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Pigeon pea endorsed for gynaecological cancers, menopause symptoms, others

By Chukwuma Muanya
03 August 2017   |   4:12 am
Botanically called Cajanus cajan, Pigeon pea belongs to the plant family Leguminosae (Fabaceae). In Nigeria, it is called fio fio in Igbo, waken-masar or waken-turawa in Hausa, and otili or otinli in Yoruba.

PIGEON PEA (CAJANUS CAJAN)…Korean scientists have developed a composition for preventing or treating gynecological cancers and menopausal symptoms containing Cajanus cajan extract or compound isolated therefrom as active ingredient.

Besides its reputed role as the active ingredient in the herbal sickle cell drug, Ciklavit, produced by Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals, pigeon pea has been endorsed for preventing and treating gynaecological cancers and menopausal symptoms. CHUKWUMA MUANYA (Assistant Editor) writes.

Botanically called Cajanus cajan, Pigeon pea belongs to the plant family Leguminosae (Fabaceae). In Nigeria, it is called fio fio in Igbo, waken-masar or waken-turawa in Hausa, and otili or otinli in Yoruba.

Until now, the leaf of the legume is traditionally used as a mouthwash for sore throat, diarrhea and toothache. A decoction of the leaf is taken internally for smallpox, stomachache and intestinal disorders.

Korean scientists have developed a composition for preventing or treating gynecological cancers and menopausal symptoms containing Cajanus cajan extract or compound isolated therefrom as active ingredient.

The invention has received Japanese and South Korean patents.

The researchers from Sookmyung Women’s University Industry Academic Cooperation Foundation, and Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology noted in PATENTSCOPE, a publication of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO): “… the present invention confirms for the first time that the Cajanus cajan extract, active fraction thereof, and single component derived from the active fraction exhibit characteristics of the female hormone, and thus female hormonal substances provided by the present invention can be utilized in the medicinal and functional food fields to treat and prevent gynecological cancers and menopausal symptoms.”

Also, a study published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions have identified cajanol, a novel anticancer agent from Cajanus cajan roots, which induces apoptosis in human breast cancer cells through a Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)-mediated mitochondrial pathway.

Gynaecological cancers are tumours located in the female reproductive system, and they include ovarian, uterine (or endometrial), cervical, vulval and vaginal cancer.

Symptoms and signs of menopause include: irregular periods; vaginal dryness; hot flashes; chills; lower fertility; night sweats; disturbed sleep; urinary problems; mood changes; problems focusing and learning; weight gain and slowed metabolism.

Cajanus cajan has also received a United States (US) and Norway Patents for the preparation of medicaments for the treatment of ischemic necrosis of caput femoris and osteoporosis, for improvement index of hermorheology, for anti-inflammatory and analagecization, for enhancement immune function and for the treatment of coronary heart disease angina, fracture, cerebral infarction, decubitus, infectious wound and infectious wound of open fracture.

Earlier studies indicate that pigeon pea lowers blood cholesterol levels, and is good against edema, gout, and kidney stones. It lowers blood sugar levels. Leaf sap instilled into the eyes is used for eye problem. Regulates blood pressure. Promotes healthy skin, hair and nails. Leaf is good for sores and also as antidote for poison.

According to Food As Medicine: Functional Food Plants of Africa by Maurice M. Iwu, ethno-medicinal uses of pigeon pea include: the leaves are used as a weak decoction for the treatment of measles, catarrh, and hepatitis. An aqueous infusion of the seeds sometimes mixed with the leaves is dispensed for the management of sickle cell anaemia.

The book noted that pigeon pea contains more than 20 per cent protein, many essential amino acids, non-protein amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, saponins, stilbenes, flavonoids, and isoflavones, as well as minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, and iron. The leaves contain the phytoalexins, pinostrobin and cajaninstilbene acid, and the coumarin, cajanuslactone.

Iwu is professor of pharmacognosy from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme (BDCP), a non-profit and non-governmental organization (NGO). A subsidiary of BDCP, Intercedd Health Products (IHP), produces and markets drugs developed by the International Center for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development (InterCEDD), a Research and Development (R&D) centre based in Nsukka, Enugu State.

