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‘Scent and bitter leaves retard growth of cancers, boost immune system’

03 September 2015   |   5:15 am
Can regular intake of a herbal preparation made predominately with scent leaf and bitter leaf stop the growth of breast, lung and prostate cancers? CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes Researchers have found that using scent leaf or sweet basil and bitter leaf in combination or singly could stop the growth of breast, lung and prostate cancers. They…
Bitter leaf

Bitter leaf

Can regular intake of a herbal preparation made predominately with scent leaf and bitter leaf stop the growth of breast, lung and prostate cancers? CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes

Researchers have found that using scent leaf or sweet basil and bitter leaf in combination or singly could stop the growth of breast, lung and prostate cancers.

They have also found that aqueous extract of bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) could be used as adjuvant in the management of people living with Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS); and for restoration of skin colour and form as well as calming and vitalizing the body.

Botanically called Vernonia amygdalina, bitter leaf is of the plant family Compositae. It is called ewuro in Yoruba and onugbu in Ibo. It is a small shrub that grows predominantly in the tropical Africa. In Nigeria, the plant is locally called bitter leaf due to its bitter taste.

Botanically called Ocimum gratissimum, scent leaf or Basil belongs to the mint family Lameacea. It is called effirin in Yoruba and nchuanwu or arigbe in Ibo.

Vernonia amygdalina and Ocimum gratissimum are among the traditionally used herbal plants to treat different ailments. Vernonia amygdalina has been found useful in the ethno therapy of asthma, schistosomiasis, malaria, measles, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, abdominal pain and fever.

Ocimum gratissimum is commonly used in cooking due to its minty aromatic flavour. Traditionally, Ocimum gratissimum has been used for the treatment of headache, diarrhoea, wart worms and kidney infections. The leaves of the African varieties of Ocimum gratissimum are said to contain thymol oil, which has been found to be highly antiseptic and also used to prevent mosquito bite. Vernonia amygdalina and Ocimum gratissimum have been found to have anti-diabetic properties and boost the immune system.

As one of the plants that form a major portion of the naturalist’s pharmacopeia in Nigeria, bitter leaf has been shown to possess diverse therapeutic effects such as anti-malarial, anti-microbial (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-plasmodial, among others), anti-diabetic and anti-cancer effects. The anti-cancer effect of VA was first shown in human carcinoma of nasopharynx and later in leukemia cells P-388 and L-1210 using the chloroform extract of VA. Different extracts of VA have thus been used in scientific research to reveal the therapeutic properties of this plant.

A new study has found that scent leaf stops breast cancer. The study titled “Ocimum gratissimum retards breast cancer growth and progression and is a natural inhibitor of matrix metalloproteases” was published in Cancer Biology & Therapy journal.

The researchers wrote: “Ocimum genus (a.k.a holy basil or tulsi) is a dietary herb used for its multiple beneficial pharmacologic properties including anti-cancer activity. Here we show that crude extract of Ocimum gratissimum (OG) and its hydrophobic and hydrophilic fractions (HB and HL) differentially inhibit breast cancer cell chemotaxis and chemoinvasion in vitro and retard tumor growth and temporal progression of MCF10ADCIS.com xenografts, a model of human breast comedo-ductal carcinoma in situ (comedo-DCIS).

“OG-induced inhibition of tumor growth was associated with decreases in basement membrane disintegration, angiogenesis and matrix metalloproteases (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 activities as confirmed by in situ gelatin zymography and cleavage of galectin-3. There was also decrease in MMP-2 and MMP-9 activities in the conditioned media of OG-treated MCF10AT1 and MCF10AT1-EIII8 premalignant human breast cancer cells as compared with control.

“The MMP-2 and MMP-9 inhibitory activities of OG were verified in vitro using gelatin, a synthetic fluorogenic peptide and recombinant galectin-3 as MMP substrates. Mice fed on OG-supplemented drinking water showed no adverse effects compared with control. These data suggest that OG is non-toxic and that the anti-cancer therapeutic activity of OG may in part be contributed by its MMP inhibitory activity.”

Also, a Nigerian born Professor of Biology, Ernest Izevbigie has patented a formula made from bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina).

This bitter leaf-based formula is a proven anti-diabetic and anti-cancer formula in laboratory and clinical trials. This formula product can also benefit HIV/AIDS patients. It has been patented: U.S. Patent 6,713,098 in 2004 and the second 6,848,604 in 2005.

Izevbigie said: “We found that in using the plant material (from Vernonia amygdalina), some compounds from the extracts were able to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. Later through collaborative research, we found they were also effective in other tumor cells.”

