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How local plants boost liver functions



The liver is an organ about the size of a football that sits just under the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen. The liver is essential for digesting food and ridding the body of toxic substances.Liver disease can be inherited (genetic) or caused by a variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses (hepatitis), alcohol use and aflatoxins from food substances. Obesity is also associated with liver damage.

Liver disease is also called hepatic disease. There are more than a hundred different kinds of liver disease. Symptoms may include jaundice and weight loss.Over time, damage to the liver results in scarring (cirrhosis), which can lead to liver failure, a life-threatening condition, as well as liver cancer usually induced by hepatitis and aflatoxins.

Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (corn), peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts. The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world.However, scientists have identified and validated local plants and food items that can protect the liver from damage caused by toxic substances and diseases as well as boost its functions.


Top on the list are: red sandalwood, avocado, turmeric, bitter kola and Phyllanthus amarus (ngwu in Ibo).Red Sandal Wood.Pterocarpus santalinoides belongs to the plant family Fabaceae-papilnoideae. The plant is commonly referred to as Red Sandal wood in English, Gundurugyadar Kurmi in Hausa, Uturukpa in Igbo and Gbenghe in Yoruba.

Various morphological parts of P. santalinoides are used in traditional medicine, in many African countries, to treat an array of human ailments. The fresh leaves of P. santalinoides are consumed locally, in soups, by the Igbos of South East Nigeria and are reputed to be useful in the treatment of diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal disorders.

A study published in IDOSR Journal of Scientific Research concluded: “Pterocarpus santalinoids may possess hepato-protective potential, especially at doses not greater than 600mg/kg body weight. This may be responsible for the application of the leaves of Pterocarpus santalinoids in the management of liver related disorders.”The researchers from the Departments of Biochemistry, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State; Biochemistry, Anambra State University, Uli, Nigeria; and Medical Biochemistry, Cross River University of Technology, Calabar noted that various parts of Pterocarpus santalinoids are used by traditional medicine practitioners in Eastern Nigeria in management and treatment of several disorders such as heart and liver related diseases.

The research was carried out to investigate the effect of aqueous extract of fresh leaves of Pterocarpus santalinoids on serum activity of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate amino transferase (AST) in albino rats. A total of twenty-five adult male albino rats, used in this study, were randomly distributed into five groups (A, B, C, D and E), each group contained five rats. Groups A, B, C and D were administered 200, 400, 600 and 800 mg/kg body weight respectively of the extract for seven (7) consecutive days.

Group E was used as control. There was a decrease in physical activities, the rate of feed and water intake and body weight of the animal in the test groups when compared with the control. AST and ALT activities in the animals given the extract (200 –600mg/kg) were significantly lower (P < 0.05) than the control group, while those of the group-administered 800mg/kg were significantly higher than the control. This effect was found to dose dependent. The difference between serum total protein concentrations in the tests groups and the control was not significant. According to the researchers, these results are indicative that aqueous extract of fresh leaves Pterocarpus santalinoidsmay possess hepato-protective potential, especially at doses not greater than 600mg/kg body weight. This may be responsible for the application of the leaves of Pterocarpus santalinoids in the management of liver related disorders. Phyllanthus amarus
Phyllanthus amarus belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. To the Efik it is called oyomokeso amanke edem; geeron-tsuntsaayee (birds millet) in Hausa; Ibo (Asaba) buchi oro, Ibo (Umuahia) ngwu; iyeke in Urhobo; and ehin olobe or eyin olobe in Yoruba.According to The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa by H.M. Burkill, Phyllanthus amarus is a weed of cultivated land and in waste spaces. It is said to have sand-binding properties.

“It is a plant of general medicinal application. In Yorubaland it features in an incantation ‘against disease’. It is an ingredient of the agbo prescription in Lagos. An infusion of leaves is used in the Ibadan area for haemorrhoids.”A recent study published this year in Biomedical Research strongly suggests that the therapy with Phyllanthus amarus increases antioxidants and reduces lipid peroxidation of hepatic cellular and intracellular membranes and protects liver damage due to free radicals in hepatitis-C.

Another study published in International Journal of Biology and Medical Research found that the therapy with Phyllanthus amarus increases antioxidants and reduces lipid peroxidation of hepatic cellular and intracellular membranes and protects liver damage due to free radicals in hepatitis-B.The study focused on effect of Phyllanthus amarus therapy for protection of liver in hepatitis B through investigating liver profile enzymes, antioxidant enzymes, antioxidant vitamins and lipid peroxidation. The study consisted of 65 clinical diagnosed hepatitis B patients ranging in between age group 25 to 60 years. The control group includes 65 ages and sex matched normal healthy persons.

