, but significantly inhibited the licking time in second phase of mice. Alkaloids increased significantly SOD activity and decreased levels of NO, PGE2 and MDA significantly, in air pouch mice model. Moreover, some alkaloids isolated from the leaf of Alstonia scholaris exhibited inhibition of COX-1, COX-2 and 5-LOX in vitro anti-inflammatory assay, which supported alkaloids as the bioactive fraction.

CONCLUSIONS: The alkaloids fraction of Alstonia scholaris leaf, three main alkaloids, picrinine, vallesamine and scholaricine, may produce the anti-inflammatory and analgesic effect peripherally based on several in vivo assays. In in vitro tests, alkaloids exhibited inhibition of inflammatory mediators (COX-1, COX-2 and 5-LOX), which is accordant with results on animal models. Besides, COX-2/5-LOX dual inhibitors found in the experiment, such as 16-formyl-5alpha-methoxystrictamine, picralinal, and tubotaiwine might be valuable for further attention.

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