content='1;url='http-equiv='refresh'/> Natural Health Remedy: March 2011

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eating sweet potato to prevent cancers, diabetes

The tubers have become diet, while the leaves
are often used as animal feed. But
researchers have found that extract of the
leaves and tubers of white sweet potatoes
could be used to prevent and treat cancers
and diabetes.
SWEET potatoes may provide the next novel
drugs for cancer and diabetes. Recent study
by Japanese researchers published in
Journal of Agriculture, Food and Chemistry
indicates that the growth of human cancer
cells can be successfully suppressed with
sweet potato extracts.
A previous study had demonstrated that the
phytochemicals in sweet potato have
significant antioxidant and anticancer
activities. The antioxidant activity was
directly related to the total amount of
phenolics and flavonoids in the extracts.
Researchers suggest that the additive roles
of phytochemicals may contribute to its
ability in inhibiting tumor cell proliferation
in vitro.
Also, researchers from Austria, Italy and
Switzerland have demonstrated the
tolerability, efficacy, and mode of action an
extract of white sweet potatoes on
metabolic control in type 2 diabetic patients.
The researchers suggest that despite its
“ sweet” name, sweet potato may stabilize
blood sugars and lower insulin resistance.
Other studies have shown that the flavone
extracted from sweet potato leaf could
control blood sugar and modulate the
metabolism of glucose and blood lipid, and
decrease outputs of lipid peroxidation and
scavenge the free radicals in non-insulin
dependent diabetic rats.
India researchers have demonstrated the
cytotoxic and antioxidant activities of
sweet potato. The study published in the
International Journal of Pharmacy and
Pharmaceutical Sciences concluded: “On the
basis of the above results it can be
concluded that he ethanolic extract possess
significant anticancer and antioxidant
activities studied by in vitro models. The
presence of flavonoids and related phyto-
constituents may be responsible for the
activity. Further investigations are required
to find active component of the extract and
to confirm the mechanism of action. Further
studies warranted, for isolation of the
constituents responsible for the activity and
also to explore the exact mechanism of
action of the activity.”
Commonly called sweet potato, Ipomoea
batatas belongs to the plant family
Convolvulaceae. In Nigeria, it is called edia-
makara in Anaang, dankai in Berom, iyan-
ebo in Edo, bia mbakara in Efik, ba-fadamee
in Hausa, ediam-umani in Ibibio, ji-bekee or
nduku in Ibo, beke buru in Ijo-Izon, dangali
in Kanuri, dangura in Mambila, duku in
Nupe, atsaka in Tiv, imitata or ole-oyinbo in
Urhobo, anamo or odukun in Yoruba.
According to the Useful Plants of West
Tropical Africa by H. M. Burkill, the tubers
have been used for distillation to ‘tumbo
spirit’ in Nigeria. Vitamins are well
represented, particularly the yellow-fleshed
cultivars. The plant is usually a three to four
months crop, but some cultivars run to six
months. Little medicinal use is made of the
tubers. They are used in frictions on the
skin in Cote D ’Ivoire to prevent loss of
pigmentation. A purgative tisane is made
from the root with leaves of Cassia
occidentalis (Leguminosae:
Caesalpinioideae) and the bark of Bridelia
ferruginea (Euphorbiaceae) in Congo.
Bactericidal and fungicidal substances have
been isolated from the tuber and the haulm.
The young leaves are commonly eaten by
man, and leafy stems are fed to stock. They
are a good source of vitamins and minerals
especially calcium and especially in the
purple-leafed forms. They are anti-diabetic
and anti-scorbutic.
In Senegal poultices for abscesses are made
of the leaves. The leaf-sap is used on burns
in Cote D ’Ivoire, the pounded leaves are
made into an enema given to avert
miscarriage, and leaves are applied in
topical frictions to relieve intercostal pain
and in mouth-wash and gum-massage for
toothache. Toxic substances have been
reported and excessive ingestion is known
to cause diarrhoea, and even death. Some
alkaloid has been recorded in the stems and
leaves and in the roots.
The Japanese study is titled “Growth
suppression of human cancer cells by
polyphenolics from sweet potato (Ipomoea
batatas L.) leaves. ”
R. Kurata, M. Adachi, O. Yamakawa, and M.
Yoshimoto of the Department of Upland
Farming Research, National Agricultural
Research Center for Kyushu Okinawa
Region, Yokoichi, Miyakonojo, Miyazaki,
Japan found that sweet potato leaves
(Ipomoea batatas L.) contain a high content
of polyphenolics that consist of caffeic acid,
chlorogenic acid, 3,4-di-O-caffeoylquinic
acid, 3,5-di-O-caffeoylquinic acid, 4,5-di-O-
caffeoylquinic acid, and 3,4,5-tri-O-
caffeoylquinic acid.
They wrote: “We investigated the
suppression of the proliferation of selected
human cancer cells by phenolic compounds
isolated from sweet potato leaf. The human
cancer cells used in this research included a
stomach cancer (Kato III), a colon cancer
(DLD-1), and a promyelocytic leukemia cell
(HL-60). Caffeic acid and di- and
tricaffeoylquinic acids dose-dependently
depressed cancer cell proliferation, and the
difference in sensitivity between
caffeoylquinic acid derivatives and each
kind of cancer cell was observed.
“Specifically, 3,4,5-tri-O-caffeoylquinic acid
effectively depressed the growth of three
kinds of cancer cells, and caffeic acid had an
exceptionally higher effect against HL-60
cells than other di- and tricaffeoylquinic
acids. In attempting to clarify the
mechanism of growth suppression with the
addition of the apoptotic inhibitor N-
ethylmaleimide, we observed that the
nuclear granulation in 3,4,5-tri-O-
caffeoylquinic acid-treated HL-60 cells
suggested apoptosis induction. This effect
was confirmed by DNA fragmentation, an
increase of caspase-3 activity, and
expression of c-Jun. Growth suppression of
HL-60 cells by 3,4,5-tri-O-caffeoylquinic acid
was determined to be the result of
apoptotic death of the cells. These results
indicate that 3,4,5-tri-O-caffeoylquinic acid
may have potential for cancer prevention.”
According to the study by Bernhard Ludvik
of the Department of Medicine III, Division
of Endocrinology and Metabolism,
University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria;
Beatrice Neuffer of Via Livio 14, Chiasso,
Switzerland; and Giovanni Pacini of the
Metabolic Unit, Institute of Biomedical
Engineering, ISIB, National Research Council,
CNR, Padova, Italy, a total of 61 type 2
diabetic patients treated by diet were given
4 gram of extracts of white sweet potato
called Caiapo once daily for 12 weeks. Each
subject underwent a 75-g oral glucose
tolerance test (OGTT) at baseline and after
one, two, and three months to assess two-
hour glucose levels. Additionally, fasting
blood glucose, HbA1c, total cholesterol, and
triglyceride levels were measured.
After treatment with Caiapo, HbA1c
decreased significantly, whereas it
remained unchanged in subjects given
placebo. Fasting blood glucose levels
decreased in the Caiapo group and did not
change in the placebo group. A decrease in
body weight was observed in both the
placebo group and in the Caiapo group,
probably due to a better- controlled lifestyle.
In the Caiapo group, body weight was
related to the improvement in glucose
control. Two-hour glucose levels were
significantly decreased in the Caiapo group
compared with the placebo group. Mean
cholesterol at the end of the treatment was
significantly lower in the Caiapo group than
in the placebo group. No significant
changes in triglyceride levels or blood
pressure were observed, and Caiapo was
well tolerated without significant adverse
The researchers concluded: “This study
confirms the beneficial effects of Caiapo on
plasma glucose as well as cholesterol levels
in patients with type 2 diabetes. For the first
time, the long-term efficacy of Caiapo on
glucose control was demonstrated by the
observed decrease in HbA1c. Thus, the
neutraceutical Caiapo seems to be a useful
agent in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. ”
Phytochemical analysis sweet potato leaves
showed that they are very nutritious when
compared to vegetables such as cassava
leaves, amaranth, mushrooms, taro, and
pumpkin leaves. Sweet potatoes are
reportedly good source of vitamins A, B and
C, iron, calcium and phosphorus.
High in complex carbohydrates and dietary
fibre; deficient in protein.
An invention made from the extracts of leaf
and stems of sweet potato has been shown
to have qi and spleen invigorating effects,
cooling the blood and stopping bleeding.
Such a composition has the potential of use
for ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic
purpura), radiotherapy- and chemotherapy-
induced thrombocytopenia.
A 2006 study of commonly consumed roots
crops in the Philippines (Kamote, Ipomoea
batata; ubi, purple yam, Dioscorea alata;
cassava, Manihot esculenta; taro or gabi,
Colocasia esculenta; carrot, Daucus carota;
yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) showed
them to be rich sources of phenolic
compounds with antioxidant acitivity,
highest in sweet potato, followed by taro,
potato, purple yam and lowest in the carrot
Other results suggest the total phenolic
content was positively correlated with
radical scavenging activities of the sweet
potato leaves. Purple sweet potato
anthocyanins have antioxidative activity in
vivo as well as in vitro.
Another study has identified new
chitinolytic enzymes in sweet potato leaves.
Chitinases catalyze the hydrolysis of chitin,
the main structural component of fungal
walls and arthropod integuments. Studies
suggest it has other functions and has been
proposed to play a role in the defense
against pathogens. Chitinases are also
useful in the production of biomedical and
biotech products; used in the production of
chitooligosaccharides, glucosamines and
GlcNAc. Other applications are found in
mosquito control and pathogenic plant
fungi control.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with increased cancer death risk