The study reads: “Plasma LPO levels were significantly high but activity of SOD, GPx, catalase and levels of vitamin E and vitamin C were significantly lowered in hepatitis B on comparison with controls. After Phyllanthus amarus therapy for four weeks and eight weeks plasma lipid peroxidation levels were significantly decreased and activity of SOD, GPx, catalase and vitamin E and vitamin C were significantly increased in hepatitis B.”

Bitter kola
Bitter kola can detoxify and protect the liver from any alcohol and food poisoning effects.How? Scientists have identified bitter kola as a potential antimicrobial and detoxifier. The antibacterial, antiviral, detoxifying and cleansing properties is responsible for being used widely in the treatment of various diseases and infections.

Commonly called bitter kola, false kola and male cola, Garcinia kola belongs to the plant family Clusiaceae. In Nigeria, it is called edun in Bini; efiari in Efik; efiat in Ibibio; akilu, aki-inu or ugolo in Igbo; and okan in Ijaw.

Pharmacological studies on bitter kola published in Handbook of African Medicinal Plants (Second Edition) by a consultant pharmacognocist, Prof. Maurice M. Iwu, noted: “Garcinia kola has been shown to posses remarkable antihepatotoxic activity against a variety of experimental hepatotoxins, including carbon tetrachloride, 2-acetryl-aminofluorene, paracetamol, and galactosamine, and protection against the accumulation of heavy metals in the liver.

“Chronic ingestion of Garcinia kola seeds caused inhibition of gastrointestinal motility and weight reduction and prevented castor oil-induced diarrhea in rats. Other activities of the biflavonoid mixture include those involving anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, and antiviral properties. The antiviral activity is quite broad and showed remarkable inhibitory effects against a variety of viruses, including Toro and Pichinde viruses, sandfly fever, influenza A, Venezuelan equine encephalomyelitis, and Ebola.

“… Kolaviron, the mixture of bioflavonoids, benzophenones, and chromanols, as well as other phenolic compounds in Garcinia, possesses strong antioxidant activities. Several reports on the experimental validation of the antioxidant properties of Garcinia are due essentially to kolaviron…. Kolaviron, the mixture of biflavonoids, benzophenones and chromanols, and related phenolic compounds in Garcinia kola possesses strong antioxidant activities.

“…It is intriguing that bioflavonoids of Garcinia kola are capable of modulating almost any physiological anomaly. The answer perhaps lies in the role of flavonoids in the evolutionary course of human beings. Humans, over many millennia, have adapted to a diet, which is favourable for their survival and the flavonoid-like structures were part of the physiological system.”

Iwu, who is also the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Bioresources Development Group and Intercedd Health Products (IHP). The research group has formulated bitter kola into capsules and marketed worldwide as Garcinia IHP- ‘The Cold Cap’.Until now, Garcinia kola is used extensively in West African traditional medicine for the treatment of laryngitis, general inflammation, bronchitis, viral infections and diabetes. It has also been shown to a rejuvenating agent, adptogen and general antidote.

Another study published in African Journal of Biochemistry Research has validated the hepato-protective role of bitter kola.The study, titled “Hepatoprotective role of Garcinia kola (Heckel) nut extract on methamphetamine: Induced neurotoxicity in mice” was published by Gabriel Oze, Iheanyi Okoro, Austin Obi and Polycarp Nwoha from the Institute of Neuroscience and Biomedical Research, College of Medicine, Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State.

The researchers wrote: “The hepatoprotective effect of aqueous extract of Garcinia kola (AEGK) was studied in 60 mice of mixed sexes. The animals were divided into six groups of 10 mice each. Group I received normal saline, groups II and III got 100 and 200 mg/kg AEGK (orally), respectively. Group IV received 10-mg/kg methamphetamine (MAM) (s.c.) only. Groups V and VI got 100 and 200 mg/kg of AEGK respectively, before 10-mg/kg methamphetamine, which was used to induce neurotoxicity.

