Researchers confirm local plant's diabetes, arthritis claims
By Chukwuma Muanya. Guardian. Lagos. 8.3.07
NIGERIAN researchers have confirmed the folklore uses of Tetrapleura tetraptera in arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, asthma, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, convulsion, leprosy, epilepsy and schistosomiasis.
Botanically called Tetrapleura tetraptera, the plant belongs to the plant family Leguminosae-mimosoideae. To the French it is esehese a grandes feuilles. In Nigeria it is ebuk in Bokyi, esegheseghe in Edo, edeminang in Efik, ekpankpan in Etung, ighirehimi in Esan, dawo in Hausa, ashobo or ashosho in Igbo-Arochukwu, ora-ora in Igbo-Awka, osshosha in Igbo-Bende, osakirisa in Igbo-Owerri, arida in Nupe, aidan or aridan in Yoruba.
The fruit is a common particle of article of market trade for its dietary, cosmetic and medicinal uses. The fruits are dark red-brown to black, 15 to 22 cm long with four wings of which two are hard and woody and the other two hollow and filled with a sugary pulp. It is scented, variously described as caramel-like.
Tetrapleura tetraptera is a medicinal plant with many folkloric uses. Some of the folkloric uses of this popular west African plant have been authenticated in laboratory and field experiments. Tetrapleura tetraptera is reportedly used as a spice, a medicine and as a dietary supplement rich in vitamins.
The plant is claimed to be therapeutically useful in the management and/or control of an array of human ailments, including arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, asthma, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, convulsion, leprosy, epilepsy, schistosomiasis, among others.
In eastern parts of Nigeria, fruits are used to prepare soups for mothers from the first day of delivery to prevent postpartum contraction and in the preparation of pepper soup in southern parts of Nigeria. Ghanians use the fruit as multivitamins while the fruit is used as spice in Nigeria and some other West African countries.
The plant is also reported to have magico-medicinal attributes to cure cough and haemorrhoids. In Nigeria, it enters into a Yoruba Odu incantation to obtain release of people tied by witches. The Youba name implies an imprecation to 'cast no spell'. In Congo the fruit-pod has magico-medicinal properties and used in certain ceremonies of exorcism.
Professor Clement Adewunmi of the Drug Research and Production Unit in the Faculty of Pharmacy at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria has pioneered research in the use of this plant.
Adewunmi in collaboaration with John Ojewole of the Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa has examined the anti-inflammatory and hypoglycaemic effects of Tetrapleura tetraptera fruit aqueous extract in rats.
The study titled "Anti-inflammatory and hypoglycaemic effects of Tetrapleura tetraptera fruit aqueous extract in rats" was published recently in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.
Fresh egg albumin-induced pedal oedema and streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes mellitus were used as experimental test models of inflammation and diabetes. Diclofenac and chlorpropamide were employed as reference anti-inflammatory and hypoglycaemic agents, respectively, for comparison. Tetrapleura tetraptera produced dose-related, significant reductions of the fresh egg albumin-induced acute inflammation of the rat hind paw oedema. The plant extract also produced dose-dependent, significant reductions in the blood glucose concentrations of both fasted normal and fasted diabetic rats.
" The results of this experimental animal study indicate that T. tetraptera fruit aqueous extract possesses anti-inflammatory and hypoglycaemic properties. These findings lend pharmacological credence to the suggested folkloric uses of the plant's fruit in the management and/or control of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, as well as in adult-onset, type-2 diabetes mellitus in some Yoruba-speaking communities of South-Western Nigeria", the researchers wrote.
Adewunmi and Ojewole have also established the analgesic and anticonvulsant effects of Tetrapleura tetraptera fruit aqueous extract in mice.
The study titled "Analgesic and anticonvulsant properties of Tetrapleura tetraptera fruit aqueous extract in mice" lends pharmacological support to the suggested folkloric uses of the plant's fruit in the management and/or control of painful, arthritic inflammatory conditions, as well as for the management and/or control of epilepsy and childhood convulsions in some tropical African countries.