HEAVY alcohol consumption, specifically
three or more glasses of liquor a day, is
associated with an increased risk of death
from pancreatic cancer, according to a
report in the March 14 issue of Archives of
Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives
“Alcoholic beverage consumption — a
modifiable lifestyle factor — is causally
related to several cancers, including oral
cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver,
colorectum and female breast, ” the authors
write as background information in the
article. “Heavy alcohol consumption causes
acute and chronic pancreatitis but has
never been linked definitively to pancreatic
cancer. ”
Using data from the Cancer Prevention
Study II (CPS-II), Dr. Susan M. Gapstur and
colleagues from the American Cancer
Society, Atlanta, examined the association
between alcohol intake and pancreatic
cancer. The CPS-II is a long-term prospective
study of U.S. adults 30 years and older.
Initial data on alcohol consumption was
gathered in 1982, and based on follow-up
through 2006, there were 6,847 pancreatic
cancer deaths among one million
Of the million participants (453,770 men
and 576,697 women), 45.7 per cent of men
and 62.5 per cent of women were non-
drinkers. The analyses of men only and of
men and women combined showed
statistically significant increased risk of
pancreatic cancer death for consumption of
three drinks per day and four or more
drinks per day, whereas for women only
the estimated risk of death from pancreatic
cancer was statistically significant for
consumption of four or more drinks per
Compared with non-drinkers, consuming
three or more drinks of liquor per day was
associated with an increased risk of
pancreatic cancer death in the total study
population, and consumption of two or
more drinks of liquor per day was
associated with an increased risk in both
never smokers and in those who had ever
smoked. This association was observed for
liquor consumption but not for beer or
In never smokers, there was a 36 per cent
higher risk of pancreatic cancer death
associated with consuming three or more
drinks a day compared with non-drinkers
for men and women combined. In those
who had ever smoked, there was a 16 per
cent higher risk of death from pancreatic
cancer after adjustment for smoking history
and other variables.
“Findings from the prospective study
presented herein strongly support the
hypothesis that alcohol consumption, in
particular heavy intake, also is an
independent risk factor for pancreatic
cancer, the fourth most common cause of
cancer mortality (death) in the United
States,” the authors conclude.

Why African oil bean stops diarrhoea, malnutrition, microbes

Nigerian researchers have explained the
increasing demand for Ugba (African oil
bean seed) delicacies around the country.
Their verdict: African oil bean seed is a
very good food source; anti-microbial and
wound healing agent; and the leaf extracts
could be used to stop diarrhoea.
IT is a major food item among the Igbo of
Eastern Nigeria. It is fermented and used as
a food supplement and is consumed alone,
mixed with other food ingredients or as a
condiment in soups and salads.
The African oil bean seed (Pentaclethra
macrophylla) is fermented and consumed
especially in eastern states of Nigeria. The
fermented product Ugba (old Imo State) or
Ukpaka (old Anambra State) is eaten alone
or with other ingredients like stockfish,
garden egg, sliced tapioca or they can be
mixed with vegetable popularly known as
Africa salad in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
African oil bean is a tropical tree crop found
mostly in the Southern rain forest zone of
West Africa. It belongs to the leguminosae
family and sub-family mimosoideae. African
oil bean tree grows to about 21 metre in
height and to about six metres in girth. The
leaves have stout angular petiole. The
compound leaves are usually about 20
centimetres large and covered with rusty
hairs. The followers are creamy, yellowish
or pinkish-white and sweet smelling. The
main flowering season is between March-
The seed is a source of edible oil used for
candle making and soaps. The seed shells
are decorative and often used as craft
beads, which are worn as necklaces and
sometimes as local dance apparels. It has
been reported that the seeds, when crushed
and eaten with red ants could induce
Chemical evaluation of the nutritive value of
African oil bean seeds by I.J. Alinnor and R.
Oze of the Department of Pure and
Industrial Chemistry, Federal University of
Technology, Owerri, Imo State, showed that
the seeds have moisture content 11.87 per
cent, ash content 2.95 per cent, crude fat
content 46.95 per cent, crude protein
content 20.95 per cent, crude fibre content
2.50 per cent, carbohydrate content 14.79
per cent, available energy 2344.56 kJ.
According to the study published recently in
Pakistan Journal of Nutrition, the mineral
content of the analysed samples showed
that African oil bean seeds were rich in iron
of value 140.97 mg/100 g. The analysis
indicates that potassium is the most
abundant mineral. The high calcium/
potassium (Ca/P) ratio indicates that African
oil bean seed is a very good food source.
The researchers concluded: “The result of
the analysis shows that African oil bean
seed is rich in protein and it could be used
as alternative source of protein in diet/
protein supplement especially in under
developed countries such as Nigeria. This
study also revealed that African oil bean
seeds have high available energy and high
fat content. This study revealed that African
oil bean sample is rich in iron when
compared to Recommended Daily Allowance
(RDA) standard.
“Iron is required for blood formation in the
body and the normal functioning of central
nervous system. The presence of calcium,
magnesium and phosphorus would make
African oil bean seed suitable for bone
formation for children since the deficiencies
of these minerals could lead to abnormal
bone development. The high calcium/
phosphorous (Ca/P) value indicates that
African oil bean is a very good food
source. ”
African oil bean seed oil has shown great
promise as antimicrobial and wound
healing agent. Nigerian researchers have
demonstrated how African oil bean seed oil,
African star apple oil and avocado pear oil
inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus
aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis,
Escherichia coli, Proteus mirabilis and
Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
The study titled “The antimicrobial effect of
oils from Pentaclethra macrophylla,
Chrysophyllum albidum and Persea
gratissima on some local clinical bacteria
isolates ” was published in African Journal of
The researchers include Ugbogu O. C. and
Akukwe A. R. of the Department of
Microbiology, Abia State University, Uturu,
Abia State.
The researchers write: “The in vitro
antimicrobial effect of the oils on most of
the local clinical isolates were high and no
complete resistance was observed in any of
the isolates. This observation suggests that
oils from these seeds can be used for
management and disinfection of wounds.
The people of Eastern Nigeria have been
using palm kernel oil as skin ointment since
prehistoric times although scientific
evidence for its antimicrobial effect is
“These oils had higher inhibition than has
been reported for palm kernel oil. These oils
can serve as alternative sources of ointment
for maintenance of the skin and
management of wounds in addition to the
usual palm kernel oil. In addition, research
has shown that the use of this type of
inhibitory agent does not result to
development of resistance organisms. There
is need for further investigation of the oils
of under-utilised seeds in order to employ
them in the production of ointments for
wound disinfection and management. ”
African star apple (Chrysophyllum albidum)
belongs to the family sapotaceae and is
primarily a forest tree species. Its natural
occurrences have been reported in diverse
ecozones in Nigeria, Uganda, Niger Republic,
Cameroun and Cote D ’Ivoire. The fleshy
pulp of this fruit is as snack and relished by
both young and old. It is an excellent source
of vitamins, iron and flavours to diets. The
roots and leaves are used for medicinal
purposes. The seeds are used for local
games or discarded.
Avocado pear (Persea grattisima) contains
chemical constituents such as tannins,
flavonoids, steroids, saponins, glycosides,
phenolics, terpenes and alkaloids.
Undocumented ethnomedical sources have
ascribed that the seeds are used for
treatment of obesity, high blood pressure,
heart problems and hypertension. The
leaves and stem barks are used for
treatment of malaria and typhoid fever. The
seeds are usually thrown away except for
purposes of propagation. Except
Pentaclethra macrophylla seeds, the seeds
of Chrysophyllum albidum and Persea
gratissima are usually thrown away.
Nigerian researchers have also explained
the rationale for the use of African oil bean
leaf extracts in traditional medicine as a
popular anti-diarrhoeal recipe.
The study titled, “Studies on the
antidiarrhoeal properties of Pentaclethra
macrophylla leaf extracts ” was published in
Phytotherapy Research by P. A. Akah, C. N.
Aguwa, R. U. Agu.
The study reads: “The aqueous (WE) and
ethanol (EE) leaf extracts of African oil bean
were tested for anti-diarrhoeal activity
using experimental animal models …
Antidiarrhoeal potential of the extracts was
evidenced by a significant reduction in
faecal output and protection from castor oil-
induced diarrhoea in rats treated with the
extracts. In addition the extracts
significantly decreased propulsive
movement of gastrointestinal contents in
“On isolated tissue preparations, the
extracts significantly reduced in a non-
specific manner contractions evoked by
acetylcholine, nicotine and histamine. The
extracts inhibited the growth of common
pathogenic microorganisms. The
antispasmodic as well as the antimicrobial
effects of the extracts may explain the
rationale for the use of the plant in
traditional medicine as a popular anti-
diarrhoeal recipe. ”

Breast-feeding may cut obesity risk in kids of diabetic moms

THE findings were the same across all
ethnicities. However, this protective effect
was not seen in babies who were breastfed
for less than six months. The study is
published in the February issue of the
journal, Diabetes Care.
Lead researcher, Dr Dana Dabelea, an
Associate Professor in the Epidemiology
Department at the Colorado School of Public
Health, said in a news release from the
American Diabetes Association: “Our data
suggests that breastfeeding promotion may
be an effective strategy for reducing the
increased risk of childhood obesity in
offspring of mothers with diabetes during
pregnancy. ”
Dabelea added: “Since childhood obesity
and in utero exposure to maternal diabetes
have both been associated with later
development of type 2 diabetes, it follows
that breastfeeding these children may also
help reduce their future risk for developing
type 2 [diabetes]. However, further research
would be needed to confirm that added
protection. ”
The findings reinforce the importance of
breastfeeding, an expert wrote in an
editorial accompanying the study.
“Beyond its important role for mother-child
bonding, breastfeeding as compared to
formula has a considerable number of
positive short- and long-term effects on
human development, such as decreased
incidence of high respiratory infections, a
lower risk of asthma and atopy, and a
decreased risk of high blood pressure, type
2 diabetes, as well as type 1 diabetes, ”
wrote Dr Andreas Plagemann of the
Obstetrics Clinic in the division of
Experimental Obstetrics at Charite-
University Medicine Berlin, Germany.
Moreover, profound evidence exists that
breastfeeding has the potential to
permanently decrease the long-term risk of
developing obesity, as shown by the results
of at least four meta-analyses on this issue, ”
the editorialist added.

