A chemical investigation of a KwaZulu-Natal medicinal plant, Momordica foetida Schum. & Sond.
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Momordica foetida Schum. & Sond. (Cucurbitaceae), locally known as iNtshungu, is widely used by the Zulu people of Natal-KwaZulu for the treatment of a variety of ailments. The dried leaves leaves and stems of this plant was subjected to soxhlet extraction by refluxing with hexane, chloroform and methanol successively. Thin layer chromatography of the chloroform extract of the leaves revealed a multiplicity of compounds. The chloroform extract was further partitioned with sodium hydroxide resulting in an organic and aqueous phase. The organic phase, containing extract A, afforded two compounds, viz. compounds 1 and 2. The basic aqueous fraction was neutralised and re-extracted with chloroform to give extract B, affording five compounds, viz. compounds 3,4,5,6 and 7. Structural elucidation was accomplished by techniques such as IH and 13C NMR spectroscopy, HETCOR, COSY, FTIR and High Resolution Mass Spectrometry. Compounds 1 and 2 were identified as cucurbitane triterpenoids known as momordicines which had been previously discovered in the related species of this plant, Momordica charantia L. The remaining five compounds were identified as novel compounds, although natural derivatives of compounds 6 and 7 had been isolated previously from Momordica charantia L. Compounds 3-7 were each isolated as an epimeric mixture but it was possible to select the resonances corresponding to the major epimer. These five epimers were respectively identified as 5, 19-epoxy-19(R)-hydroxy-25-methoxy-5β- cucurbita-6,23-diene-3β-ol , 5,19-epoxy-19(R),25-dihydroxy-5β-cucurbita- 6,23-diene-3β-ol , 5,19-epoxy-19(R)-methoxy-25-hydroxy-5β-cucrbita- 6,23-diene-3β-ol , 5,19-epoxy-25-methoxy-5β-cucurbita-6,23diene- 3β-ol  and 5,19-epoxy-19(R),25-dimethoxy-5β-cucurbita-6,23diene- 3β-ol . Appropriate reactions were performed, where possible, on the compounds isolated in order to confirm their identity.