Izevbigie explained that evidence from cell culture and animal studies research and reports from individuals reveal that bitter leaf formula supplement may abate or improve the health conditions or symptoms of HIV/AIDS patients including abrosia (wasting away), nausea and vomiting, compromised immune systems etc. Bitter leaf supplement-induced stimulation of the immune system offers hope to many suffering with AIDS related diseases.

The professor further explained that available data shows that bitter leaf extracts might be effective against herpes virus, and against Kaposi sarcomas (KS), a tumour caused by Human herpes virus 8 (HHV8).

Some of the principal chemical compounds found in the bitter leaf herb are known as steroid glycosides – type vernonioside B1. These compounds possess potent anti-parasitic, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial effects.

Intercedd Health Products (IHP) is blazing the trail with the introduction of Vernonia Ocimum Tea into the Nigerian market. Vernonia Ocimum Tea is made from Vernonia amaygdalina and Ocimum gratissimum.

The indication on the product reads: “Vernonia amaygdalina is a shrub that grows in tropical Africa. It is commonly called bitter leaf because of its bitter taste. The bitterness is as a result of the presence of the sesquiterpenes lactones and steroid glycosides, which are responsible for the activity.

“Ocimum gratissimum, Scent Leaf, is rich in alkaloids, tannins; flavonoid, phytates and oligosaccharides which are responsible for its medicinal properties.
Vernonia Ocimum tea has immense health benefits such as body weight management, easy bowel evacuation, cleansing of the body system and control of body sugar.”

IHP has also developed another immune booster, Immunovit IHP. According to the developer and professor of pharmacognosy, Maurice Iwu, Immunovit-IHP a disease-fighting supplement, designed to boost immunity against a wide variety of ailments, was crafted to combine the health restoring benefits of Ganoderma mushroom, the antioxidant properties of pomegranate fruits and the adaptogenic/immune enhancing effects of Korean ginseng root extract.

Iwu told The Guardian: “Immunovit-IHP is indicated as a general detoxifier and immune system booster. It has been shown to be valuable in the management of chronic diseases including diabetes. The primary active ingredient of Immunovit – IHP is the Asian mushroom, Ganoderma lucidium or also called ‘Reishi’. The major constituents include Ganoderma triterpenoids and polysaccharides which are unique to Reishi and not found in significant quantities in other plants. Over 150 triterpenoids are found in G. lucidium, which are responsible for some of the numerous pharmacological effects associated with the mushroom.

“The second component of Immunovit – IHP is dried extract of the fruits of Punica granatum, which retains the poly-phenols that prevent the harmful effects of singlet oxygen and other pro-inflammatory free radicals that cause tissue damage in diabetes. The formulation also contains aged Korean ginseng, Panax ginseng, an adaptogen with broad spectrum of beneficial activities, including detoxification, cardiotonic health and stress reduction.”

On the major indications of Immunovit IHP, Iwu said: “As immune booster, apart from its acclaimed use to provide non-specific support for whole system and tissue-level repair and recuperation, IMMUNOVIT-IHP increases the immunoglobulin levels, it provides strong body immunity, and the course of chronic diseases may be reversed.

“As antioxidant, IMMUNOVIT-IHP is the miracle solution which acts against the free oxygen radicals-known as the scourge of humanity. Free oxygen radicals have long been known to damage our cellular structures, genes, DNA and RNA causing premature ageing and over 4000 diseases. IMMUNOVIT-IHP removes bad chemicals from the body, promotes new skin to replace the old ones therefore making you look younger all the time.

“As anti-viral, IMMUNOVIT-IHP reduces or stops the growth of all viruses including the dreaded ones by the production of Interferon. IMMUNOVIT-IHP increases killer cells (cells that fight against foreign bodies in the human body) activity, and also stops the immune system from attacking the host tissue.”

On other health benefits, Iwu said: “IMMUNOVIT-IHP is particularly useful in the management of metabolic disorders, or the so-called Metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome (MetS), also known as insulin resistance syndrome or syndrome X, is the name of a group of risk factors that commonly occur together and include hypertension, abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, and dysglycemia. The use of Immunovit is likely to reduce the risk for the chronic co-morbidities, particularly cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that often occur with elevated blood sugar.

“In summary, as a result of its activity against metabolic disorders, Immunovit can be used in the management of diabetes, obesity, blood pressure, kidney diseases, liver diseases, insomnia and other sleep disorders, ulcer diseases, detoxifier and energizer, anti-allergy, anti – inflammatory, anticoagulant, cardiotonic.”