Coffee drinking linked to reduced stroke risk in women

RESEARCHERS have associated drinking more
than a cup of coffee a day with 22 per cent
to 25 per cent lower risk of stroke,
compared with those who drank less. The
study was reported in Stroke: Journal of the
American Heart Association.
Low or no coffee consumption was
associated with an increased risk of stroke
in a study of 34,670 women (ages 49 to 83)
followed for an average 10.4 years. It ’s too
soon to change coffee-drinking habits, but
the study should ease the concerns of some
women, researchers noted.
Also, Ignite programme, a pan African
educational project targeted at enlightening
the public on the relationship between
coffee and health has been launched to the
medical community.
The programme championed by a group of
academicians was unveiled to the medical
community during its stakeholder ’s forum,
which held recently in Lagos. The forum
was attended by doctors, nurses, and other
practitioners across the medical profession.
The forum witnessed various scientific
presentations and interactive sessions with
the Ignite programme team made up by Dr
Jane Ajuluchukwu, a consultant cardiologist
and associate professor of medicine, Dr Brai
Bartholomew, a nutrition researcher with
the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research
(NIMR) and Dr Olayemi Sunday, a clinical
pharmacologist and associate professor of
Lead author of the study and a researcher
in the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology,
National Institute of Environmental
Medicine, Karolinska Institute in Stockholm,
Sweden, Dr. Susanna Larsson, said: “Coffee
is one of the most widely consumed
beverages in the world. Therefore, even
small health effects of substances in coffee
may have large public health
consequences. ”
Groups who reported drinking one to two
cups per day, three to four cups per day or
five or more cups per day had similar
benefits compared with those who
reported daily intake of less than a cup of
coffee, researchers said.
The differences were unchanged by
smoking status, body mass index, history of
diabetes, hypertension or alcohol
consumption, indicating that coffee ’s
effects are not influenced by those known
cardiovascular risk factors.
Scientists have theorised that coffee could
have either beneficial or harmful effects on
the cardiovascular system, but earlier
studies have been inconclusive. Only one
previous prospective study, which was also
inconclusive, examined the association
between coffee consumption and stroke
incidence in healthy women.
In a presentation tagged “coffee, caffeine
and health,” the team’s coordinator,
Ajuluchukwu, said the programme will be
very impactful for the medical community
who are committed to consistent learning
and holds the key to safe healthcare
services as the Ignite forum serves as a
medical continuing education session.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Herbal cure for Tuberculosis

Can common plants bring a lasting solution to increasing cases
of tuberculosis (TB)? This is a question scientists are
looking into to see whether leaves used in the
community to treat this disease are actually effective.
Tuberculosis and leprosy are the most
common and most deadly infectious
diseases caused by Mycobacterium
tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae,
respectively. Globally, an increased number
of persons are contracting these germs that
cause tuberculosis. Worldwide, about 1.6
billion are infected with tuberculosis and
perhaps only 15 million end up with active
TB disease at any given time.
Although susceptibility to developing the
active TB disease may vary widely by
country, age, race, sex, and socioeconomic
status, however, its phenomenal increase is
due to weak immune system compromised
by stress, immunosuppressive drugs,
substance abuse, or HIV/AID. Meanwhile, the
problem of multi-drug resistant strains of
the germ causing TB has made the search
for more efficacious, safer, cheaper, and
more accessible drugs a priority.
The increasing cases of TB have, however,
informed scientists investigating medicinal
plants with folk reputation as effective
alternative therapies for treating TB. Two of
such plants are Anthocleista djalonensis and
Diospyros mespiliformis.
A. djalonensis is a medium-sized flowering
plant with grayish outer stem bark which is
green below. Previous studies showed that
the cold water and ethanol extract of the
roots may be effective against diseases
caused by Saphylococcus aureus and
Escherichia coli, some of which abscess, boil,
food poisoning and bladder infections.
The root decoction is also taken as a
remedy for chest pains for constipation,
dysentery, and other diseases that affect
the stomach. Aqueous extracts of the leaves
mixed with lemon juice is used by the Abros
of Ghana to cure epilepsy.
D. mespiliformis commonly called African
ebony or jackal tree is found growing in
woodlands, savannas and along river
banks. It has been shown to possess a
number of medicinal uses; the leaves are
used to treat fever, as wound dressings,
and as an antidote for a variety of
poisonous substances. The roots and bark
are used to treat diseases such as malaria,
syphilis, leprosy, and to stop purging. Its
usefulness as a dewormer and insecticide
has also been reported.
In an assessment of the effectiveness of
these plants against TB-causing germs,
Charles O. Esimone; Chukwuemeka S.
Nworu; Ebere B. Onuigbo; Justina U. Omeje;
Kelechi L. Nsirim; Joy C. Ogbu;, Maria I.
Ngwu; Kennedy F. Chah; and Ebere B.
Onuigbo, all from the University of Nigeria,
Nsuka, declared that the result of their
study supported the claims of efficacy
reported in the folk use of these plants in
treatment of infections like TB, and that the
plants could therefore be investigated
further and harnessed as potent anti-TB
In the report documented in a 2009 issue of
the International Journal of Green
Pharmacy, they declared that only the
methanol extracts of A. djalonensis and D.
mespiliformis were effective against the
germs that cause TB, adding that its
effectiveness was quite comparable to
those of a standard anti-TB drug, isoniazide.
Since the use of combined anti-tuberculosis
drugs is believed to be very crucial in
overcoming the problems of multidrug
resistant (MDR) strains of mycobacteria,
their finding indicated that the
combinations of the root extracts of the
two plants at the ratio of 8:2 could be of
possible clinical benefit in the treatment of
tuberculosis infection.
Similarly, Spondias mombin, whose fruit is
called iyeye in the Yoruba language,
ngulungwu in Igbo and isada in Hausa, was
suggested as possible candidate for
developing new TB treatment by
researchers. This was contained in a study
carried out by Joseph A.O. Olugbuyiro from
Covenant University, Ota and Jones O.
Moody from the department of
Pharmacognosy, University of Ibadan in
collaboration with Mark T. Hamann from the
National Centre for Natural Products
Research, School of Pharmacy, The
University of Mississippi, U.S.A.
They wrote: “Our multi-drug resistant TB
screening of plant products from Nigeria
resulted in S. mombin with a high potency
in vitro (inside test tube) activity against
mycobacterium tuberculosis. The results
reveal S. mombin as a promising natural
product agent that can provide useful anti-
tuberculosis drugs.”
Spondias mombin is a tree widely cultivated
and naturalized in tropical Africa. The fruit is
golden-yellow, with thin, tough skin, and
medium-yellow, clinging to the white,
fibrous or “corky” stone. Ripe fruits are
eaten out-of-hand, or stewed with sugar.
The extracted juice is used to prepare ice
cream, cool beverages and jellies. Young
leaves are cooked as greens.
The fruit juice is drunk as a diuretic and
febrifuge. The decoction of the astringent
bark serves as an emetic, a remedy for
diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhoids and a
treatment for gonorrhea and leucorrhea;
and, in Mexico, it is believed to expel
calcifications from the bladder. The
powdered bark is applied on wounds.
A tea of the flowers and leaves is taken to
relieve stomach ache, constipation, urinary
tract infection, cystitis and eye and throat
inflammation. The juice of crushed leaves
and the powder of dried leaves are used as
poultices on wounds and inflammations.
The gum is employed as an expectorant and
to expel tapeworms.

