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Exploring the anti-cancer potential of medicinal plants in Ethiopia


In this study, researchers from Ethiopia and Sweden investigated the toxicity of extracts derived from seven medicinal plants traditionally used to treat breast cancer in Ethiopia. Their findings were published in the Journal of Medicinal Plants Research.

  • According to traditional healers, Sideroxylon oxyacanthumZanthoxylum chalybeumClematis simensis, Clematis longicauda, Dovyalis abyssinica, Vernonia leopoldi and Clerodendrum myricoides are the most frequently used medicinal plants to treat breast cancer.
  • Using methanol as solvent, the researchers obtained crude extracts from all seven plants and tested their cytotoxicity in a dose-response assay.
  • They then fractionated the methanol extracts of the most toxic plants to gain petroleum ether, hexane, chloroform, ethyl acetate and water fractions. These were also tested for cytotoxicity.
  • The researchers reported that the extracts from Z. chalybeum and C. myricoides were not toxic.
  • On the other hand, the crude extracts of S. oxyacanthum, C. simensis and D. abyssinica proved cytotoxic to human breast cancer cell lines (JIMT-1, MCF-7 and HCC1937) at half-maximal inhibitory concentrations (IC50) below 1 mcg/mL.
  • The ethyl acetate fraction of V. leopoldi was found to be the most cytotoxic fraction, with an IC50 of 0.87 mcg/mL against JIMT-1 cells.
  • The aqueous fraction of S. oxyacanthum and the chloroform fraction of C. simensis were also found to be cytotoxic.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that some Ethiopian medicinal plants are great sources of new compounds that can be developed for breast cancer treatment. Among these, V. leopoldiS. oxyacanthum and C. simensis fractions were found to be highly cytotoxic at low concentrations against breast cancer cells.

Read the full study at this link.

Journal Reference:

Nigatu T, Daniel S, Endalamaw G, Beyene P, Stina O. CYTOTOXICITY OF SELECTED ETHIOPIAN MEDICINAL PLANTS USED IN TRADITIONAL BREAST CANCER TREATMENT AGAINST BREAST-DERIVED CELL LINES. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research. May 2019;13(9):188–198. DOI: 10.5897/jmpr2019.6772

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