How Plant Extracts From Southern Africa Can Calm Inflammation

Jenn Hoskins
5th February, 2024

How Plant Extracts From Southern Africa Can Calm Inflammation

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

It's fascinating how solutions to some of our most complex health issues can sometimes be found in the wisdom passed down through generations. Scientists recently decided to wear their detective hats and dive into the world of medicinal plants, particularly those found in the southern part of Africa. These herbs have been the go-to for local communities whenever inflammation and pain knock on their doors. Turns out, they might not just be old wives' tales; there's actual scientific evidence stacking up in their favor! Let's unpack the science behind this discovery. The team looked closely at the leaves of eight different plants, well-known to traditional healers for their alleged ability to keep inflammation and pain at bay. They checked out both water-based (aqueous) and alcohol-based (ethanol) extracts of these plants to see what magic they could potentially work on our immune cells. They used a type of mouse immune cell called the RAW 264.7 macrophage cell to run their tests. These cells are like the body's own security guards, raising the alarm and calling for backup when they detect something harmful like bacteria. In this case, the researchers used lipopolysaccharide, or LPS, to ring the alarm bell. LPS is a component found in the outer membrane of some bacteria that usually kickstarts an inflammation reaction from immune cells. Now, inflammation isn't all bad; it's the body's way of protecting itself against infections or injury. Think of it as the smoke detector in your home—super helpful, but not if it's going off all the time for no real reason. Chronic inflammation is like that faulty smoke detector: annoying and potentially harmful. The team focused on a group of substances called cytokines, which are the immune system's own alarm signal molecules. Some key culprits in the inflammation game are interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and the mean-sounding tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). These are like the shouty marshals that rally the troops during an inflammatory response. Anyway, back to the plants. The researchers found that the ethanol extracts of three particular plants – honey flower (Melianthus comosus), misty plume bush (Tetradenia riparia), and pepper-bark tree (Warburgia salutaris) – were quite the peacekeepers, reducing the level of those shouty cytokines by more than fiftyfold in their lab tests. Remarkable, isn't it? Even more impressive was that the water-based extract from the honey flower also had a calming effect on the lineup of inflammatory substances. It's like finding out that water from a magical spring can quiet down a rowdy crowd! But what's behind this plant power? The detectives used a super-advanced piece of kit called an ultra-high-performance liquid chromatograph coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry—or UHPLC-HRMS for short (phew!)—to figure out the 'ingredients' of the honey flower's anti-inflammatory concoction. They spotted some fancy named compounds like crassolide and deoxylimonoic acid D-ring-lactone, which might be some of the plant's secret weapons. Now, keep in mind, this is the first time that some of these plants' anti-inflammatory properties are getting a scientific thumbs up, and this is kind of a big deal. It strengthens the idea that traditional healing and modern medicine can learn a lot from each other. What the research says loud and clear is that southern African medicinal plants have some impressive talents in calming down inflammation, and now there's some heavyweight scientific support for their use as natural remedies. This peek into the plant world not only validates the trust that traditional healers have put into these green gems but also shines a light on how they might be quelling the unwanted inflammatory uproar in the body. Understanding these kinds of natural remedies opens up a bunch of new doors for developing treatments that might be easier on our bodies than some of the heavy-duty drugs out there. Plus, it gives these plants the scientific street cred they deserve, potentially leading to more sustainable and accessible options for managing conditions linked to chronic inflammation. And that, my friends, is a leaf definitely worth turning over!

MedicineBiochemPlant Science


Main Study

1) Leaf extracts of eight selected southern African medicinal plants modulate pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 macrophages.

Published 4th February, 2024

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