Use of traditional eye medicine

Worldwide, the last two decades have witnessed a
phenomenal increase in the use of traditional eye
medicine, although, that till date, there is no
sound scientific evidence to justify their
effectiveness in treating eye diseases.
Various surveys on traditional eye medicine
have documented varying popularity of
traditional eye medicine use, and
established that its use cuts across diverse
ages, gender, educational status, occupation
and socio-economic status.
Traditional eye medicines are a form of
biologically-based therapies or practices
that are instilled or applied to the eye or
administered orally to achieve a desired
therapeutic effect in eye.
Its patronage has been variously attributed
to ignorance, barriers to accessing primary
eye care services, preference, failure of
conventional treatment, desire to take
control over medical treatment,
communication gap between patients and
orthodox eye care providers, and influence
of friends and relations.
Even in Nigeria, a study correlates the
tendency (TEMP) of many people to use
traditional eye medicines in persons coming
newly to eye clinic of the University of
Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Enugu,
between August 2004 and July 2006. This is
a tertiary eye care centre in South-East
The study carried out by Boniface Ikenna
Eze, Chimdi Memnofu Chuka-Okosa and
Judith Nkechi Uche, all from the Department
of Ophthalmology, UNTH, Enugu, had 2,542
participants. Of the studied population, 149
had used traditional eye medicine for their
current eye disease before reporting to the
eye clinic. In more than half of all the cases,
some chemical substances had been
previously applied before reporting to the
hospital. Others had also applied plant
products (37.7 per cent), and animal
products (4.7 per cent).
The researchers found that the usage of
these traditional eye medicines were on
account of vision loss in one out of two eye
problems; itchy eyes in one out of four
cases and eye discharges in some cases(3.8
per cent). Reported efficacy from previous
users (67.1 per cent) and belief in potency
(28.2 per cent) were the main reasons for
their use.
Meanwhile, civil servants (20.1 per cent),
farmers (17.7 per cent), and traders (14.1
per cent) were the leading users of these
eye medicines, according to the report in a
2009 issue of BMC Complementary and
Alternative Medicine.
The study found that at presentation,
majority of TEM users had stopped the use
of TEM. Of these, unsatisfactory response to
TEM therapy (71, 59.1 per cent), worsening
of eye condition (40, 33.3 per cent), and
advice from others (6, 5.0 per cent) were
the main reasons for abandonment of TEM
use. Of the TEM users, 34(23.0 per cent)
were blind (best corrected distant visual
acuity less than 3/60 in the better eye) at
Although the incidence of TEM use observed
in this study was small when compared
with that reported in such countries as
India, the Democratic Republic of Congo and
Tanzania, but the rate was however higher
than 1.72 per cent previously reported in
Nigeria. The variations in the rates may be
attributed to the differences in the study
settings, populations, and the specific use of
TEM for the eye diseases.
They wrote:”Rural residence imposes both
geographic and economic barriers to access
eye care services, which at present in
Nigeria, are concentrated in urban areas;
this leaves the rural dwellers with no other
alternative eye care provider except the
traditional medical practitioners, who reside
with them in the rural areas. The higher
tendency to use TEM among rural dwellers,
which this study has established, implies
either rural non-availability or reduced
uptake of available promotive and
preventive eye care services in the rural
Although the traditional medical practitioner
is the originator of TEM therapy, they
pointed out that societal input plays a
crucial role in the perpetuation of the
practice,given that reported therapeutic
benefit from other TEM users and patients’
belief in the potency of TEM contributed
more to the decision to use TEM than cost
and awareness barriers to access orthodox
eye care.
Contrarily, preference and proximity, and
absence of side effects and low cost, have
been previously reported as overriding
reasons for using TEM.
Although the present survey did not
document any adverse effect of TEM, the
possibility of their use constituting a great
hazard to the eye even though there are
probably some definite therapeutic benefits
inherent in their use, they affirmed,
suggested that products used as TEM should
be subjected to further research to isolate,
purify, and determine their active contents
for possible use in allopathic medicine.
Meanwhile, the authors suggested
strengthening of promotive and preventive
eye care programmes, even distribution of
eye care resources, active and continuous
collaboration with traditional medical
practitioners, and intensification of
pharmacological research efforts, to
establish the efficacy or otherwise of the
“supposedly potent” TEMs.

Efficacy of herbal treatment for ringworm

RINGWORM is an infection of the skin and other
parts of the body like the nails. The infection,
which isworldwide, occurs mostly in children
and may be transmitted from person to person,
especially among those who live in areas
with poor hygiene and overcrowded
Ringworm affecting the scalp is likely to be
highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where
poverty and unsanitary living conditions
are unchecked.In most sub-Saharan African
countries, including Nigeria, the incidence of
ringworm is on the increase, partly because
the health policies of many of these
countries are not directed to controlling the
However, the local populations use local
plants, which they apply on the affected
parts of the body. These plants offer
alternative remedy, since the well known
drugs are no more affordable owing to a
rise in poverty level.
Such kinds of plants used for treatment by
the local population in Cross Rivers State,
whose effectively experts tried to access, in
comparison with standard orthodox
medications, were Senna alanta and
Borreria Ocymoides.
This was a study undertaken by M.E. Eja; G.E.
Arikpo; K.H. Enyi-Idoh; S.E. Etim and H.E. Etta,
all from the Department of Biological
Sciences at the Cross River University of
Technology, Calabar.
The 2009 study entitled “Efficacy of local
herbal therapy in the management of
dermatophytosis among primary school
children in Cross Rivers State, South-south
Nigeria,” was reported in the African Journal
of Medicine and Medical Sciences.
Senna alata is commonly called ringworm
burn or candle bush. Senna alata and
Borreria ocymoides are respectively called
Egorlu and Igri-Etobo in the local dialect of
Ekureku in Abi local government area of
Cross Rivers State.
Borreria ocymoides is a weak herb with
small flowers and is commonly a wayside
weed, while S. alata is a legume. The extracts
were prepared by soaking air-dried and
ground leaves of these plants in ethanol for
seven days, before the ethanol was dried
These plant extracts were later tested on
germs that cause ringworm, which were
collected from 840 pupils that were
screened for ringworm in the communities
involved in the study.The researchers found
that the local plants were more effective
than the conventional drugs used in the
treatment of ringworm, thus offering some
hope of treatment and control.
They reported that “the crude extracts of
the test plants were generally more
effective than the chemotherapeutic drugs.
There was also an indication that Borreria
ocymoides was a little more effective than
Senna alata.”
The researches pointed out the need for
better understanding of the chemical
constituents of these herbs locally used in
the treatment of ringworm, including their
safety.“What is evident in this study is that
S. alata and B. ocymoides exhibit antifungal
activity, and their antifungal properties
could be associated with their chemical
components such as saponins,
anthraquinones and flavonoids, which were
found in very high levels in the extracts.
“We are, however, reluctant to recommend
total dependence on these local plants for
treatment pending proper scientific
investigation of their chemical properties,
dosage and safety.”
While urging the government to step up
research into local medical plants by
providing funds for research to impact on
health, they advised both parents and
pupils to take issues of personal hygiene
more seriously.
They also suggested that “in the meantime,
the raw extract of the plants should be
mixed with ointment before being applied
to the portion of the skin affected by
ringworm,” stressing that such method,
however, takes a longer duration for total
Out of the 840 pupils aged between three
and 13 years screened, 68 were infected
with ringworm, with the incidence ranging
from 11 in the southern to 33 in the
northern districts, indicating a widespread
Elsewhere in Nigeria, local plants such as
Pistia stratiotes and Combretum micranthum
have been tested for their antifungal
activity against germs that cause ringworm
and found to be just as effective as Serena
alata and Borreria ocymoides.
Also, an investigation into extracts of other
plants such as aloe vera, neem, cashew
leaves, coral plant and candlestick plant
(cassia alata) under laboratory conditions
attested to their efficacy in the treatment of
some skin diseases.

Why local chewing stick treats menstrual pain, wounds

THERE is a long and esteemed history of the
use of Prosopis Africanaas a chewing stick to
improve dental health and promote oral
hygiene in south western part of Nigeria.
But almost all parts of Prosopis Africana have
their medicinal uses ranging from dysentery,
malaria, sore throat to the relieve of bronchitis.
Prosopis Africana, commonly referred to as
kirya in Hausa, ayan in Yoruba), ubwo in
Igbo and sanchi in Nupe, is a shrub used for
menstrual and general body pain in Nupe
land in North central Nigeria. For instance, in
Mali, the leaves, bark, twigs and roots are
used to treat and relieve bronchitis,
dermatitis, tooth decay, dysentery, malaria
and stomach cramp.
Although many people might be skeptical
about the efficacy of Prosopis Africana in
the treatment of pains, including menstrual
pain, but this age long claim in Nupe is true
considering the findings of a study.
This was a 2010 study entitled “Analgesic
and Anti-inflammatory effects of the
methanol stem bark extract of Prosopis
Africana.”The study published in the... was
carried out by Lydia O. Ayanwuyi and
Olajumoke M. Abodunde, Department of
Pharmacology and Clinical pharmacy,
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in
collaboration with Abdullahi H. Yaro from
the Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of
Medicine, Bayero University, Kano.
In this study, the methanol extract of the
stem bark of Prosopis Africana at different
doses was evaluated for pain relieve and
anti-inflammatory activities in rats.
The researchers found that the pain
relieving effect of the methanol extract of
the stem bark of Prosopis Africana was
comparable to piroxicam, a standard drug
used for treatment of pain, thus supporting
the folkloric claim of the use of Prosopis
africana in the management of pain.
It has been reported that the root decoction
of P. africana is used to treat toothache in
Ghana and the bark and root used to treat
and relieve tooth decay in Mali. The
findings from a 2009 study that gave a
scientific basis for such traditional medicine
practices indicated both the stem and root
of the P. Africana as a potential candidate
plant parts in dentrifice production.
The researchers assessed the effectiveness
of the aqueous and ethanol extract of root
and stem of Prosopis africana against
disease-causing germs such as Candida
albicans, Streptococcus mutans and
Staphylococcus saprophyticus. They
reported in the World Journal of
Agricultural Sciences that these extracts
exhibited inhibitory effect on the growth of
these tested micro-organisms.
In Nigeria, the juice expressed from the
stem bark of P. Africana is applied on open
wounds as an astringent and to cleanse the
wound surface. The bark is also crushed to
a pulp and placed on the wound surface as
a dressing. Due to its use in wound
treatment in traditional medicine, scientists
evaluated the potentials of this plant as
wound care agent by studying effects of its
stem bark extract on different parameters
of wound care.
Adult Swiss albino rats and mice of either
sex bred were used for the study while
fresh stem bark of P. Africana were cut into
small pieces, dried under the sun and
reduced to coarse powder using a
mechanical blender before it was extracted
with methanol.
The study involved A. C. Ezike, P. A. Akah, C.
O. Okoli, S. Udegbunam, N. Okwume, C.
Okeke, and O. Iloani from the University of
Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State. It was part of
the 2010 publication of the Indian Journal
of Pharmaceutical Science.
The effects of the methanol extract of the P.
Africana on parameters of wound care
revealed its constituents has the ability to
arrest bleeding from fresh wounds, inhibit
the growth of bacterial wound
contaminants and accelerate wound healing
by enhancing the natural tissue growth and
repair processes for wound to heal in a
dose-related fashion.
However, the researchers suggested that
the achieved reduction in coagulation time
by the extract suggested that it was able to
stop bleeding from a wound by accelerating
the coagulation process.
Quite surprising was the finding that the
methanol extract stimulate mechanisms
associated with tissue regeneration far
better than neomycin-bacitracin, a
conventional medicine used for wound
Microbial contamination poses a great
threat to timely and successful healing of
wounds. Unfortunately, wounds provide
environment conducive for the growth of
several germs such as Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus,
Streptococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli and
Clostridium perfringens.
Their evaluation of the antimicrobial activity
showed that the methanol extract of P.
africana inhibited the growth of cultures of
these disease-casuing germs to varying
extents, so suggesting that it can be used to
protect wounds from contamination or
infections related to these germs.
Invariably, this would enhance wound
healing by allowing the natural tissue
growth and repair processes already
activated at the time of wound creation to
proceed unhindered.
They wrote, “The P. African methanol
extract may also provide the additional
benefit of accelerating the healing of
contaminated wounds by eradicating
already established infection by susceptible

