Pharmacological activities of selected South African medicinal plants.
The use of traditional medicine is a popular practice in South Africa especially among rural dwellers due to several reasons such as availability of natural products, cultural beliefs, preference of natural products to synthetically derived drugs and the high cost of modern drugs. Traditional healers in South Africa play key roles in administering treatment for all sorts of ailments using plants. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of seven selected medicinal plants that are used in traditional medicine to treat stomach-related ailments for their pharmacological and phytochemical properties. Plant material was extracted sequentially with ethyl acetate (EtOAc), ethanol (EtOH) and water. The extracts were evaluated for their antimicrobial activities using the microdilution technique against two Gram-positive (Enterococcus faecalis ATCC 19433 and Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 12600) bacteria and a Gram-negative (Escherichia coli ATCC 11775) bacterium. A modified microdilution technique was used to screen for antifungal activity against a yeast-like fungus (Candida albicans ATCC 10231). Only the EtOAc extract of Tetradenia riparia demonstrated good antibacterial activity against the Gram-negative E. coli, all the other extracts that were active only showed good antibacterial activity against the two Gram-positive (E. faecalis and S. aureus) bacteria with MIC values <1 mg/ml. None of the extracts that exhibited good inhibitory activity showed corresponding bactericidal activity against the bacterial test strains, suggesting that the observed activity were all inhibitory. Good antifungal activity with an MIC value <1 mg/ml was observed in only 5 extracts, and none of the extracts exhibited corresponding fungicidal activity. The in vitro colorimetric assay for anthelmintic activity against Caenorhabditis elegans revealed that almost all the extracts possessed moderate to high anthelmintic properties. The EtOAc extract of T. riparia had the best activity at MLC value of 0.004 mg/ml. The anti-inflammatory activity of the plant extracts was tested using the cyclooxygenase assays to determine their inhibitory potential against COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. All the EtOAc extracts demonstrated both COX-1 and COX-2 inhibitory activity in the range of 50.7 ± 2.4 to 99.5 ± 0.5%. Apart from the EtOH extracts of C. multicava that showed high inhibitory activity against both COX-1 and COX-2, all the other EtOH extracts were COX-2 selective. Aqueous extracts exhibited poor inhibitory activity against both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes with the exception of T. riparia and Coddia rudis that showed good inhibitory activity (69.1 ± 0.9 and 92.65 ± 0.7%) against COX-1 and COX-2 respectively. The standard plate incorporation assay for the Ames test was carried out to determine the potential genotoxic effects of the plant extracts and this revealed that all the extracts were non-mutagenic towards Salmonella typhimurium tester strains TA98, TA100 and TA1537 without metabolic activation. However, further studies incorporating metabolizing enzymes are needed to confirm the safe use of the studied plants. Phytochemical analysis revealed relatively high amounts of total phenolics, gallotannins and flavonoids in all the evaluated plants. Total and steroidal saponins were detected in only two plant samples, Canthium spinosum and Cassinopsis ilicifolia (bark). These findings present useful information on the types of bioactive compounds that could be responsible for the pharmacological activities observed among some of the plant extracts. The results obtained in this study showed different levels of pharmacological activities among all the evaluated medicinal plants which provide scientific validation for their use in traditional medicine as antimicrobial agents. Phytochemical analysis provides valuable information for further study that will be aimed at isolation and identification of the bioactive principles in the evaluated plant species.
- Masters Degrees (Botany) 
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