“The serum levels of AST, ALT, ALP, total bilirubin and its conjugated metabolite were used to assess liver damage. Fifty percent of the animals in group IV died. 30 per cent died in group V and none in group VI after 10 – 30 min interval of MAM administration. The serum levels of some of the marker enzymes and bilirubin were decreased significantly in groups VI at 200 mg/kg of AEGK (P < 0.05). The Blood glucose level increased transiently in the MAM treated groups. There was a slight rise in serum WBC after an initial fall at 100 mg/kg AEGK. The results suggest a possible hepato-protective potential of AEGK. This may justify their local use in the management of some hepatic dysfunction and stress-related conditions.” Yet another study published in Journal of Medicine and Food evaluated the “Effect of kolaviron, a biflavonoid complex from Garcinia kola seeds, on ethanol-induced oxidative stress in liver of adult wistar rats.”Adaramoye O.A., Awogbindin I., and Okusaga J.O. from the Department of Biochemistry, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, wrote: “The role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of alcoholic diseases in the liver is well documented. Kolaviron (KV), a biflavonoid complex from Garcinia kola seeds, possesses a variety of biological activities, including antioxidant. Our aim was to investigate in vivo whether KV may attenuate oxidative stress in liver of Wistar albino rats following chronic ethanol administration. Thirty-six male Wistar albino rats were randomly divided into six groups. Administering 7.5 per cent or 45 per cent ethanol at 3 g/kg of body weight daily for eight weeks induced toxicity. Rats were treated with KV at 200 mg/kg of body weight for the same duration. Treatment was by oral gavage…” Avocado
Botanically called Persea Americana, avocado is also commonly known as avocado pear, alligator pear, or mountain pear.Also, scientists suggest that extracts of the nutritious avocado fruit (botanically called Persea Americana) may be able to lessen the liver damage caused by the hepatitis viruses.A study carried out at Shizuoka University in Japan and published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests the avocado fruit may have potential. Rats were given a chemical, which causes similar liver damage to the hepatitis viruses, and fed 22 different types of fruit to see if they made any difference.

The researchers found five compounds extracted from fruit to have a beneficial effect, and the most potent of these came from the avocado.The scientists are still not sure whether the same effect could be found in humans, and say further studies are needed. They also have no idea how the avocado extract actually has this effect.

Turmeric is a spice that comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a member of the ginger family, Zingaberaceae. It is called atale pupa in Yoruba; gangamau in Hausa; nwandumo in Ebonyi; ohu boboch in Enugu (Nkanu East); gigir in Tiv; magina in Kaduna; turi in Niger State; onjonigho in Cross River (Meo tribe).Scientists from Saint Louis University have found that a crucial chemical in Turmeric used in Asian countries to treat liver damage from a condition known as fatty liver disease.

Curcumin, a chemical in turmeric can treat the non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the most occurring fatty liver disease. NASH could eventually damage the liver. The extreme cases could be cirrhosis, liver cancer and death.Turmeric is used as a medicinal plant in countries such as India and China.

“My laboratory studies the molecular mechanism of liver fibrosis and is searching for natural ways to prevent and treat this liver damage,” said Anping Chen, Ph.D., corresponding author and director of research in the pathology department of Saint Louis University.NASH-led liver fibrosis is commonly associated with human patients who are obese or have type 2 diabetes. Curcumin eliminated the effects of leptin, which plays a crucial role in the development of liver fibrosis.

“While research in an animal model and human clinical trials are needed, our study suggests that curcumin may be an effective therapy to treat and prevent liver fibrosis, which is associated with NASH,” said Chen.

Rev. Fr. Anslem Adodo of Pax Herbal Clinic, Ewu in Esan Local Government of Edo State, had said: “Bring one unripe pineapple fruit, 10 leaves of cashew plant, one handful of cotton seed, 10 bottles of water to boil together. Take one glassful four times daily for 10 days.“Secondly, grind 20 pieces of bitter-kola into fine powder, then mix with one bottle of lime juice and one bottle of honey. Take four dessertspoons four times daily for two months.


“Thirdly, squeeze 40 bitter leaves into four litres of water. Take one glassful thrice daily for two months (make fresh preparation as needed).”Researchers had demonstrated that a regular diet including spices such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, cabbage, onion, green tea and apiaceous vegetables like carrots reverses damage caused by aflatoxin (produced by a fungus) poisoning and its complications such as liver cancer; as well as reduce breast cancer risk in women exposed to hormone replacement therapy.Aflatoxins, are naturally occurring mycotoxins that are produced by many species of Aspergillus, a fungus/mould, most notably Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.

Indeed, spices have been shown to protect the liver against aflatoxin poisoning, and the breast from cancer. India researchers found that food additives such as turmeric, and active ingredient curcumin (diferuloyl methane), asafoetida (flavouring agent), butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and ellagic acid inhibited the mutagenesis induced by aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) (0.5 g/plate) in Salmonella tester strains TA 98 and TA 100.

Also, Nigerian researchers have in clinical trials demonstrated how poly herbal preparations made predominantly with bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) provide cure for chronic form of hepatitis B and C co-infection, cancer, type 2 diabetes and tuberculosis.Other constituents of poly herbal preparations include: Sesamum indicatum (sesame), bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina), Aloe barbadensis (popularly known as aloe vera), Saccharum officinarum (sugar cane), Allium sativum (garlic) and Amaranthus caudatus (green amaranth, inine in Ibo, tete abalaye in Yoruba).

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