Aloe vera, wonder drug for diabetes

SCIENTIFIC studies have proven that
aloe vera gel works better in various folks.
The effectiveness of aloe vera extract and
gel along with other herbs have shown
their potential role in correction of high
blood sugar level (hyperglycemia), wound
healing, pain relief, constipation and ulcers.
Aloe is a plant originally from Africa. The
long, green leaves contain aloe gel and a
sticky yellow residue called latex. The gel is
the part of the aloe plant used most
commonly, both topically and orally.
Various studies on oral administration and
local application of aloe vera extract/gel
have shown its potential abuse like every
other herb due to the thinking that all herbs
are safe irrespective of its mode of use, the
dose and length of usage.
Certainly, if an animal study can be
extrapolated into humans, then there is the
need for caution when taking aloe vera.
Researcher found that aloe vera extract can
be toxic to the heart muscles, if used over a
long period of time.
The 2010 study published in the African
Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology
involved a total of 24 male albino rats,
which were divided into four groups, one
control and three experimental.
Animal of experimental groups were
injected with aloe vera gel extract made
from fresh leaves of the plant in doses of
100, 200 and 300 mg/kg. Parameters such
as the state of the muscles of the heart and
heart beat rate of the albino rats were
determined using electrocardiograph at
different times after they were injected
with aloe vera gel extract.
They found that aloe vera gel may cause
potassium deficiency and result in irregular
heartbeat and weakness in high doses, thus
making it toxic to the heart and unsafe,
especially in people with heart disease,
kidney disease or electrolyte abnormalities.
Previously, few studies have been done on
the toxic effects of aloe gel other than
occasional allergic reactions. Also its safety
in children, pregnant or nursing women, or
people with liver and kidney disease was
not established.
But overdose of aloe latex can cause
dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, red
urine, severe diarrhea, kidney dysfunction,
and possibly death. Use for over seven
days may cause dependency or worsening
of constipation after the aloe is stopped.
Ingestion of aloe for over one year has
been reported to increase the risk of
colorectal cancer. Individuals with severe
abdominal pain, appendicitis, ileus
(temporary paralysis of the bowel), or a
prolonged period without bowel
movements should not take aloe.
There are potentials of aloe gel interacting
with conventional drugs. Aloe latex should
not be taken internally with some
antihypertensive medicines, steroids, drugs
for irregular heartbeat and drugs that cause
potassium loss.
Due to lowering of potassium levels that
may occur when aloe is taken by mouth, the
effectiveness of heart medications such as
digoxin and digitoxin and of other
medications used for heart rhythm
disturbances, may be reduced. The risk of
adverse effects may be increased with
these medications due to low potassium
In addition, aloe taken by mouth may cause
blood sugar levels to become too low,
especially if combined with blood sugar
There have been a few case reports of
acute hepatitis from aloe vera taken orally.
However, the evidence is not definitive and
the safety of aloe has not been
systematically studied.

Expert enumerates health benefits ofcoffee

A cardiologist at the Lagos State University
Hospital, Professor Jane Ajuluchukwu, has
described as baseless the widely-held belief
that coffee has no significant benefit to the
human system, adding that there are
immense health benefits in this brand of
beverage, if moderately taken.
Ajuluchukwu, who is the co-ordinator of
Ignite, a pan-African educational project
aimed at enlightening the public on the
importance and relationship between
coffee and health, based on scientific facts
and researches, explained that the initiative
was put together to unravel some mysteries
surrounding coffee.
“As researchers we serve as watch dogs.
Through observational studies, we have
discovered some facts with which we aim
to empower people with adequate
knowledge on coffee, ” she said.
According to her, about 146 billion cups of
coffee are consumed in the U.S each year,
nearly three times more than tea, adding
that coffee also serves as America’s number
one source of antioxidants with average
consumption of 3.1 cups per day.
Besides, she stated, science has proved that
coffee is good for stimulating mental
alertness, improves cognitive function,
decreases the risk of developing Parkison’s
and Alzhemier’s diseases, lowers the risk of
liver disease and helps reduce risk of type-2
diabetes. Other benefits, she stated, include:
reducing the risk of developing colon
cancer and lowering the risk of cavities.
“In the developed nations, there is an
amazing level of coffee consumption. But
back here, the first impression about coffee
is caffeine, yet there is much that coffee has
to offer if consumed in moderation,” she
She added that despite the fact that the
world talked about coffee and its benefits,
the subject had not elicited such passion in
Nigeria, adding that one of the roles of the
academia is to expand the frontiers of
knowledge and help the people to better
understand their environment.
She lamented the low level of literature and
facts available to Nigerians on coffee and its
impact on health, adding that, “the pan-
African Ignite programme is very vital as it
sets to provide Nigerians with proven facts
and case studies and will create mass
enlightenment on coffee and its health
According to her, “we want to know their
fears concerning the beverage and proffer
scientific answers and leave consumers to
make choices. We want to examine the pros
and cons of coffee and let people know that
the beverage has numerous advantages if
consumers are well informed about it,” she

Friday, March 11, 2011

Turmeric combo fights colon cancer

TURMERIC, a bright yellow spice from south
Asia belonging to the ginger family, is the
main ingredient in curries — and ancient
wisdom suggests that it’s also good for
your health.
Taking this wisdom to the laboratory, Tel
Aviv University, Israel, researchers have
discovered that turmeric ’s active ingredient
called curcumin amplifies the therapeutic
activity of highly toxic anti-inflammatory
drugs used to fight colon cancer when used
at high doses.
Dr. Shahar Lev-Ari of Tel Aviv University’s
School of Public Health at the Sackler Faculty
of Medicine and his colleagues have found
that curcumin can fight cancer when used
in combination with a popular anti-
inflammatory drug, alleviating the
inflammatory response caused when cancer
takes root in the body. A treatment based
on this finding has already had promising
results in human clinical trials.
“Although more testing will be needed
before a possible new drug treatment is
developed, ” says Dr. Lev-Ari, “one could
combine curcumin with a lower dose of a
cancer anti-inflammatory drug, to better
fight colon cancer. ” The results of the new
study have been published in the journal
Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology.
Research in the last few decades has shown
that cancer is linked to inflammation.
Several lines of evidence demonstrate that
chronic inflammation in the stomach can
cause gastric cancer and that inflammation
in the liver from hepatitis can lead to liver
Lev-Ari and his colleagues found that
Celecoxib, a popular anti-inflammatory drug
commonly used to treat arthritis, also
inhibits proliferation of colon cancer in
laboratory settings. Curcumin increases the
anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects of
Celecoxib while reducing its dose, thus
reducing its toxic side-effects, including the
rate of heart attack and stroke.
The effect of using a curcumin concentrate
to improve the effects of cancer drugs was
first proposed by Lev-Ari when he was a
graduate student at Tel Aviv University ’s
Sackler Faculty of Medicine under the
supervision of Prof. Nadir Arber and Prof.
Dov Lichtenberg.
Both co-supervisors were eager to test the
possible health benefits described in folk
medicine but were looking for hard
evidence. “We would like to use this
treatment for patients with all types of
cancers, ” says Arber. “It has the promise of
being an important life-extending therapy,
particularly for non-curable pancreatic
cancer, suggested by the very promising
results we achieved for 20 pancreatic
cancer patients. ”
Previous in vitro and in vivo experiments
conducted by the Tel Aviv University team
show that curcumin inhibits an enzyme
known as COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2),
believed to cause inflammation. The team ’s
research demonstrates that curcumin
neutralizes oxygen free radicals, which are
believed to play an important role in
These effects may be the basis for drug
treatment of both inflammation and cancer
through the combination of curcumin and
Celecoxib. And it may also help return
previously shelved potent anticancer drugs
— taken out of use due to high toxicity —
back to the market under lower dosage

Potassium-rich foods may cut stroke, heart disease risk

A NEW study suggests that a diet rich in
foods that are loaded with potassium can
reduce stroke risk by 21 per cent and may
also lower heart disease risk.
The report is published in the March 1
online edition of the Journal of the
American College of Cardiology.
Good sources of potassium include bananas
and other fruits and vegetables, as well as
fish, poultry and dairy, the researchers
According to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, sweet potato and tomato paste
top the list.
“The average dietary potassium intake in
most countries worldwide is much lower
than recommended by health authorities,
and increasing potassium intake may
provide protection against stroke and other
cardiovascular disorders, ” said lead
researcher Dr. Pasquale Strazzullo, a
professor of medicine at the Federico II
University of Naples Medical School, in Italy.
For the study, Strazzullo’s team pulled data
about potassium and cardiovascular disease
from 11 studies, which included a total of
247,510 men and women. The researchers
looked at what people in these studies
recalled eating in the past day.
This process is called a meta-analysis, in
which researchers look for trends in the
data that may support a particular
conclusion, even when these data were not
the main point of the study.
They found that people who consumed
1.64 grams of potassium or more a day had
a 21 percent lower risk of stroke and also
tended to have a lower risk of any
cardiovascular disease.
Strazzullo noted that five or more servings
of fruits and vegetables will provide the
amount of potassium needed to get this
protective effect.
“The protective effect of potassium against
the risk of stroke and other vascular events
may in part be traced to its blood pressure-
lowering effect, particularly in hypertensive
individuals and in those with elevated
sodium intake, ” Strazzullo said.
However, other processes appear to be at
work as well, he added. For example,
potassium may be involved in slowing the
process of atherosclerosis and preventing
the thickening of the walls of arteries, all of
which can lead to cardiovascular disease.

