MEDICINAL USE OF PALM TREES
And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, within and without.(1 King's 6:29)
RESEARCHERS have demonstrated how ointment from palm tree leaves could be used to achieve significant pro-healing activity in infected wounds and breast cancer when topically applied by affecting various stages of healing process.
Botanically called Elaeis guineensis, palm tree belongs to the plant family Arecaceae. It is widely used in the traditional medicine of societies in West Africa for treating various ailments.
A study titled: “Wound Healing Activity of Elaeis guineensis Leaf Extract Ointment” published recently in International Journal of Molecular Sciences concluded: “Apart from this, other properties such as antioxidant, antibacterial and antifungal activities make it a potential natural product-based ointment. The result of the present study offers pharmacological evidence to support the folkloric use of Elaeis guineensis leaf for the healing of wounds in several African countries.”
An earlier study titled: “Wound Healing Potential of Elaeis guineensis Jacq Leaves in an Infected Albino Rat Model” published in Molecules noted: “The above data suggest that the application of E. guineensis ointment to an infected wound not only reduces the risk of further infection, but also improves the healing activity.”
“The application of a methanolic extract of E. guineensis was found to improve the different phases of wound repair, including collagen synthesis and maturation, wound contraction, and epithelialization. As E. guineensis possesses an antifungal property and is traditionally used in several African countries, our findings may provide scientific rationale for the use of E. guineensis to promote healing of infected wounds.”
To validate the ethno-therapeutic claims of the plant in skin diseases, the Malaysian researchers studied the wound healing activity. The results showed that Elaeis guineensis leaf extract had potent wound healing capacity as evident from the better wound closure, improved tissue regeneration at the wound site, and supporting histopathological parameters pertaining to wound healing.
According to the study, matrix metalloproteinases expression correlated well with the results thus confirming efficacy of Elaeis guineensis in the treatment of the wound. Elaeis guineensis accelerated wound healing in rats, thus supporting its traditional use. The result of this study suggested that, used efficiently, oil palm leaf extract is a renewable resource with wound healing properties.
The researchers added: “Plant extracts are potential wound healing agents, and largely preferred because of their widespread availability, non-toxicity, absence of unwanted side effects, and effectiveness as crude preparations.”
“Previously, it was reported that Carapa guienensis, Carica papaya and Jasminum grandiflorum extracts are effective in wound healing in rats. In this study, we also have clearly observed an enhanced wound contraction induced by the E. guineensis leaf extract. This could be attributed to the enhanced contractile property of myofibroblast resulting in the increase of epithelialization.
“Thiem and Goslinska have reported that topical application of compounds with free radical scavenging properties in patients have shown to improve wound healing significantly and protect tissues from oxidative damage. Our previous study showed that the E. guineensis leaf extract possessed free radical scavenging property. Hence, this could contribute to the wound healing activity observed in this study.”
Also, results of another study published in Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine suggested the probable use of the Elaeis guineensis methanol extract in preparing recipes for cancer-related ailments.
The Malaysian researchers from the Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine (INFORMM), Universiti Sains Malaysia, investigated the cytotoxic effect of Elaeis guineensis methanol extract on MCF-7 and Vero cell.
MCF-7 is a breast cancer cell line isolated in 1970 from a 69-year-old Caucasian woman. MCF-7 is the acronym of Michigan Cancer Foundation - 7, referring to the institute in Detroit where the cell line was established in 1973 by Herbert Soule and co-workers. The Michigan Cancer Foundation is now known as the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.
Vero cells are lineages of cells used in cell cultures.
The researchers evaluated the in vitro cytotoxicity by MTT assay. The MTT assay and the MTS assay are colorimetric assays for measuring the activity of enzymes that reduce MTT or close dyes (XTT, MTS, WSTs) to formazan dyes, giving a purple colour. A main application allows to assess the viability (cell counting) and the proliferation of cells (cell culture assays). It can also be used to determine cytotoxicity of potential medicinal agents and toxic materials, since those agents would stimulate or inhibit cell viability and growth. Cell morphological changes were observed by using light microscope.
The results of the MTT assay indicated that methanol extract of the plant exhibited significant cytotoxic effects on MCF-7. Morphological alteration of the cell lines after exposure with Elaeis guineensis extract were observed under phase contrast microscope in the dose dependent manner.
The researchers wrote: “Breast cancer cell line MCF-7 was used as the test system in this study, which was prompted by the requirement of more effective treatment for the increasing incidence of breast cancers worldwide. The extract was able to inhibit the proliferation of the cancer cell at (15 g/mL) and the normal Vero cells at (22 g/mL). The American National Cancer Institute (NCI) guidelines set the limit of activity for crude extracts at 50 per cent inhibition (IC50) of proliferation of less than 30 g/ mL after the exposure time of 72 hours. However a crude extract with IC50 less than 20 g/mL is considered highly cytotoxic.
“The results of the present study showed potent cytotoxic effects on MCF-7 cells with E. guineensis extract. The IC50 value was found to be lower than that specified by NCI, USA for categorization of a pure compound as anticancer agent. The reduction in viable cell number was evident as 24 hours of treatment with both the extracts. The morphological effects were more prominent in the acetone extract treated cells showing extensive blebbing and vacuolation suggesting autophagic mechanism of cell death. An IC50 value below this stringent value was noted for MCF-7, which falls within the NCI criteria thus to be considered as a promising anticancer potential. These data is also of interesting as it suggests that the extract is more toxic for cancer cells than on normal cells.