Anti-Tumor Activities/Alternative Therapy of Some Selected Nigerian Medicinal Plants

Abel A. 1, Mahoud S.,2 Adamu M.3 and C.T Agber4

1,2,3Department of chemistry College of Education Hong, Adamawa State, Nigeria

4Department of Chemistry, Benue State University, Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria

*Corresponding author:


Cancer is a high mortality disease of public concern. Effectiveness of chemotherapy is often limited by toxicity to untargeted tissues among other serious side’s effects. Alternative therapy such as herbal remedies for cancer, which may have the potential to offer more efficacy and less side effects have, however, not been rigorously studied or tested. The Aim of this present study therefore was to validate the anti-cancer properties (using tumor cells) of some selected Nigerian medicinal herbal remedies used by the population in Watsilla, Michika LGA. Phytochemical analysis, Antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of the selected medicinal plants were carried out as preliminary studies. The selected herbal extracts revealed the presence of alkaloid, essential oil, phenol, glycosides, flavonoid, tanin, terpenoid, proteins and saponins. The medicinal plants demonstrated good antioxidant activity with IC50 ranging from 0.42-0.54 which is lower than IC50 of Ascorbic acid (IC50 0.60 and 0.66) in both DPPH and H2O2 free radical scavenging activity model used in this study.The brine shrimp toxicity results, a preliminary anti-cancer studies, indicated that 100% of the plant extracts tested had LC50 values lower than 1000 μg/mL; Heamatostaphisbarteri (LC50 23.31μg/mL),Cyanoglossum officinal’(LC50 50.32μg/mL),  Ximenia americana (LC5086.57μg/mL) and Anchus officinalis(LC50 54.37μg/mL),   are excellently none toxic and surely have no obvious danger of outright toxicity during acute exposure. Thus, from the analysis it was concluded that, thesemedicinal plants demonstrated good phytochemical constituents, antioxidant activities and notoxicity on brine shrimp, with a potential to reducing the risk of tumor causing diseases, thereby confirming folkloric information of the usage of the plant as a remedy for common maladies like tumors that lead to various cancers.From the results it was found that the antimicrobial, antioxidant and antitumor activities showed better results than the standard.  Bergenin has been found to have some antimicrobial, antioxidants and anti-tumor activities.

Key words:  Medicinal plants, pyhtochemistry, anti-tumor, antioxidant activity, chemotherapy.


Nature has provided mankind with a complete store house of remedies to cure most/ all of their ailments [1]. The use of plants in the management and treatment of diseases started with life. In more recent years, with considerable research, it has been found that many plants have medicinal values [2]. The high cost of conventional medicines and their limited availability especially to rural communities in Africa and other developing regions have driven the continued dependence on traditional therapeutics [3]. About 75-90 % of the world population still relies on plants and plant extracts as a source of primary health care [4]. Plants use in traditional médicine, also called phytomedicine are plant-derived medicines that contain chemicals, more usually, mixtures of chemical compounds that act individually or in combination on the human body to prevent disorders and to restore or maintain health [5]. About two (2) decades ago, 3.4 billion people in the developing world were reported to depend on plant based traditional medicines. Owing to poverty, unawareness and unavailability of contemporary health facilities, most people, especially rural dwellers are still compelled to practice traditional medications for the treatment of their day to day illnesses [6]. Traditional medicine is the sum total of knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health, as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illnesses [7]. Traditional medicine has been used for thousands of years with great contributions made by practitioners to human health, particularly as primary health care providers at the community level [7]. With these descriptions, various forms of medicines and therapies such as herbal medicine, massage, homeopathy, mud bath, music therapy, wax bath, reflexology, heat therapy, therapeutic fasting and dieting, spinal manipulation, psychotherapy, placebo effect etc. are elements of traditional medicine. It does show that, a large country of the size of Nigeria, with diverse cultures and traditions, should be rich in traditional medicine and should have eminent and respected traditional healers to take care of the teeming population [8]. Most Nigerians, especially those living in rural areas, do not use orthodox medicine and it is estimated that about 80% of the populace still prefer to solve their health problems consulting traditional healers [9]. Where access to orthodox medicine exists, the rising cost of imported medications and other commodities used for medicine has posed big problems. Beside, many rural communities have great faith in traditional medicine, particularly in the inexplicable aspect as they believe that, it is the wisdom of their fore-fathers which also recognize their socio-cultural and religious background which orthodox medicine seems to neglect [10]. Traditional medicine is the oldest, most tried and tested form of medicine and is as old as man himself [11]. Traditional medicine covers a wide variety of therapies and practices which vary from country to country and region to region. In some countries, it is referred to as “alternative” or “complementary” medicine (CAM) [11]. Plants, especially used in traditional medicine can provide biologically active molecules and lead structures for the development of modified derivatives with enhanced activity and /or reduced toxicity [12]. The small fractions of flowering plants that have so far been investigated have yielded about 120 therapeutic agents of known structures from about 90 species of plants. Some of the useful plant drugs include: vinblastine, vincristine, taxol, artemesinin, digitoxigenin and camptothecin. In some cases, the crude extract of medicinal plants may be used as medicaments. On the other hand, the isolation and identification / purification of the active principles and elucidation of the mechanism of drug action are of paramount importance. Hence, work in both mixture of traditional medicine and single active compounds are very important [13]. With the continuous use of antibiotics, microorganisms have become resistant. In addition to this problem, antibiotics are sometimes associated with adverse effects on host which include hypersensitivity, immunosuppression and allergic reactions [14]. This has created immense clinical problems in the treatment of infectious diseases [15]. The use of medicinal plants in traditional medicine has been recognized and widely practiced. According to the [16], 80% of the world`s populations rely on traditional medicines to meet their health regiments because, plant therapies treat a wide range of substances that can be used to treat chronic and acute infectious diseases.

