Asian Medicinal Plants Contain Anti-Cancer Compounds

The extracts of the leaves of three medicinal plants were found to be promising against seven types of cancers, according to researchers in Singapore.

AsianScientist (Jun. 12, 2019) – A team of researchers in Singapore has discovered that the leaves of the Bandicoot Berry (Leea indica), the South African leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) and the Simpleleaf Chastetree (Vitex trifolia), have been found to contain anticancer compounds. The findings are published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.

In Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Malaysia, while modern medicine is the primary form of healthcare, there is also a tradition of using local plants for health promotion and the treatment of diseases. However, the medicinal properties of these plants have not been thoroughly characterized.

In this study, scientists led by Associate Professor Koh Hwee Ling from the National University of Singapore (NUS) reviewed the pharmacological properties of the tropical plants known to be used for cancer treatment, and they selected seven promising plant species for further investigation.

“Medicinal plants have been used for the treatment of diverse ailments since ancient times, but their anticancer properties have not been well studied,” said Koh.

The researchers prepared extracts of fresh, healthy and mature leaves of the seven plants, then tested the extracts on the cell lines of seven different types of cancers—breast, cervical, colon, leukemia, liver, ovarian and uterine cancer.

Among the seven plants, the extracts of the leaves of the Bandicoot Berry, the South African Leaf and the Simpleleaf Chastetree were found to be promising against the seven types of cancers. The leaf extracts of another plant species, the Seven Star Needle (Pereskia bleo) performed well against cervical, colon, liver, ovarian and uterine cancer cells.

While the results of this study provided the scientific basis for the traditional practice of using tropical medicinal plants to fight cancer, the research team stressed that people should not self-medicate without consulting qualified practitioners.

“More research is required to identify the active components responsible for the anti-cancer effects. Meanwhile, conservation of these medicinal plants is highly crucial so that there is a rich and sustainable source that could be tapped upon for the discovery of anti-cancer drugs,” elaborated Koh.

Besides studying the active components in the tropical medicinal plants, the NUS team will also be evaluating their other pharmacological effects in order to understand the use of selected plants by patients and the public, and to further harness the benefits of medicinal plants for safe and efficacious use. They also plan to collaborate with clinical and industry partners to further their research.

The article can be found at: Siew et al. (2018) Evaluation of Anti-proliferative Activity of Medicinal Plants Used in Asian Traditional Medicine to Treat Cancer.


Source: National University of Singapore. Photo: National University of Singapore.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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