Why garlic reduces blood pressure, by researchers

GARLIC may be useful in addition to
medication to treat high blood pressure, a
study suggests.
Australian doctors enrolled 50 patients in a
trial to see if garlic supplements could help
those whose blood pressure was high,
despite medication. They report in scientific
journal Maturitas that those given four
capsules of garlic extract a day had lower
blood pressure than those on placebo.
The British Heart Foundation said more
research was needed.
Garlic has long been thought to be good for
the heart. Garlic supplements have
previously been shown to lower cholesterol
and reduce high blood pressure in those
with untreated hypertension.

Apples extend lifespan by 10 per cent, study finds

SCIENTISTS are reporting the first evidence
that consumption of a healthful antioxidant
substance in apples extends the average
lifespan of test animals, and does so by 10
per cent. The new results, obtained with
fruit flies stand-ins for humans in
hundreds of research projects each year
bolster similar findings on apple
antioxidants in other animal tests.
The study appears in ACS’s Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Zhen-Yu Chen and colleagues note that
damaging substances generated in the
body, termed free radicals, cause
undesirable changes believed to be
involved in the aging process and some
diseases. Substances known as antioxidants
can combat this damage.
Fruits and vegetables in the diet, especially
brightly coloured foods like tomatoes,
broccoli, blueberries, and apples are
excellent sources of antioxidants. A
previous study with other test animals
hinted that an apple antioxidant could
extend average lifespan. In the current
report, the researchers studied whether
different apple antioxidants, known as
polyphenols, could do the same thing in
fruit flies.
The researchers found that apple
polyphenols not only prolonged the
average lifespan of fruit flies but also
helped preserve their ability to walk, climb
and move about. In addition, apple
polyphenols reversed the levels of various
biochemical substances found in older fruit
flies and used as markers for age-related
deterioration and approaching death.
Chen and colleagues note that the results
support those from other studies, including
one in which women who often ate apples
had a 13-22 per cent decrease in the risk of
heart disease, and polish the apple ’s popular
culture image as a healthy food.

How hibiscus tea lowers blood pressure, ‘bad’ cholesterol

New research findings indicate that the
flower and leaf extracts of hibiscus could
provide the next novel drug for
hypertension and coronary heart diseases.
NIGERIAN researchers have confirmed that
drinking tea made with flower extracts of
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (popularly called
Hibiscus flower) lowered blood pressure in
hypertensive patients.
Researchers have also demonstrated how
the flower extracts of hibiscus could be
used to reduce weight, prevent obesity and
coronary heart diseases like atheroslerosis
by lowering the blood levels of low density
lipo-protein (LDL) ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Atherosclerosis, which involves deposits of
fatty substances, cellular waste products,
calcium and fibrin (is a fibrous protein
involved in the clotting of blood); and is the
leading cause of illness and death in most
However, a local study has found that
although hibiscus leaf extract reduced
blood pressure, the integrity of the kidney
may be compromised if it is used in high
doses for the treatment of hypertension.
Botanically called Hibiscus rosa-sinensis,
hibiscus belongs to the plant family
Malvaceae. Hibiscus has many species and is
a primary ingredient in many herbal teas.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is closely related to
Hibiscus sabdariffa (also called roselle or
zobo in Nigeria).
According to The useful plants of west
tropical Africa, Volume 4 by H. M. Burkill, the
flower is used as “abortifacients (a
substance that induces abortion), ecbolics
(hastening labour or abortion); genital
stimulants/depressants; laxatives (foods,
compounds, or drugs taken to induce bowel
movements or to loosen the stool), etc.;
menstrual cycle; paralysis, epilepsy,
convulsions, spasm; sedatives, etc.”
A recent study by Nigerian researchers at
the University of Benin has demonstrated
the effects of aqueous extracts of the
leaves of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis on renal
function in hypertensive rats.
The study was published in African Journal
of Biochemistry Research. The researchers
include: Imafidon E. Kate of the Department
of Biochemistry, Faculty of Life Sciences;
and Okunrobo O. Lucky of the Department
of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Faculty of
Pharmacy, University of Benin, Edo State.
The researchers wrote: “Most people with
high blood pressure are over weight,
weight loss lowers blood pressure
significantly in those who are both over
weight and hypertensive. In fact, reducing
body weight by as little as ten pounds can
lead to a significant reduction in blood
pressure; weight loss appears to have a
stronger blood pressure-lowering effect
than dietary salt restriction. Salt loading had
earlier been shown to cause hypertension
in rats.
“Reduction in weight gain of hypertensive
rats observed is in agreement with the
report of some workers. The administration
of H. rosa-sinensis leaf extract showed
blood lowering effect in both normotensive
(normal blood pressure) and hypertensive
rats. Blood pressure is the product of
cardiac output and peripheral resistance of
the blood vessels.
“ The administration of H. rosa-sinensis
probably decreased the blood pressure by
decreasing the heart rate, which is a major
determinant of the cardiac output.
Significant increase in the sodium level of
normotensive rats administered with the
crude extract in spite of significant
reduction in the blood pressure of these
rats compared with the control shows that
H. rosa-sinensis may interfere with the
normal function of the kidney and hence
produces increased salt retention.
“This observation is further strengthened
by the increased urea concentration,
although the change in total protein
concentration was insignificant in those
normotensive rats administered with the
crude extract. In addition, AST, and ALT
concentrations were increased in these rats
compared with control.”
Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and
Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) are enzymes
found primarily in the liver, as well as the
kidneys, cardiac and skeletal muscle.
The researchers concluded: “ These results
show that the leaves of this plant may have
a deleterious effect on the kidney.
Hypertensive rats administered with the
extract had significant increase in urea, AST
and sodium ion (Na+) concentration
compared with normal control. This result
therefore, shows that although, the
administration of H. rosa-sinensis reduced
blood pressure in albino rats, the use of the
plant may have an unpleasant effect on the
kidney. ”
Nigerian scientists have also studied the
tissue lipid profile of rats administered
aqueous extract of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.
The study was published in the Journal of
Basic and Applied Sciences. The lead
researcher Kate E. Imafidon of the
Biochemistry Department, Faculty of life
Sciences, University of Benin determined
the effect of orally administered aqueous
extract of the leaves of Hibiscus rosa-
sinensis on tissue lipid profile of albino rats.
Lipid profiles are risk indicators of coronary
heart disease. Strong correlations have been
shown between increased plasma total
cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL)
‘ bad’ cholesterol and increased incidence of
coronary heart disease such as
According to the study, oral administration
of crude extract of H. rosa-sinensis to albino
rats at doses 200, 500 and 700mg/Kg body
weight resulted in a significant increase in
body weight of animals in the highest dose
The study reads: “The dose dependent
increase in liver triacylglycerol (the main
constituent of vegetable oil and animal fats),
total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol suggest
impairment in lipid transport. This is as a
result of the fact that there was no
concomitant increase in kidney or heart
lipid levels. Triacylglycerols are transported
in the blood stream by very low density
lipoprotein (VLDL).
“Alternative use of carbohydrates as a
result of the engorgement of liver tissues
with fats may have produced increase in
weight in the highest dose group. HDL
cholesterol levels were not increased at any
of the dose levels, HDL cholesterol has a
protective effect against cardiovascular
disease as it removes excess cholesterol
from circulation and carries it back to the
liver where it is degraded or converted into
bile acids. The lipid raising effect of some
trado-medicinal plants have been reported.
Some workers had earlier observed
increase in serum cholesterol on
administration of crude drug extract; and
observed an increase in serum cholesterol
levels on administration of aqueous extract
of Aplotaxis lappa
“ This work has therefore demonstrated the
ability of H. rosa-sinensis to influence liver
metabolism towards increased synthesis of
lipids. This effect is however dose-
dependent suggesting that the use of H.
rosa-sinensis in alternative or
complementary medicine should not exceed
the 500 mg/kg dose level.”
A 2008 United States of America Department
of Agriculture (USDA) study shows
consuming hibiscus tea lowers blood
pressure in a group of pre-hypertensive
and mildly hypertensive adults. Three cups
of tea daily resulted in an average drop of
8.1 point in their systolic blood pressure,
compared to a 1.3 point drop in the
volunteers who drank the placebo
beverage. Study participants with higher
blood pressure readings (129 or above) had
a greater response to hibiscus tea: their
systolic blood pressure went down by 13.2
points. These data support the idea that
drinking hibiscus tea in an amount readily
incorporated into the diet may play a role in
controlling blood pressure, although more
research is required.
Generally, drinking tea has been found to
lower low-density lipoprotein, the LDL “bad”
cholesterol, in a small group of volunteers in
an ARS study reported in the Journal of
The study showed no effect on high-
density lipoprotein, the HDL “good”
cholesterol. The study’s authors concluded
that drinking black tea, in combination with
following a prudent diet moderately low in
fat, cholesterol and saturated fatty acids,
reduces total and LDL cholesterol by
significant amounts and may reduce the
risk of coronary heart disease.
Other studies have evaluated some
ethnomedicinal value of Hibiscus rosa-
sinensis. H. rosa sinensis has been used for
the treatment of a variety of diseases as
well as to promote wound healing.
Researchers have determined the wound-
healing activity of the ethanol extract of H.
rosa- sinensis flower in rats, using excision,
incision, and dead space wound models.
Local traditional practioners in Western
Nigeria has reported that cold aqueous
extract of H. rosa-sinensis leaves could be
used as an aphrodisiac.
Researchers have also studied the blood
sugar-lowering (hypoglycemic) activity of
an ethanol extract of H. rosa-sinensis in rats.
Anti-implantation activity of water extract
of leaves of H. rosa-sinensis has also been
investigated. It has also been investigated
that H. rosa-sinensis extract exerts a
protective effect against the tumour
promotion stage of cancer development.
Traditionally this plant is used for the
control of dysfunctional uterine bleeding
and as an oral contraceptive. Some of the
chemical constituents isolated from this
plant are cyanidin, quercetin,
hentriacontane, calcium oxalate, thiamine,
riboflavin, niacin and ascorbic acid.
Flavonoids are also present.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Health wonders of Moringa plants

