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Turkish folklore & “healing” plants

Dried fruits of Berberis crataegina (Berberidaceae) have been frequently consumed in Turkish cuisine and a selection of Turkish scientists based at Yeditepe University and Ankara University decided to investigate some of the ‘healing properties’ linked to this fruit and evaluate any possible risks.

The researchers involved with this investigation performed a literature review and found that the Berberis species (Berberidaceae) were linked to a number of healing effects: spasmolytic, cholagogue, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, antidepressant, and potent scolicidal (toxic to the tapeworm)

Within Turkey, there are four naturally occurring species of Berberis. Among these species, B. crataegina DC. and its hybrids are widely distributed.  Its black fruits are often consumed as food and medically used as a diuretic or expectorant. In addition, the roots and root barks of this plant have been used in Turkish folk medicine against various ailments including: jaundice, haemorrhoids, dysuria and fever.

The Turkish researchers also looked further afield and learnt that the aqueous extract of bark is reported to be used to treat rheumatism and fever in Azerbaijan folk medicine and Bulgaria. In Uzbekistan, condensed aqueous extract of B. oblonga root is reported to be prescribed for the effective treatment of lumbago, while in Nepal, the condensed aqueous extract of B. asiatica Roxb. root bark is reported to be used orally against fever.  In Pakistan, powdered roots of B. lycium Royle are used orally with milk to treat rheumatic and muscular pains. And finally, the researchers stated that: “according to a recent report, the fruit paste of B. crataegina has been used to increase stamina and in particular to prevent cardiovascular dysfunctions in Northeastern Black Sea region of Turkey”

Total phenolic, flavonoid and proanthocyanidin contents and antioxidant capacity of the methanolic fruit extract were evaluated through several in vitro assays. The cytotoxic and genotoxic effects of B. crataegina fruit extract were also assessed in both cervical cancer cell line (HeLa) and human peripheral blood lymphocytes.

Comprehensive method details relating to the comet assay are found easily within this Open Access Publication.   The comet slides were stained with 50 μL (20 μg/mL) ethidium bromide and covered with a coverslip. Then the slides were viewed using a fluorescence microscope (Leica DM1000) equipped with an excitation filter of 515-560 nm. A single scorer randomly selected and captured 100 cells using the Perceptive Instruments Comet Assay IV analysis system. Tail % intensity was selected as the image analysis parameter. Two slides were prepared for each single sample. The results were reported as the mean of both slides.

The researchers concluded during this study that the methanolic extract of B. crataegina fruits possessed potent total antioxidant activity.  They believe that it is able to scavenge stable radicals like DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl), prevent ferric induced oxidative stress and has a good activity against lipid peroxidation.

It was also concluded by the scientists that the fruit extract can be a potent protective nutrient against oxidative DNA damage. However, they declare that the results of in vitro antioxidant assays may sometimes conflict with the results obtained from in vivo models. Therefore, they suggest for future continuation of this investigation, in vivo tests would be appropriate.


For more information, please refer to the original publication:

The fruit extract of Berberis crataegina DC: exerts potent antioxidant activity and protects DNA integrity

Mohammad Charehsaz, Hande Sipahi, Engin Celep, Aylin Üstündağ, Özge Cemiloğlu Ülker, Yalçın Duydu, Ahmet Aydın and Erdem Yesilada

Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 2015, 23:24