Despite the claimed ethno medicinal uses of the plants in the treatment of tuberculoses, swelling, diarrhea and to stop bleeding during pregnancy, there is little or no scientific evidence to support the traditional claims and there is no data to standardize the drug for quality control. As a result of this, it becomes extremely important to make an effort towards standardization of the plant as crude drugs and also to establish scientific evidences of their traditional uses as anti-tumor agents. Cancer is one among the dangerous diseases leading to so many deaths worldwide which is without cure, it  accounted for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018 [17]. Medicinal plants have been used traditionally for treatment of cancer, but with unspecified dosages. For instance, the selected plantshave been used traditionally for the treatment of cancer in Lala district Gombi L.G.A Adamawa State but there is no scientific evidence to backup the claim of these traditional users. Therefore these plants were selected for this research to find out their anti-tumor activity in order to provide scientific bases for the use of these plants for their cancer treatment.  Thus, the aim of this work was to phytochemically screen, evaluate their antitumor and visualize their antioxidant activities.


Phytochemical screenings of the plants vary from one place to another, which may be due to geographical variation, climate conditions and soil composition of the area. Thus, it is possible to have different chemical composition of the same plant under research in other areas. The results of phytochemical screening indicated that the plants extracts contain alkaloid, flavonoids phenols, terpenoids alkaloids and other phytochemicals tested. The antimicrobial activity of the extracts might be attributed to the presence of the foresaid secondary metabolites in the extracts. The good zone of inhibition shown by some ethanol extract in Table 3, of the plants might be due to an important part of natural products from plants, biomolecules and secondary metabolites usually exhibits some kind of biological activities. They are widely used in the human therapy, veterinary, agriculture, scientific research and in countless other areas [7]. The usefulness of plant materials medicinally is due to the presence of bioactive constituents such as alkaloids, tannins, flavonoids and phenolic compounds [4]. Alkaloids play some metabolic role and control development in living system. They are also involved in protective function in animals and are used as medicine especially the steroidal alkaloids. Tannins are known to inhibit pathogenic fungi. Flavonoids are known to inhibit the initiation, promotion and progression of tumors [4]. Flavonoids and phenolic compounds in plants have been reported to exert multiple biological effects including antioxidant, free radical scavenging abilities, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenicetc, effects, [29]. Anthraquinones are considered to be one of the most active agents in metastatic breast cancer. The antimicrobial activity of the extracts could be explained by the presence of tannins. The mechanism of action of tannins is based on their ability to bind proteins thereby inhibiting cell protein synthesis [7]. Plant phytochemicals such as phenolics are a major group of compounds acting as primary antioxidants or free radical scavengers [28]. The Phytochemical profiles of the plants investigated, showed the presence of alkaloids, saponins, flavanoids, terpenoids, phenolics and reducing sugar for all the plants . The presence of phenolics and flavonoids demonstrates the plants as potential sources of antioxidants [30]. Antioxidant activities of ethanol extracted from Heamatostaphis barteri and Ximenia americana using various established in vitro systems. Data generated suggest that among the four plant samples (extraction with ethanol) showed significant inhibitory effects on superoxide radical and DPPH with IC50 values of 0.42,0.44 and 0.45, 0.41µg/mL, its reducing power was also the strongest among the four samples. These in vitro results, establish the clear possibility that plants extracts have very  active components and  could be used as effective ingredient in health or functional food to reduce oxidative stress. The brine shrimp test results indicated that all the plant extracts tested had LC50 values lower than 1000 μg/mL which suggests that they are practically nontoxic. As traditional medicines, most of the extracts are prepared as decoctions, which, in a way are mirrored on the ethanol extracts, the results of which suggest that the way they are used poses no threat of acute toxicity as opined by this study and the work of Meyer et al., 1982. All of the extracts, including Heamatostaphisbarteri (LC50 23.31μg/mL), and Ximenia americana (LC5086.57μg/mL) are mildly toxic and probably have no obvious danger of outright toxicity during acute exposure. However extracts