TO give Moringa, the miracle plant the
recognition it deserves, the South-west
branch of the Moringa Association of
Nigeria (MAN)was launched with speakers at
the occasion asking that people maximizes
its medicinal uses for their health.
The Moringa Oleifera tree has been called
the Tree of Life in many cultures around the
world. It has many names based on its
many uses: clarifier tree, horseradish tree
and drumstick tree (referring to the large
drumstick shaped pods) and in East Africa
moringa is known as “mother’s best friend”.
Its other names include ewe igbale
(Yoruba), Zogale (Hasusa) and Idagbo
monoye (Igbo).
In a presentation on the health benefits of
moringa leaves by Mr Yomi Ige, said current
scientific studies had shown that it contains
specific antioxidants and health promoting
ingredients that offers veritable answers to
malnutrition, hunger and diseases.
According to him, “it is a strong antioxidant
effective against prostate and skin cancers,
an anti-tumor and an anti-aging substance.
It modulates anaemia, high blood pressure,
diabetes and high blood cholesterol level. It
has strong anti-inflammatory properties
ameliorating rheumatism, joint pain,
arthritis and oedema.”
“As an antibacterial, anti-microbial and anti-
viral agent, it is effective against urinary
tract infection, typhoid, dental caries and
toothaches as well as common cold.”
Mr Ige remarked that moringa seeds are
being used in the prevention and treatment
of AIDS with good result study from the
1990’s indicated that there was a
connection between forms of malnutrition
and likelihood of contracting AIDS.
According to him, “Moringa powder
supplementation is an immune stimulant for
HIV+ people, particularly those who cannot
afford good nutrition and medicines in
Africa. Unlike traditional multivitamins, the
nutrients found in moringa oleifera are
readily absorbed into the body, providing
an abundance of highly available, naturally
occurring nutrient benefits. “
“A single serving of moringa leaves
contains greater amounts of potassium
than bananas, greater amounts of Vitamin A
than carrots, is as rich with antioxidants as
the best green teas, and contains every
essential amino acid, making it one of the
few plants in the world that provides a
complete protein source.” Amazingly, the
World Health Organisation has been
observing and utilizing the tree for more
than 40 years now as a cheap health
supplement in the poverty-stricken
countries the world over.
According to the annals of the ayurveda,
India’s old tradition of medicines, the leaves
of the moringa tree could treat at least 300
diseases. Moringa boosts one’s energy in a
natural manner and is a remarkable source
of nutrition.
Individuals ingesting it say that their ulcers
are healed, tumors restricted, there is
reduction in the arthritis pains and
inflammation, controlled blood pressure, the
skin problems are restored and finally they
have stronger defenses against diseases.
Another advantage of moringa is that it can
also purify water since it has a detoxifying
effect. Also as a coagulant agent, moringa
can attach itself to hazardous bacteria and
other materials and in the process purify
the water.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Herbal bitters, recipe for weight control, indigestion

FROM the young to the old, the use of herbal
bitters as a recipe for indigestion, weight control,
detoxifiers and antibacterial agents taken either
internally or externally, depending on the
manufacturer and treatment, is common.
Its long history and the belief that herbal
products are natural and safe makes herbal
bitters a ready alternative to turn to for
medical conditions ranging from weight
control, indigestion, tooth ache, insomnia
skin allergies to skin allergies.
Herbal bitters, originally formulated by
Paracelcus are available in various
formulations (both alcoholic and non-
alcoholic versions). It is known to generally
contain rhubarb root, aloe, saffron,
camphor, angelica root, zedvoary root,
carline thistle root, myrrh, senna leaves and
theriac venezia.
Phytochemical analysis shows that herbal
bitters contain complex carbohydrates,
alkaloids, vitamins and minerals that have
antioxidant, antiviral and antispasmodic
properties. These ingredients work together
to reduce inflammation, control pain, relax
muscles and improve digestion and
elimination as well as boost appetite in
some people.
However, starting from the common herb
planted at the back of the house to treat
malaria to herbal bitters , an age long
preparations that is marketed all over the
country with different trade names,
researchers are always concerned about the
long term side effects of all herbs and
herbal products.
U & D Sweet Bitter is a registered herbal
supplement prepared from roots, leaves,
flowers and fruits of different herbs. It is
one of the widely used and marketed herbal
bitters in Eastern Nigeria. The marketing
label acclaimed it is therapeutic in medical
conditions such as typhoid fever, malaria
and stomachache.
No doubt, the National Agency for Food and
Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC),
the regulatory authorities involved in
ensuring safety of registered
pharmaceutical products in Nigeria has
certified it is safe based on the results of its
effects on kidney and liver function tests.
Unfortunately, findings of a 2008 study
published in Pakistan Journal of
Pharmaceutical Science indicated that it may
have toxic effect on the spleen, pancreas
and heart.
The researchers were from Abia State
University, College of Health Sciences, Uturu,
Abia State, Toxicology Unit, Department of
Pharmacology, College of Health Sciences,
Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi Campus,
Anambra State and Department of
Biochemistry, Federal University of
Technology, Minna, Niger State.
In the three month study, three groups of
albino rats (150-200g), 539, 1077 and
1616mg/kg aqueous extract of U & Dee
Sweet Bitter, were administered orally while
deionized water was given to the control
group. Animals had access to deionized
water and were fed ad libitum with rat
chow for 90 days.
The feed and fluid consumption of the
animals were measured on daily basis while
the body weight was measured weekly.
Animals were anaesthetized with ether after
90 days, bled sacrificed, heart, spleen and
pancreas were excised and weighed.
The parameters they measured included
food and fluid intake, body weight, absolute
and relative weights of the, spleen,
pancreas, heart. Serum glucose, low density
lipoprotein LDL (bad cholesterol), high
density lipoprotein HDL (good cholesterol)
were also determined.
They wrote, although “our results show that
U & D Sweet Bitter caused significant
decrease in total blood cholesterol, low-
density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density
lipoprotein (HDL), but “ U& D Sweet bitter did
not seem to have any beneficial effect in
the reduction of blood glucose level, a
feature which would have been desirable in
the management of diabetes mellitus as
claimed by the herbal practitioners.”
While suggesting that the reduction in blood
cholesterol level was protective for the
heart, they declared that the significant
reduction in the weight of the heart coupled
with a change in one of the biochemical
parameters is an indication of the toxicity
of the test substance.
Considering the significant reduction in the
weight of the heart by herbal bitters and
the possibility of the chemical compounds
in the herbs changing heart rate, blood
pressure and glucose levels, they cautioned,
“people with cardiac problems, high blood
pressure, or blood sugar disorder such as
diabetes must be especially cautious.“
U & Dee Sweet Bitter is a mixture of roots,
leaves, flowers and seeds of different herbs
and these make for potential
misidentification or cross contamination of
the active ingredients. Among the
phytoconstituents found in U & Dee Sweet
Bitter extract are flavonoids, which may be
mainly responsible for its medicinal uses.
However, unlike the flavonoids found in red
wine which tends to protect the heart, the
flavonoids found in U & Dee Sweet Bitter
did not show similar effect on the heart as
evidenced by the cholesterol profile and
the weight of the heart.
The researchers submitted that although
herbal supplements may be considered to
be safe, some are known to be toxic at high
doses and others may have potentially
adverse effect after prolonged use due to
factors ranging from overdosing,
contaminated formulations to the inherent
toxicity of the herbs of choice.
In addition, other reported side effects of
herbal bitters included dehydration, allergy,
rashes, cramps or indigestion.
Experts have also warned pregnant women,
nursing mothers and people diagnosed
with such medical conditions as kidney
disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),
Crohn’s disease and chronic gall bladder
Herbal bitters could also cause adverse
reactions if taken in combination with other
drugs like sedatives, antidepressants and
tetracycline antibiotics.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How coffee, sex, smog triggerheart attack

A MAJOR analysis of data on potential
triggers for heart attacks finds that many of
the substances and activities Nigerians
indulge in every day — coffee, alcohol, sex,
even breathing — can all help spur an
Because so many people are exposed to
dirty air, air pollution while stuck in traffic
topped the list of potential heart attack
triggers, with the researchers pegging 7.4
percent of heart attacks to roadway smog.
But coffee was also linked to five percent of
attacks, booze to another five percent, and
pot smoking to just under one percent, the
European researchers found.
Among everyday activities, exerting
yourself physically was linked to 6.2
percent of heart attacks, indulging in a
heavy meal was estimated to trigger 2.7
percent, and sex was linked to 2.2 percent.
The report was published in the February
24 online edition of The Lancet.
The researchers stressed that the risk for
heart attack from any one of these factors
to a particular person at any given time is
extremely small. But spread out over the
population, they can add up.
For example, air pollution is a minor trigger
for heart attacks, but since so many people
are exposed to smog, it triggers many more
heart attacks than other more potent
triggers, such as alcohol and cocaine.
Lead researcher and assistant professor of
epidemiology at the Hasselt Centre for
Environmental Sciences at Hasselt University
in Diepenbeek, Belgium, Tim S. Nawrot,
explained: “Small risks can be highly
relevant if they are widely distributed in the
population. ”
In their research, Nawrot’s team looked at
36 studies examining environmental
triggers for heart attacks. In their review,
known as a meta-analysis, the researchers
looked for common threads that could
establish how these factors might rank in
In terms of risk, the team found that air
pollution increased a person ’s risk of having
a heart attack by just under five percent. In
contrast, coffee increased the risk by 1.5
times, alcohol tripled the risk, and cocaine
use increased the odds for heart attack 23-
However, because only a small number of
people in the entire population are exposed
to cocaine, while hundreds of millions are
exposed to air pollution daily, air pollution
was estimated to cause more heart attacks
across the population than cocaine.
Even emotional states can sometimes
trigger a heart attack, the team found. For
example, negative emotions in general were
linked to almost four percent of heart
attacks while anger, specifically, was linked
to just over three percent. Even “good”
emotional states were tied to 2.4 percent of
heart attacks, the study authors noted.
Although exposure to secondhand smoke
was not included in the analysis, the effects
are probably of the same magnitude as air
pollution, the authors added. Where bans on
smoking in public places exist, the rate of
heart attacks has dropped an average of 17
percent, they noted.

