Vernonia amygdalina, a member of the Asteraceae family, is a small shrub that grows in the tropical Africa. V. amygdalina typically grows to a height of 2--5 m. The leaves are elliptical and up to 20 cm long. Its bark is rough. V. amygdalina is commonly called bitter leaf in English because of its bitter taste. African common names include grawa (Amharic), ewuro (Yoruba), etidot (Ibibio), onugbu (Igbo), ityuna (Tiv), oriwo (Edo), chusar-doki (Hausa), mululuza (Luganda), labwori (Acholi), and olusia (Luo) Ndolé (cameroon).
In a preliminary clinical trial, a decoction of 25 g fresh leaves of V. amygdalina was 67% effective in creating an adequate clinical response in African patients with mild falciparum malaria. Of these 32% had complete parasite clearance. Unfortunately 71% of subjects had recrudescence (that is, recurrence of symptoms). The treatment was without significant adverse effects.
Research on extracts and chemical constituents
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Vernonia amygdalina extracts and isolated chemical constituents have been studied for their potential pharmacological effects, including:
- Induction of apoptosis as determined in cell culture and animal studies.
- Enhanced chemotherapy sensitivity - V. amygdalina extracts may render cancerous cells to be more sensitive to chemotherapy.
- Inhibition of the growth or growth signals of cancerous cells.
- Suppression of metastasis of cancerous cells in the body by the inhibition of NFҡB is an anti-apoptotic transcription factors as demonstrated in animal studies.
- Reduction of estrogen level in the body by the suppression of aromatase activity. The involvement of blood estrogen level in the etiology of estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancer has been widely reported. Additional source of estrogen production in humans besides the ovary and adrenal gland is the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in a reaction catalyzed by aromatase. Many studies have shown positive correlations between blood estrogen levels and breast cancer risks. Therefore, compounds that inhibit aromatase activity are used for the treatment of breast cancer.
- Antioxidants - V. amygdalina may provide anti-oxidant benefits.
- Enhancement of the immune system - Many studies have shown that V. amygdalina extracts may strengthen the immune system through many cytokines (including NFҡB, pro inflammatory molecule) regulation.
- Studies conducted using streptozotocin-induced diabetic laboratory animals showed that V. amygdalina administration decreased blood glucose by 50% compared to untreated diabetic animals.
- Extracts of V. amygdalina possess in vitro anthelminthic anti-parasitic properties.
- Ijeh II, Ejike CECC (2011). "Current perspectives on the medicinal potential of Vernonia amygdalina Del". J Med Plant Res 5 (7): 1051–1061.
- Egedigwe CA (2010). Effect of dietary incorporation of Vernonia amygdalina and Vernonia colorata on blood lipid profile and relative organ weights in albino rats (Thesis). Department of Biochemistry, MOUAU, Nigeria.
- Kokwaro, John (2009). Medicinal Plants of East Africa 3rd ed. Nairobi, Kenya: University of Nairobi Press. ISBN 9966-846-84-0.
- Huffman, M.A., Seifu, M (1989). "Observations on the illness and consumption of a possibly medicinal plant Vernonia amygdalina (Del.), by a wild chimpanzee in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania". Primates 30: 51–63. doi:10.1007/BF02381210.
- Challand S, Willcox M (2009). "A clinical trial of the traditional medicine Vernonia amygdalina in the treatment of uncomplicated malaria". J Altern Complement Med 15 (11): 1231–7. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0098. PMID 19922255.
- Sweeney CJ, Mehrotra S, Sadaria MR, Kumar S, Shortle NH, Roman Y, Sheridan C, Campbell RA, Murray DJ, Badve S, Nakshatri H (2005). "The sesquiterpene lactone parthenolide in combination with docetaxel reduces metastasis and improves survival in a xenograft model of breast cancer". Mole. Cancer Ther 4 (6): 1004. doi:10.1158/1535-7163.mct-05-0030.
- Song YJ, Lee DY, Kim SN, Lee KR, Lee HW, Han JW, Kang DW, Lee HY, Kim YK (2005). "Apoptotic potential of seequiterpene lactone ergolide through the inhibition of NF-κB signaling pathway". J. Pharmacol 57 (12): 1591–1597. doi:10.1211/jpp.57.12.0009.
- Izevbigie, EB, Bryant JL, Walker A (2004). "Natural Inhibitor of Extracelular Signal-Regulated Kinases and Human Breast Cancer Cells". Exp Biol & Medicine 229: 163–169.
- Opata, M.M., Izevbigie, E.B. (2006). "Aqueous V. amygdalina Extracts Alter MCF-7 Cell Membrane Permeability and Efflux". Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 3 (2): 174–179. doi:10.3390/ijerph2006030019.
- Kupchan SM, Hemingway RJ, Karim A, Werner D. (1969). "Tumor inhibitors. XLVII. Vernodalin and vernomygdin, two new cytotoxic sesquiterpene lactones from vernonia amygdalina". J. Org. Chem 34 (12): 3908. doi:10.1021/jo01264a035.
- Jisaka M, Ohigashi H, Takegawa K, Huffman MA, Koshimizu K. (1993). "Antitumoral and antimicrobial activities of bitter sesquiterpene latones of vernonia amygdalina, a possible medical agent used by wild chimpanzees". Biosci Biochem 57 (5): 833. doi:10.1271/bbb.57.833.
- Blanco JG, Gil RR, Bocco JL, Meragelman TL, Genti-Raimondi S, Flurry A. (2001). J Pharmacol Exp. Ther. 297 (3): 1099.
- Colditz GA, Hankinson SE, Hunter DJ, Willett WC, Manson JE, Sampler MJ, Henneckens C, Rosner B, Spiezer FE. (1995). "The use of estrogen and progestin and the risk of cancer in postmenopausal women". N. Engl. J. Med. 332 (24): 1589.
- Erasto P, Grierson DS, Afolayan AJ. (2007). "Evaluation of Antioxidant activity and the fatty acid profile of the leaves of Vernonia amygdalina growing in South Africa". Food Chemistry 104: 636–642. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.12.013.
- Nwanjo HU (2005). "Efficacy of aqueous leaf extract of Vernonia amygdalina on plasma lipoprotein and oxidative status in diabetic rat models". Nigerian J Physiological Sciences 20 (1-2): 30–42.
- Ademola IO, Eloff JN (February 2011). "Anthelminthic activity of acetone extract and fractions of Vernonia amygdalina against Haemonchus contortus eggs and larvae". Trop Anim Health Prod 43 (2): 521–7. doi:10.1007/s11250-010-9727-7.