Morphine, diclofenac, phenobarbitone and diazepam were used, respectively, as reference analgesic and anticonvulsant agents for comparison. T. tetraptera fruit aqueous extract produced dose-dependent, significant analgesic effects against thermally and chemically induced pain in mice. Like the standard anticonvulsant agents (phenobarbitone and diazepam) used, T. tetraptera fruit aqueous extract significantly delayed the onset of, and antagonised, pentylenetetrazole (PTZ)-induced seizures.
Aqueous extract of the fruit also profoundly antagonised picrotoxin (PCT)-induced seizures, but only partially and weakly antagonised bicuculline (BCL)-induced seizures. However, the results of this experimental animal study indicate that Tetrapleura tetraptera (Taub) fruit aqueous extract (TTE) possesses analgesic and anticonvulsant properties.
Comparative biological experiments in vivo and in vitro indicate Tetrapleura tetraptera has a hypotensive effect on smooth muscle due to the active constituent coumarin and scopoletin. Scopoletin was found to relax smooth muscle and inhibit the positive chronotropic and inotropic effects of isoprenaline, noradrenaline, and calcium, but these actions were not mediated via the cholinergic mechanisms of the nicotinic or muscarinic cholinoreceptors.
It is thought scopoletin is a non-specific spasmolytic agent, relaxing smooth muscle and therefore dilating blood vessels. However, no definitive conclusions on the precise mechanism of action by scopoletin have been made.
Earlier research conducted by Adewunmi and his colleagues showed that methanolic (alcohol based) extracts of the plant were able to kill snails. These extracts could thus be called molluscicides. Bilharzia, the disease caused by Schistosomes is prevalent throughout the region where Tetrapleura tetraptera is grown.
Part of the lifecycle of this parasite includes snails found in rivers and ponds. Any effective Bilharzia protection programme always entails measures to kill these snails. Many of the countries in this region do however lack the financial resources to repeatedly dose their rivers with molluscicides. Could Tetrapleura tetraptera then provide a workable solution?
Adewunmi and his team procceeded to fine-tune their approach to meet the demands of those who would employ the measures. A correlation was indeed found with far lower populations of snails in areas with many of these interesting plants.
This research has demonstrated how careful planting of Tetrapleura tetraptera in areas of high Billharzia transmission can reduce the rates of infection, offering countries with limited resource a more environmentally and financially friendly way of protecting their populations from this dreaded disease.
Adewunmi said: "A joint schistosomiasis research project, carried out by our group and the Danish Bilharziasis Laboratory between 1988 and 1989 in south-western Nigeria provided data by which it was possible to relate snail recovery from potential transmission sites to the presence or absence of T. tetraptera. The presence of T. tetraptera around transmission sites appeared to be the most important limiting factor for the presence of snails. Water extracts of T. tetraptera produced molluscicidal activity against B. globosus and L. natalensis at Esinmirin and Fasina. The results indicate that the planting of T. tetraptera along water-courses has potential for the local control of schistosomiasis.
Molluscicides are crucial for controlling schistosomiasis. Therefore, plant derived molluscicides such as T. tetrapterawhich is easily biodegraded in the environment can be substituted for chemical molluscicides in endemic poor nations of Africa".
Extracts obtained from T. tetraptera have been shown to have significant anti-ulcer activity confirming its ethnomedical use in the management of gastro-intestinal disorders especially stomach ulceration.
A study by Salako et al indicated that alcoholic and water extracts of T. tetraptera inhibited the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. The anti-microbial activity of this plant has been exploited in the formulation of the dried powdered fruits of the plant. Thus, dried powdered herbs have been formulated into soap bases using palm kernel oil, shea butter and mixtures of the two bases.
The formulated soaps were evaluated for organoleptic properties and foaming ability. Soaps with the mixture of the two bases were of better qualities than those with the individual base. Incorporation of powdered plant materials influenced both the foaming property and the hardness of the soaps. Adebayo et al. Found that except for the T. tetraptera fruit powder which improved the foaming ability of the soaps, all other herbs including Acalypha wilkesiana, Harugana madagascariensis and Ficus exasperata depressed the foaming ability of the soaps.
