Antidiabetic Potential of African Medicinal Plants

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African medicinal plants with antidiabetic potentials: a review

Mohammed A, Ibrahim MA, Islam MS
Planta Med. 2014 Mar;80(5):354-77
PubMed PMID: 24535720

Aminu Mohammed of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, with colleagues from that institution and Ahmadu Bello University, reviewed all in vivo studies of antidiabetic potential of African medicinal plants conducted between January 2000 and July 2013, with a closer look at some relevant plants from the continentʼs subregions.

In their Introduction, the authors note the disease burden of diabetes mellitus in Africa:

“Recent data from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) indicates that DM affects over 366 million people worldwide and this is likely to increase to 552 million or even more by the year 2030. In Africa, more than 14 million people have diabetes, accounting for about 4.3% of adults and is responsible for about 401 276 deaths in 2012 in the region. West Africa recorded the highest number of DM cases with Nigeria (3.2 million diabetics) and Côte dʼIvoire (421 023 diabetics) occupying first and second positions, respectively. In Southern Africa, South Africa tops the list (2.0 million diabetics) followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (737 000 diabetics). Kenya was listed as the fifth country in Africa and the first from the eastern region of Africa (720 730 diabetics), while Cameroon (517 860 diabetics) recorded the highest figure from the central region.”

The review identified 185 plant species from Africa that have been investigated for antidiabetic potential, several of which the authors discuss in detail:

  • West Africa: Anacardium occidentale, Azadirachta indica, Gongronema latifolium, Hibiscus sabdariffa, Indigofera pulchra, Nauclea latifolia, Ocimum gratissimum, Phyllanthus amarus, Picralima nitida, Vernonia amygdalina, Zingiber officinale
  • North Africa: Ajuga iva, Allium cepa, Balanites aegyptiaca, Carum carvi, Chamaemelum nobile, Morus alba, Nigella sativa, Ziziphus spina-christi
  • Southern Africa: Artemisia afra, Bryophyllum pinnatum, Raphia gentiliana, Sclerocarya birrea, Sutherlandia frutescens
  • Central Africa: Bersama engleriana, Dichrostachys glomerata, Dracena arborea, Kalanchoe crenata
  • East Africa: Caylusea abyssinica, Strychnos henningsii, Erythrina abyssinica, Aspilia pluriseta, Bidens pilosa, Catha edulis, Momordica charantia, Moringa stenopetala

Ocimum gratissimum
Ocimum gratissimum is a West African medicinal plant of antidiabetic potential [image source: Forest & Kim Starr, Wikimedia Commons]
In their Conclusion, the team highlight eight species that have received much attention in particular, and recommend support for more research to develop medicines based on these plants as potential treatments for diabetes:

“Apart from the folkloric claims, it is evident from the above reviewed studies that Africa is blessed with an abundance of antidiabetic plants resources based on scientific findings. However, due to the variations in the scientific investigations in terms of analyzed antidiabetic parameters, doses, and durations used, it is difficult to precisely identify the plant(s) with the best reported activity, but our close analysis of the reports seem to suggest that O. gratissimum, A. occidentale, V. amygdalina, G. latifolium, A. indica, C. carvi, M. alba, and A. iva are the most active because they received much attention as is evident by numerous studies and, thus, possibly contain the most bioactive antidiabetic phytochemicals among all the plants. The methods mostly utilized for the extractions of various parts via organic solvent extractions include maceration/cold extraction, soxhlet, distillation, percolation, and sequential extraction. Moreover, it is evident that very few studies were reported to involve human subjects. Most studies used either T1D or T2D animal models. Unfortunately, perhaps due to limited research resources, most of the studies are preliminary in nature (though with promising results) and do not include detailed isolation and characterization of the bioactive compounds and/or the mechanisms of antidiabetic actions. Government agencies and/or pharmaceutical industries should support more research activities in this area in order to commercially utilize these antidiabetic medicinal plants for a solution to the continentʼs myriad of economic problems.”

Read the complete article at PubMed.

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