Meanwhile, scent leaf, since ancient times has been one of the most popular dietary herbs used for its numerous pharmacological properties.

In recent years, resurging interest in its medicinal properties has led to several studies demonstrating its anti-carcinogenic, radiation-protecting and free-radical scavenging activities.

Aqueous extract of Ocimum gratissimum inhibits proliferation, migration, anchorage-independent growth, induction of COX-2 protein and three-dimensional growth and morphogenesis of breast cancer cells, while others have shown that it suppressed A549 lung adenocarcinoma cells’ viability by activation of apoptotic signals and reducing the expression levels of Bcl-2. Ethanolic extracts of Ocimum sanctum were reported to be cytotoxic to mouse Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) cells and reduced number of tumor nodule formation in LLC-injected mice. Essential oils isolated from Ocimum viride showed cytotoxic and apoptotic activities toward the colonic carcinoma cells COLO 205.

The researchers further stated: “Previously, we compared three species of Ocimum, O. gratissimum, O. sanctum (green) and O. sanctum (purple) and examined their effect on breast cancer and endothelial cell migration. The results showed that aqueous extracts from all species exerted an inhibitory effect on tumor cell migration, but not significantly on endothelial cell migration. OG also reduced tumor size and neoangiogenesis in a MCF10ADCIS.com xenograft, a preclinical model of human breast ductal carcinoma in situ, prompting the need for further evaluation of its breast cancer preventive and therapeutic properties.

“Numerous studies in preclinical cancer models demonstrated the ability of MMP inhibitors to delay primary tumor growth and block metastasis. However, in clinical trials these inhibitors failed due to significant toxicity and limited clinical efficacy. The paradigm shift for MMP functions, from destructive enzymes to cell signaling regulators and disease anti targets28 suggests that the roles of MMPs in disease development are far more complex than originally thought. Hence in cancer MMP activities are probably more relevant during early stages of tumor development with MMP dependent signaling more relevant biologically than ECM degradation.

“In the present study we report that Ocimum gtatissimum inhibits the progression of human breast cancer, which is partly due to its property as natural non-toxic inhibitor of MMP-2/-9 activities.”

Another study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that extracts of Ocimum gratissimum might be beneficial to lung carcinoma treatment.

The study is titled “Ocimum gratissimum Aqueous Extract Induces Apoptotic Signalling in Lung Adenocarcinoma Cell A549.”

The Taiwanese researchers found: “Ocimum gratissimum (OG) is widely used as a traditional herb for its antibacterial activity in Taiwan. Recently, antitumor effect of OG on breast cancer cell is also reported; however, the effects of OG on human pulmonary adenocarcinoma cell A549 remain unclear. Therefore, we aimed to investigate whether aqueous OG extract (OGE) affects viability of A549 cells and the signals induced by OGE in A549 cells.

“Further investigation showed that OGE enhanced activation of caspase-3, caspase-9 and caspase-8 and increased protein level of Apaf-1 and Bak, but diminished the level of Bcl-2. Additionally, OGE inhibited the phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) yet enhanced the phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and p38 MAP kinase (p38). In conclusion, our findings indicate that OGE suppressed the cell viability of A549 cells, which may result from the activation of apoptotic signaling and the inhibition of anti-apoptotic signaling, suggesting that OGE might be beneficial to lung carcinoma treatment.”

Results of another study published in Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved encouraged the further studies of Ocimum gratissimum as a potential treatment of prostate cancer.

The researchers wrote: “In this study, the antiproliferative activity of the organic solvent-soluble and aqueous extracts of Ocimum gratissimum leaf against the prostate cancer cells PC3·AR were evaluated by their inhibitory effects on the Androgen Receptor (AR) and Survivin protein. Two organic solvent-soluble extracts P2 and P3–2, and a water- soluble extract, PS/PT1, were found to reduce AR and Survivin levels in a time-dependent manner.

“In addition, extract PS/PT1, also exhibited the inhibitory activity in a dose-dependent manner. This is the first time that the inhibitory eff ects of O. gratissimum extracts have been evaluated on the Androgen Receptor (AR) and Survivin protein. The results encouraged the further studies of O. gratissimum as a potential treatment of prostate cancer.”

Researchers have also found that the anti-cancer activities of Vernonia amygdalina extract in human breast cancer cell lines are mediated through caspase-dependent and p53-independent pathways

The researcher was published in PLOS ONE.