Akah and Nwambie have also found that extracts from T. tetraptera exhibited anticonvulsant activity, which could be linked to their ability to depress the central nervous system. The emulsifying property of the extracts from T. tetraptera has been demonstrated by Olaifa et al.
The ethanol extracts and saponins from the stem-bark of T. tetraptera exerted an inhibitory effect on luteinizing hormone released by pituitary cells suggesting its use as a contraceptive agent.
Essien et al have assessed the nutritional quality of the dry fruit of T. tetraptera used as spice. The fruit shell, fruit pulp and seed contained varying amounts of nutrients such as protein, lipids and minerals, which were comparable and some were even higher than popular spices such as red pepper, onion, curry and ginger. The fruits have been shown to also contain cinnamic acids, caffeic acid and carbohydrates. The latter two of these components are common in most spices.
Pharmacological examination of an aqueous extract of T. tetraptera showed that it had little or no hypotensive effect on anaesthetized cats, dogs, and rabbits, but significantly depressed the blood pressure of anaesthetized rats. The implication of this finding in rats is that this cardiovascular effect may be species specific.
According to the Useful Plants of Tropical West Africa by H. M. Burkill, "the bark yields a gum resin which has undisclosed medicinal use. The bark is emetic and when freshly crushed is so used in Senegal and Guinea, and in Nigeria. This treatment is used in Gabon with the proviso by enema for blennorrhoea in Ivory Coast and Senegal. Adecoction in drinks and baths is held in Senegal and Ivory Coast to be tonic and envigorating after illness or infatigue. A bark decoction is taken in Senegal and Congo Brazzaville for cough and bronchitis, by women as emmenagogue and to combat sterility; bark is put into vapour-baths to counter pain of rheumatism and in fever. It is likewise used in Nigeria for athritic conditions. The bark is laxative for which function it is taken in Ghana. It and any part of the tree is powdered and used for flatulence in Nigeria.
"Bark, root, leaves or fruit are added to palm-wine in Sierra Leone to make it more potent. In Senegal the bark is considered an antidote for snake-bite, perhaps on account of its emetic and laxative properties. The bark is said to contain crystals of an aminoproprionic acid derivative, the alkaloid mimosine, which is irritant substance founf also in the leaves of Mimosa pudica. Saponin in quantity, and tannin, a trace, are reported from the bark of Congo Brazzaville material, and saponin, terpenes and fixed oils in Nigerian material".
Burkill wrote: "The roots, and sometimes the fruit are used in Senegal in embrocation for febrile lumbago and for dressing wounds and ulcers. A decoction is taken in Nigeria for jaundice, and roots are mashed and used in poultices. Congo Brazzaville plants have been shown to contain abundant saponins and a trace of tannin but no flavone, quinone, organogenetic glycoside or steroidal substances. Oleanic acid and triglycoside have been isolated. Tests of leaves for antibiotic activity of Nigerian material have proved negative. Sugars, tannins and a little saponin are present in the fruits.
"Tests for molluscidal potential in work on schistosomiasis control have shown very encouraging results with a 100 percent motality of the fresh water snail vector, Bulinius globulus, at a concentration of 100 ppm. Alchoholic and aqueous extracts of the fruit show marked tranquilising properties on laboratory mice, and a medication is prepared in Nigeria for children as an anticonvulsant; glycosides os oleanic acid are the active substances. In Nigeria the whole fruit is prepared as a strenghtening medicine, chiefly for young children and the fruit is worn as a charm around the neck.
In Senegal and Nigeria the pod is pulped into an ointment for application as a revolsive for rheumatism and arthritic pain. It is a common medication in Nigerian folk medicine for skin infections, but tests have not shown any action on gram positive or gram negative organisms, nor any antifungal activity. The pods reduced to a powder are used on ulcers.
"In Senegal and in Congo, as indeed elsewhere, the fruit is considerd the most active part of the tree, and it is used in practical medicine in decoction for heart pains, nausea and female sterility, and expressed as sap for instillation into the eyes for ophthalmias and filaria into the nose for headaches and ear for deafness".