Singapore–The leaves of the Bandicoot Berry (Leea indica), South African leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) and Simpleleaf Chastetree (Vitex trifolia) have been found to be effective in stopping the growth of 7 types of cancer, according to researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS). The study, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, determined that the plants were effective against breast, cervical, colon, leukemia, liver, ovarian and uterine cancers.
“Medicinal plants have been used for the treatment of diverse ailments since ancient times, but their anti-cancer properties have not been well studied. Our findings provide new scientific evidence for the use of traditional herbs for cancer treatment, and pave the way for the development of new therapeutic agents,” associate professor Koh Hwee Ling, of NUS Pharmacy, said in a press release.
The researchers documented various medicinal plants that grow in Singapore and the region, including those reported to be used for cancer, then choose seven species for further investigation. In addition to Bandicoot Berry, South African Leaf and Simpleleaf Chastetree, the researchers looked at Sabah Snake Grass (Clinacanthus nutans), Fool’s Curry Leaf (Clausena lansium), Seven Star Needle (Pereskia bleo) and Black Face General (Strobilanthes crispus).
The finding: The extracts of the leaves of the Bandicoot Berry, South African Leaf and Simpleleaf Chastetree were generally found to be promising against the seven types of cancers. The leaf extracts of the Seven Star Needle showed benefits against cervical, colon, liver, ovarian and uterine cancer cells, while the leaf extracts of Fool’s Curry Leaf and Black Face General showed efficacy against some cancer cell lines.
“Given the scarcity of land due to rapid urbanization and the dearth of records on herbal knowledge, there is a pressing need to document and investigate how indigenous medicinal plants were used before the knowledge is lost,” said Dr. Siew Yin Yin, who did the research as part of her doctoral thesis, in the press release.
The researchers stressed that people should not try to self medicate and should consulted a qualified health practitioner. “More research is required to identify the active components responsible for the anti-cancer effects,” added Koh. “Meanwhile, conservation of these medicinal plants is highly crucial so that there is a rich and sustainable source that could be tapped upon for the discovery of anti-cancer drugs.”
The researchers also determined the top three reasons for using medicinal plants: for general health promotion, detoxification and to boost the immune system. In addition to continuing to study the active components in the medicinal plants, the NUS team will be studying other pharmacological effects with a goal to further harness the benefits of medicinal plants for safe and efficacious use.