Meat, soda linked with cancers,gout

NEW studies have confirmed that red meat
consumption increases the risk of both
stomach and esophageal cancer. The study
conducted by researchers from the
nonprofits World Cancer Research Fund and
Cancer Research, was published in the
American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Also, according to a study conducted by
researchers from Boston University and
published in the Journal of the American
Medical Association, regular soda
consumption significantly increases
women ’s risk of gout.
Gout is a painful type of inflammatory
arthritis that has become increasingly
common in the past few decades.
The researchers in the red meat study
questioned 494,979 U.S. residents between
the ages of 50 and 71 about their lifestyle
and diet habits, including consumption of
red meat and their favored cooking
methods, then followed them for
approximately 10 years.
They found that after adjusting for
potentially confounding factors such as age,
exercise, smoking and weight, participants
who ate the most red meat had a 79 per
cent higher risk of developing a cancer of
the upper esophagus known as esophageal
squamous cell carcinoma. Participants who
ate the most food containing higher levels
of one type of heterocyclic amine (HCA) had
a 44 per cent higher risk of a cancer of the
upper stomach known as gastric cardia.
HCAs are carcinogens formed when meat is
cooked at high temperature. The HCA
monitored in the study is called DiMelQx.
Prior studies looking for a link have had
mixed results because they failed to look at
different varieties of stomach and
esophageal cancer separately, the
researchers said. No connection was found
between red meat consumption and other
such cancers, which have separate risk
factors. Adenocarcinoma of the lower
esophagus, for example, is more strongly
linked to smoking and heavy drinking.
High red meat consumption has also been
linked to other severe health problems,
including heart disease and other forms of
The researchers in the soda and gout
research studied 78,906 women who had
taken part in the Nurses ’ Health Study
between 1984 and 2006 and who had no
history of gout at the beginning of the
study. They found that over the course of
22 years, women who consumed one
serving of soda per day were 74 per cent
more likely to develop gout than those who
had less than one per month. Women who
drank two or more servings of soda per
day were 240 per cent more likely.
A connection between soda consumption
and gout is not surprising because fructose,
a component of sugar, causes the body to
produce more uric acid. Uric acid buildup is
the immediate cause of gout.
Sugary beverages are widely reviled by
nutritionists as a source of empty calories
that raises the risk of obesity and diabetes.

Marijuana/Cannabis is medicinal!

Medical studies support that marijuana/cannabis treats
severe pain and boost appetite, especially
in cancer patients.
IT is illegal. But medical experts say it is
medicinal, but with devastating
consequences when abused. Cannabis or
marijuana has been a subject of intense
debate worldwide. While some states in the
United States have legalised cannabis
ostensibly for medical purposes, it remained
banned in Nigeria.
However, The Guardian learnt that some
doctors in Nigeria use it for their patients
with terminal illness like cancer to beat pain
and improve appetite.
Indeed, more studies are lending support
for medical cannabis.
According to a new study published online
in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology,
the active ingredient in cannabis can
improve the appetites and sense of taste in
cancer patients.
Loss of appetite is common among cancer
patients, either because the cancer itself or
its treatment affects the sense of taste and
smell, leading to decreased enjoyment of
food. This, in turn, can lead to weight loss,
anorexia, a worse quality of life and
decreased survival; therefore, finding
effective ways of helping patients to
maintain a good diet and consume enough
calories is an important aspect of their
Researchers in Canada ran a small pilot
study from May 2006 to December 2008 in
21 adult patients with any advanced cancer
(except brain cancer) who had been eating
less as a result of their illness for two weeks
or more. All were either being treated with
chemotherapy or had been in the past.
The patients were randomly assigned to
receive medication from a pharmacist in a
double-blind manner, which meant that
neither the patients nor the doctors knew
which treatment they were receiving. 11
patients received oral capsules containing
delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the
main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis
— and eight patients were assigned to the
control group to receive placebo capsules.
The active capsules contained 2.5mg of THC
and the patients took them once a day for
the first three days, twice a day thereafter,
and they had the option to increase their
dose up to a maximum of 20mg a day if
they wished; however, most followed the
dosing protocol, with three patients in both
groups increasing their dose to three times
a day. The treatment ran for 18 days.
From patient answers to questionnaires
conducted before, during and at the end of
the trial, the researchers found that the
majority (73 per cent) of THC-treated
patients reported an increased overall
appreciation of food compared with
patients receiving placebo (30 per cent) and
more often stated that study medication
“ made food taste better” (55 per cent)
compared with placebo (10 per cent).
The majority of THC-treated patients (64 per
cent) had increased appetite, three patients
(27 per cent) showed no change, and one
patient ’s data was incomplete. No THC-
treated patients showed a decrease in
appetite. By contrast, the majority of
patients receiving placebo had either
decreased appetite (50 per cent) or showed
no change (20 per cent).
According to the study, although there was
no difference in the total number of calories
consumed by both groups, the THC-treated
patients tended to increase the proportion
of protein that they ate, and 55 per cent
reported that savoury foods tasted better,
whereas no patients in the placebo group
reported an increased liking for these
foods. (Cancer patients often find that meat
smells and tastes unpleasant and, therefore,
they eat less of it).
In addition, THC-treated patients reported
better quality of sleep and relaxation than
in the placebo group.
Leader of the study and associate professor
at the University of Alberta (Edmonton,
Canada), Dr. Wendy Wismer, said: “This is
the first randomised controlled trial to show
that THC makes food taste better and
improves appetites for patients with
advanced cancer, as well as helping them to
sleep and to relax better. Our findings are
important, as there is no accepted treatment
for chemosensory alterations experienced
by cancer patients. We are excited about the
possibilities that THC could be used to
improve patients ’ enjoyment of food.
“Decreased appetite and chemosensory
alterations can be caused by both cancer
and its treatment; untreated tumours cause
loss of appetite, and by itself, chemotherapy
also causes loss of appetite. In any
individual patient, some part of both of
these effects is usually present.
“It is very important to address these
problems as both appetite loss and
alterations to taste and smell lead to
involuntary weight loss and reduce an
individual ’s ability to tolerate treatment and
to stay healthy in general. Additionally, the
social enjoyment of eating is greatly
reduced and quality of life is affected. For a
long time everyone has thought that
nothing could be done about this. Indeed,
cancer patients are often told to ‘cope’ with
chemosensory problems by eating bland,
cold and odourless food. This may well have
the result of reducing food intake and food
enjoyment. ”
The researchers said that larger, phase II
trials should test their findings further.
Wismer said that doctors could consider THC
treatment for cancer patients.
She said: “It could be investigated for any
stage of cancer where taste and smell
dysfunction and appetite loss has been
indicated by the patient. In addition,
treatment would not necessarily have to be
limited to the 18 days of the study. Long
term therapy with cannabinoids is possible,
however, in each case this would be up to
the patient ’s physician to determine.”
Although the study was unable to show that
THC treatment could increase total calorie
intake, Wismer said this was unsurprising.
“ In the healthy adult population, we know
from personal experience that we usually
eat more of something if it tastes better.
However, in this advanced cancer
population, there is a real struggle with
appetite; normal appetitive pathways do
not seem to be functioning. We know from
our earlier work that individuals with
advanced cancer have diminished appetite
and have to make a big conscious effort to
eat; they are motivated to eat simply to
survive. So, although THC did not
significantly increase total calorie intake, the
fact that it improved appetite and protein
intake is important. ”
Also, scientists in Italy and the United
Kingdom have identified substances in
marijuana with promise for fighting deadly
drug-resistant bacterial infections, including
so-called “superbugs,” without causing the
drug’s mood-altering effects.
They said besides serving as infection-
fighting drugs, the substances also could
provide a more environmentally-friendly
alternative to synthetic antibacterial
substances now widely used in personal
care items, including soaps and cosmetics.
In the new study, Giovanni Appendino and
colleagues point out that scientists have
known for years that marijuana contains
antibacterial substances.
However, the researchers said little research
has been done on those ingredients,
including studies on their ability to fight
antibiotic resistant infections.
To close that gap, researchers tested five
major marijuana ingredients termed
cannabinoids on different strains of
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
(MRSA), a “superbug” increasingly resistant
to antibiotics.
They said all five substances showed potent
germ-killing activity against these drug-
resistant strains, as did some synthetic non-
natural cannabinoids.
The scientists also showed that these
substances appear to kill bacteria by
different mechanisms than conventional
antibiotics, making them more likely to
avoid bacterial resistance. They noted that
at least two of the substances have no
known mood-altering effects, suggesting
that they could be developed into
marijuana-based drugs without causing a
“ high.”
Also, cannabis has shown promise as an
effective remedy for cancers. According to
a study conducted by researchers from the
Complutense University in Madrid, Spain,
and published in the Journal of Clinical
Investigation, the active ingredient in
marijuana appears to target cancerous
brain cells for destruction while leaving
healthy cells alone.