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Missouri Botanical Garden scientists examine toxicity of medicinal plants in Peru
Date:12/14/2011

ublic markets and at the homes of traditional healers, or curanderos, all in Northern Peru. Botanists gathered material from each of 341 traditional medicinal plant species, dried the material and processed it in an industrial grinder. Two samples of plant material were taken from each species. One sample was submerged in 96 percent ethanol for seven days, and the other in boiling distilled water for one dayboth traditional preparations of plant extracts. The solvents were evaporated to complete dryness and a concentration of each extract was removed for testing. Plant extracts were then diluted to various concentrations in vials.

Brine shrimp (Artemia sp.), small invertebrates that dwell in sea water and other saline ecosystems, are frequently used in laboratory studies to evaluate toxicity values as a measure of median lethal concentration values, or LC50, as they offer a simple, quick and cost-effective way to test plant extracts. Brine shrimp larvae were submerged in 501 total vials of aqueous and ethanolic plant extract solutions, and scientists recorded their rates of mortality after 24 hours.

Testing of the aqueous extracts showed high toxicity values for 55 of the total plant species, with 18 species having median toxicity values and another 18 species having low toxicity. The alcoholic extracts proved exponentially more toxic, with 220 plant species showing high toxicity values, 43 having median toxicity and 23 showing low toxicity.

"Preparation methods by curanderos are taking this into account, and most traditional remedies such as medicinal teas are made with simple water extracts instead of alcoholic ones, thus avoiding potential toxic effects in patients," said Bussmann. "However, traditional knowledge about medicinal plant use is rapidly eroding and many of these plant species are threatened with extinction. Roughly four out of five people in developing countries rely on plants for their primary health care, so studies su
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Contact: Karen Hill
karen.hill@mobot.org
314-577-0254
Missouri Botanical Garden
Source:Eurekalert

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