from these plants used as traditional medicines are unlikely to have any ill effects on patients as they are not on the highly toxic category. Some brine shrimp results that are already available [31] provide a circumstantial evidence that plant extracts with LC50 values below 1000 μg/ml have a likelihood of yielding anticancer compounds. This corroboration is demonstrated by Brideliacathartica [32], Croton macrostachys [32]. In  a 2004 study using brine shrimps, Phyllanthusenglerigave an LC50 of 0.47 μg/ml [32], and recently the plant yielded englerin A, a selective anticancer compound against kidney cancer cells [9], which provided further corroborative evidence on the potential of brine shrimp test to predict the presence of anticancer compounds in plant extracts. A white amorphous solid was obtained from the VLC of ethyl acetate crude extract of Heamatostaphis barteri, TLC of the solid gave a single dark spot (Rf = 23 i.e. 0.23 x100) when the plate was sprayed with 10 % sulphuric acid in methanol and heated at 120 oC. This is suitable for detection of most polar compounds. The solid melted at a temperature of 237–240 oC. A blue black colouration obtained from FeCl3 test suggested that the white solid could be galloyl tannin [33]. Proton NMR spectrum (Table 4) showed two phenolic- OH downfield signals at δH (9.75, 8.47) as singlets; three hydroxyl signals at δH (5.65, 5.45, 3.86), all singlets, which suggested presence of an aromatic and aliphatic groups in the compound. Seven oxymethine signals (at δH3.85, 3.65, 3.44, 3.21, 4.99, 3.57, 4.02) (d, dd and ddd) were also observed from the spectrum which corresponded to signals due to H-11, H-4, H-11, H-3, H-10b, H-2 and H-4a, respectively. These signals are similar to those reported by [27] for bergenin. The positions of these protons were confirmed by analysis of 1H-1H COSY and HSQC spectra. In addition, two singlet signals at δH3.78 and δH6.99 were assigned to a methoxy group (-OCH3) and an aromatic proton (H-7), respectively, in accordance to [34]. 13C-NMR spectrum (Table 4.11) showed a methoxy and a lactone carbon signals at δC60.3 and δC164.3 (C-6), respectively. The remaining twelve signals were characteristic of carbons from a glucosyl unit and an aromatic nucleus [34]. These data were comparable to those published for bergenin by [27] and [26]. HSQC spectrum showed the following correlations between C and H atoms: δCH; 3.57, 82.3 (CH aliphatic, C-2); 3.21, 71.2 (CH aliphatic, C-3); 3.65, 74.2 (CH, aliphatic, C-4); 4.02, 80.3 (CH aliphatic, C-4a); 6.99, 110.2 (CH aromatic, C-7); 4.98, 72.6 (CH aliphatic, C-10b); 3.85 and 3.44, 61.7 (CH2 aliphatic, C-11) and 3.78, 60.3 (-OCH3). The HSQC correlations confirmed that only one proton (δH 6.99, H-7) was attached to the aromatic carbon (δC110.2, C-7). HSQC also revealed correlations typical of an aliphatic nucleus. A correlation typical of anomeric proton (δH4.98, H-10b) and carbon (δC72.6, C-10b) was also observed. This further suggested the presence of an aromatic and sugar nucleus [35]. It was evident from the HMBC spectrum that the aromatic proton signal at δH6.99 (H-7) correlated to a carbonyl carbon at δC 164.3 (C-6) and two oxygenic aromatic carbons at δC; 141.3 (C-9) and 151.9 (C-8). The aromatic proton (H-7) also correlated to a tertiary aromatic carbon at δC116.6 (C-10a). Therefore, a carbonyl group could be attached at C-6a that is ortho to the carbon bearing the only aromatic proton. Furthermore, the methoxy proton signal at δH 3.78 correlated to an aromatic carbon at δC141.3 (C-9), thus implying that, the methoxy group could be attached on the aromatic ring at C-9 which was meta to C-7 but para to C-6a- bearing the benzoyl carbon (C-6, δC 118.6). It was also noted from HMBC spectrum that H-10b, δH4.99 (anomeric proton) correlated to one oxygenic aromatic carbon at δC148.6 (C-10) and two other aromatic carbons at δC116.6 (C-10a) and δC118.6 (C-6a) [34]. The later (C-6a) was observed to correlate to H-4a (δC4.02) which suggested that the sugar unit was C-C joined at C-10a of the aromatic ring via anomeric carbon (δC 72.6, C-10b) [34]. The downfield signal of H-4a (δH4.02) appeared to be higher than those of other sugar protons except the anomeric proton (δH 4.99). This suggested that C-4a (δC 80.3) could be linked to C-6 (carbonyl carbon- electron withdrawing) through ethereal oxygen in a cyclic ester (lactone) formation.In conclusion all of the extracts of the four plants tested are none toxic. Ethanol extracts testedhave LC50 values that suggest a remote possibility that they may yield cancer cell line active compounds. Thus, most of the extracts of the plants tested are likely to be innocuous on short term use.


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CITE AS: Abel A., Mahoud S., Adamu M. and C.T Agber (2023). Anti-Tumor Activities/Alternative Therapy of Some Selected Nigerian Medicinal Plants. IDOSR JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH 8(3) 152-164.