According to the 384-page book published by CRC Press New York, United States (US), Cajanus cajan is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. An aqueous formulation called Ciklavit, produced by Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals, is used for the management of sickle cell anaemia in West Africa.

It possesses antifungal, anti-diabetic, and anti-cholesterolemic activities. In laboratory animals, the anti-dyslipidemic activity of pigeon pea was evaluated by a high-fat-diet (HFD) hamster model, in which the level of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C), low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDC-C), total cholesterol (TC), and total triglyceride (TG) were examined. It was found that pigeon pea administration promoted cholesterol converting to bile acid in HFD-induced hamsters, thereby exerting hypolipidemic activity.

According to a study on the biological activities and medicinal properties of Cajanus cajan published in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research, a new natural coumarin cajanuslactone has been isolated from the leaves of Cajanus cajan, which is a potential antibacterial agent against Gram-positive micro-organisms. The three stilbenes, cajanin, longistylin C and longistylin A from leaves have been found to possess hypocholesterolemic effects. Anti-plasmodial activities have also been confirmed in betulinic acid isolated from roots and longistylin A and C obtained from leaves.

Pinostrobin, a substituted flavanone isolated from leaves possesses anti-inflammatory activity and inhibits sodium channel-activated depolarization of mouse brain synaptoneurosomes. Two isoflavanoids genistein and genistin isolated from the roots were found to possess antioxidant activity. Cajanol an isoflovanone found in the roots is found to possess anticancer activity. Four important compounds, pinostrobin, cajaninstilbene acid, vitexin and orientin isolated from ethanolic extracts of leaves were found to possess significant antioxidant properties. Isoflavanoids isolated from ethanolic extract of leaves also showed significant antimicrobial activities. Some protein fraction isolated from leaves also showed hepato-protective effects and the presence of phenolics (flavanoids and tannins) imparts anthelmintic activity.

Nigerian and British researchers have also isolated antimalarial compound, cajachalcone, from the leaf extract of pigeon pea. The study was published in the Journal of Parasitology Research.

The researchers from the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Oyo State; Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun States; King’s College London; and University of Bradford, West Yorkshire United Kingdom (U.K.)

The researchers wrote: “Cajanus cajan a member of the family Fabaceae, was identified from the Nigerian antimalarial ethnobotany as possessing antimalarial properties. The bioassay-guided fractionation of the crude methanol extract of Cajanus cajan leaves was done in vitro using the multi-resistant strain of Plasmodium falciparum (K1) in the parasite lactate dehydrogenase assay. Isolation of compound was achieved by a combination of chromatographic techniques, while the structure of the compound was elucidated by spectroscopy. This led to the identification of a cajachalcone, 2′, 6′-dihydroxy-4-methoxy chalcone, as the biologically active constituent from the ethyl acetate fraction. Cajachalcone had an IC50 value of 2.0 μg/mL (7.4 μM) and could be a lead for anti-malarial drug discovery.”

Clinical evaluation of extract of Cajanus cajan (Ciklavit) in sickle cell anaemia by researchers from the Department of Paediatrics and Haematology and Blood Transfusion, College of Medicine of University of Lagos (CMUL) and published in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics concluded: “The major pathology in sickle cell anaemia (SCA) is sickling of red cells due to the precipitation of reduced haemoglobin. We report our experience with extract of Cajanus cajan as a possible anti-sickling agent by determining changes, if any, in clinical and laboratory features of the disease in patients given the extract in a single-blind placebo-controlled study. One hundred patients with steady-state SCA were randomized into treatment and placebo arms. The extract/placebo were administered twice daily to the subjects. Weight, hepatosplenomegaly, blood levels of biliurubin, urea, creatinine, and packed cell volume (PCV) were monitored over a six-month period. Recall episodes of pain six months before enrolment were compared with episodes of pains recorded during the treatment period. Twenty-six cases (55.3 per cent) had hepatomegaly on enrolment. This significantly reduced to 33.3 per cent at six months; but increased in the placebo arm.

“In conclusion, the extract may cause a reduction of painful crises and may ameliorate the adverse effects of sickle cell anaemia on the liver. The mechanism of action remains to be determined.”

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