Perhaps another natural remedy for malaria is very much closer than anyone could think of as scientists from different parts of the world have recently found that bitter leaf could be the potential cure for malaria – the most tropical disease worldwide.
Vernonia amygdalina, commonly known as bitter leaf, is usually bitter and all parts of the leaves, stem and roots are said to have medicinal uses. These include fighting off malaria parasite, promotion of dieresis, cure of tonsillitis, fever, diabetes, pneumonia, jaundice, anaemia, stomach problem and ascaris.
In a study, scientists researchthe antimalarial activities of the aqueous and ethanolic crude extracts of bitter leaves, already in use by traditional healers to treat malaria and other diseases.
The scientists found that under laboratory conditions, extracts of bitter leaf made from water and ethanol showed moderate antimalarial activity and a negligible level of toxicity in the test animals rats.
The study titled “In vitro Antimalarial Activity of the Extracts of Vernonia Amygdalina” was documented in the 2013 edition of the Science World Journal. It was carried out by Sha’a, K. K from the College of Science and Technology, Adamawa State Polytechnic; Oguche, S from the Department of Paediatrics, Jos University Teaching Hospital, Jos.
Plasmodium falciparum also known as malaria is one of the greatest causes of hospitalisation and death among children below age of five years. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that there were an estimated 246 million malaria cases distributed among 3.3 billion people at risk in 2006, causing at least a million deaths. These were mostly children under five years.
According to WHO, over 80 per cent of malaria cases in the world is estimated to be in Africa where the disease is indigenous. In Nigeria, malaria transmission occurs all year mostly in the south, and more seasonal in the North.
The appalling rate at which Plasmodium falciparum has developed resistance to chloroquine and other synthetic antimalarial drugs makes it necessary to search for more effective antimalarial compounds.
In Africa and other countries where malaria is endemic, traditional medicinal plants are frequently used to treat or cure malaria, thus the need to investigate the antimalarial activity of medicinal plants in order to determine their potentials as sources of new antimalarial agents.
To conduct the research, blood samples were collected from children and adults aged six months and above, who had fever in the last 24 hours, auxiliary temperature of 37.5 C, had not taken any antimalarial in the last two weeks, and who gave oral or written informed consent after the aim of the study were involved in the study. These were patients attending the outpatient department of the Damboa General Hospital, Borno State.
Of the two extracts tested, the ethanol extract of bitter leave showed the highest antimalarial activity of 78.1 per cent. The water extract had the malaria parasite growth inhibition of 74.0 per cent.
In addition, dose-dependent antimalarial activity was clearly shown for the two crude extracts. The percentage inhibitions are higher with increasing concentrations.
Previously, the antimalarial activity of bitter leaf against resistant P. berghei had been reported by scientists in the British Journal of Biomedical Science. In their findings, leaf extract produced 67 per cent suppression of malaria –causing germ in a four day test.
In addition, another study pointing to the potential use of bitter leaf in formulating a malaria drug in years to come, revealed its potential also in reversing chloroquine resistance when used as an adjuvant with chloroquine.
Recently, researchers in the 2008 edition of Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, formulated the stem bark extract of this plant into tablets, and made this available as an antimalarial remedy.
It should be noted, however, that some of these extracts exhibited very high antimalarial activity in laboratory tests carried out on the malaria germ in the test tube, but displayed poor activity in animals infected with malaria germ.