Recent human and animal studies have shown that a local plant, Rauvolfia vomitara (asofeyeje in Yoruba, akanta in Ibo and wada in Hausa) could be effectively used to boost the immune system, prevent and treat prostate problems, diabetes, pain and mental disorders. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.
CAN one plant be used to boost the immune system against diseases, treat prostate problems including cancer, diabetes, mental illness and pain at the same time?
Nigerian researchers have demonstrated how extracts of a local plant, Rauvolfia vomitara (asofeyeje in Yoruba, akanta in Ibo and wada in Hausa) improved animal’s immunity and enhances their hematology.
The story published in North American Journal of Medical Sciences is titled: “Vitamin E supplementation with Rauwolfia vomitoria root bark extract improves hematological indices.”
The researchers from Akwa Ibom State University, Uyo, concluded: “We observed that extract of Rauwolfia vomitoria root bark is a useful medication in the treatment of many diseases and the combination of this herbal extract with vitamin E may be of more biochemical and therapeutic significance since the antioxidant vitamin is capable of de-potentiating the adverse effect of this herb.
“Rauwolfia vomitoria with or without vitamin E improved the immunity and enhances the haematological indices of the experimental animals. Our findings suggest that interaction of vitamin E with Rauwolfia vomitoria root bark extract would be a meaningful approach in medicinal therapeutics of this plant. More work on the interaction of this plant with vitamins is ongoing in our laboratory.”
United States researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center, New York have discovered the potential anti-prostate cancer activity of Rauwolfia vomitoria extract on the growth and survival of the human LNCaP prostate cancer cell line.
The study titled: “Anti-prostate cancer activity of a ß-carboline alkaloid enriched extract from Rauwolfia vomitoria” was published in the International Journal of Oncology.
The researchers wrote: “The data presented herein has shown that the Rauwolfia extract is an effective inhibitor of cell growth in the human prostate cancer cell line, LNCaP, in both cell culture and in vivo tumour xenograft experimental systems. Microarray analyses point towards the effects of the extract on both DNA damage and cell cycle control pathways. Although higher doses of the Rauwolfia extract resulted in induction of apoptosis in both in vitro and in vivo settings, this response does not appear to be the primary mechanism of action through which the extract impacts overall tumour volume in vivo.
“Comparison of the low- and high-dose Rauwolfia groups revealed no difference in overall tumor volumes while the number of cells undergoing apoptosis was significantly greater in the tumour xenografts receiving the high dose of the extract. These data suggest that the main mechanism through which the Rauwolfia extract impacts overall tumor volume is by reducing tumor cell proliferation.
“While further experiments need to be performed with this extract to uncover the exact molecular targets involved, initial results indicate that the growth suppression of human prostate cancer cells in vitro and in vivo involves the activation of DNA damage signaling pathway and suppression of transit through the cell cycle. As this preparation contains a complex mixture of natural compounds, the potential to impact multiple molecular targets could prove useful for a chemopreventive agent if no appreciable toxicity exists.”
Meanwhile, a combination of Rauwolfia vomitara and Citrus aurantium (lime) has received a European Patent for treating diabetes.
Yet another study published in North American Journal of Medical Sciences concluded: “Chlorpromazine (antipsychotic drug) at moderate to high doses (2.0 and 4.0 mg/kg, i.p.), increasing pain perception (hyperalgesic effect) whereas the crude aqueous root bark extract of Rauwolfia vomitoria dose-dependently decreased pain perception (analgesic effect). Reserpine similarly produced an analgesic effect in the mice.
“Chlorpromazine at moderate to high doses (2.0 and 4.0 mg/kg, i.p.) caused an impairment in social behaviour, thus inducing social loss in the mice (implying possible exacerbated depression and social withdrawal in psychotic conditions). The root bark extract of R. vomitoria, however, did not affect social behaviour. On the contrary, reserpine (0.1, 0.4 and 1.6 mg/kg, i.p.) caused a dose-dependent impairment in social behaviour, as seen in poor nest building, hence social loss.
“The same doses of chlorpromazine which produced a hyperalgesic effect induced social loss, consistent with earlier studies on relationship between social behaviour and pain. If this is applicable in humans, chlorpromazine may not be a very good antipsychotic even when it is the foremost and cheapest antipsychotic drug. Whole root bark extract of Rawolfia vomitoria therefore has a great potential as an antipsychotic because its effect is not due to the presence of reserpine alone.”
The study is titled “Comparative effects of Rauwolfia vomitoria and chlorpromazine on social behaviour and pain.”
Chlorpromazine (CPZ) is a first generation commonly used and readily available standard antipsychotic drug listed as one of the most essential drugs by the WHO in 2003. Although chlorpromazine has been used to treat both acute and chronic psychoses it has been associated with side effects such as anti-dopaminergic extrapyramidal syndromes, dry mouth, blurred vision and urinary retention (anticholinergic), neuroleptic dysphoria, blood pressure disturbances, temperature and muscle control (neuroleptic malignant syndrome), diminished libido, erectile impotence and ejaculation inhibition in male patients.
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