Bark from a species of rosewood tree found to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that prevent cell damage

These days, folk medicine is relegated to the sidelines due in no small part to the rapid development of modern drug-making and therapeutic procedures. For all the benefits that modern medicine has, it has also brought about a lot of risks. In particular, the adverse effects of certain drugs and opioid addiction have led researchers to seek better and safer alternatives than what is currently on the market. This has led to various studies that open up the possibility of more natural alternatives and treatments.

This now begs the question of whether age-old folk treatments can be relevant, or at least explained, by modern medicine. One such case is Senegal rosewood, a common ingredient in many folk treatments in Africa. Now, a paper published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines revealed that the root barks of the Senegal rosewood have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, proffering its possible pharmacological use.

The study, “Biological and phytochemical investigations of extracts from Pterocarpus erinaceus Poir (Fabaceae) root barks,” was conducted by researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique et Technologique (CNRST) and the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and the Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 in France.

In the study, the researchers investigated possible anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of the Pterocarpus erinaceus Poir., also known as Senegal rosewood or African teak, including its ability to inhibit lipoxygenase (LOX) reactions that contribute to cell death and lipid peroxidation, which damages the tissue.

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Both LOX reactions and lipid peroxidation are linked to cell damage and death. Lipoxygenases are enzymes which dioxygenate unsaturated fatty acids, which, in turn, causes reactions that lead to cell death. Lipid peroxidation, meanwhile, is the process wherein free radicals and other enzymes attack polyunsaturated fatty acids, causing a chain reaction of cell oxidation. This may ultimately lead to conditions such as atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and kidney damage, among others. In addition to this, LOX and cyclo-oxygenases enzymes are also responsible for cell inflammation.

The Senegal rosewood (P. erinaceus) belongs to the Fabaceae family, which also includes trees in South Asia. In previous studies, trees of the Pterocarpus genus have been used for pain management and to treat inflammation, as well as cardiovascular and skin diseases. In Burkina Faso, Senegal rosewood has been used in folk medicine for ulcers, rheumatism, and bacterial infections. Other studies have also noted its use to include malaria treatment. (Related: Antioxidant Blends May Offer Protection in Life-Threatening Conditions.)

To examine this theory, researchers conducted in vivo tests using the root bark of the Senegal rosewood. To begin, they collected dried root barks of P. erinaceus and made an extract with dichloromethane (DCM) and methanol (MeOH) through maceration in a 48-hour period. This generated four compounds, which were individually analyzed.

For the anti-inflammatory property of P. erinaceus, NRMI mice were selected, then grouped into five. After grouping, all samples were given a solution to induce ear edema. To evaluate the ability of the extract to prevent LOX reactions, researchers used a colorimetric method.

Results showed that mice ears treated with P. erinaceus extract displayed a reduction in ear edema over the control group. It also improved inhibition of LOX reactions and reduced lipid peroxidation due to its antioxidant content.

Based on the results, the research team concluded that extracts from the Senegal rosewood contained anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also has shown its inhibiting effect against lipoxygenase and lipid peroxidation, which can help with cell damage.

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