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Year : 2009  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 259-263 Table of Contents     

Some medicinal plants as natural anticancer agents

1 Officer-In-Charge of Rinder Pest, (MP Govt. Animal Husbandry / Veterinary Department), Jabalpur Division, Jabalpur, India
2 Senior Research Fellow of CSIR, Department of Zoology & Biotechnology, Model Science College, Jabalpur, MP, India

Date of Web Publication24-Feb-2010

Correspondence Address:
Govind Pandey
Officer-In-Charge of Rinder Pest, (MP Govt. Animal Husbandry / Veterinary Department), Jabalpur Division, Jabalpur
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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India is the largest producer of medicinal plants and is rightly called the "Botanical garden of the World". The medicinal plants, besides having natural therapeutic values against various diseases, also provide high quality of food and raw materials for livelihood. Considerable works have been done on these plants to treat cancer, and some plant products have been marketed as anticancer drugs, based on the traditional uses and scientific reports. These plants may promote host resistance against infection by re-stabilizing body equilibrium and conditioning the body tissues. Several reports describe that the anticancer activity of medicinal plants is due to the presence of antioxidants in them. In fact, the medicinal plants are easily available, cheaper and possess no toxicity as compared to the modern (allopathic) drugs. Hence, this review article contains 66 medicinal plants, which are the natural sources of anticancer agents.

Keywords: Cancer, medicinal plants, natural anticancer agents, antioxidants

How to cite this article:
Pandey G, Madhuri S. Some medicinal plants as natural anticancer agents. Phcog Rev 2009;3:259-63

How to cite this URL:
Pandey G, Madhuri S. Some medicinal plants as natural anticancer agents. Phcog Rev [serial online] 2009 [cited 2019 Aug 19];3:259-63. Available from: http://www.phcogrev.com/text.asp?2009/3/6/259/59525

  Introduction Top

Cancer (malignant tumour) is an abnormal growth and proliferation of cells. It is a frightful disease because the patient suffers pain, disfigurement and loss of many physiological processes. Cancer may be uncontrollable and incurable, and may occur at any time at any age in any part of the body. It is caused by a complex, poorly understood interplay of genetic and environmental factors [1],[2] . It continues to represent the largest cause of mortality in the world and claims over 6 millions. Cancer kills annually about 3500 per million population around the world. A large number of chemopreventive agents are used to cure various cancers, but they produce side effects that prevent their extensive usage. Although more than 1500 anticancer drugs are in active development with over 500 of the drugs under clinical trials, there is an urgent need to develop much effective and less toxic drugs [3] .

The plant kingdom plays an important role in the life of humans and animals. India is the largest producer of medicinal plants and is rightly called the "Botanical garden of the World". Medicinal plants have been stated [4] to comprise about 8000 species and account for approximately 50% of all the higher flowering plant species of India. In other words, there are about 400 families of the flowering plants; at least 315 are represented by India. Medicinal properties of few such plants have been reported but a good number of plants still used by local folklore are yet to be explored. Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani systems of medicine provide good base for scientific exploration of medicinally important molecules from nature. The rediscovery of Ayurveda is a sense of redefining it is modern medicines. Emerging concept of combining Ayurveda with advanced drug discovery programme is globally acceptable. Traditional medicine has a long history of serving peoples all over the world. The ethnobotany provides a rich resource for natural drug research and development. In recent years, the use of traditional medicine information on plant research has again received considerable interest. The Western use of such information has also come under increasing scrutiny and the national and indigenous rights on these resources have become acknowledged by most academic and industrial researchers [5] .

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about three quarters of the world's population currently use herbs and other forms of traditional medicines to treat diseases. Traditional medicines are widely used in India. Even in USA, use of plants and phytomedicines has increased dramatically in the last two decades [6] . It has been also reported [7] that more than 50% of all modern drugs in clinical use are of natural products, many of which have been recognized to have the ability to include apoptosis in various cancer cells of human origin.

  Some Anticancer Medicinal Plants Top

With the above background, this review article enumerates 66 medicinal plants [Table 1] &[Table 2] possessing anticancer properties [3],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27],[28],[29],[30],[31],[32],[33],[34],[35],[36],[37],[38],[39],[40],[41],[42],[43],[44] , and are used against various types of cancer. The chemopreventive potential of an 80% hydroalcoholic extract (50 and 180 mg/kg/day for 14 days) of Andrographis paniculata has been reported [8] against chemotoxicity, including carcinogenicity. The authors observed the modulatory influence of A. paniculata on hepatic and extrahepatic carcinogen metabolizing enzymes (viz. cytochrome P450), antioxidant enzymes, glutathione (GST) content, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and lipid peroxidation in Swiss albino mice. Some other workers [9] also reported the anticancer and immunostimulatory activities of A. paniculata.

Azadirachta indica (Neem) has been used in buccal carcinogenesis, skin carcinogenesis, prostate cancer, mammary carcinogenesis, gastric carcinogenesis, Ehrlich carcinoma and B16 melanoma. Dietary neem flowers caused a marked increase in glutathione S-transferase (GST) activity in the liver, while resulting in a significant reduction in the activities of some hepatic P450-dependent monooxygenases. These results strongly indicate that neem flowers may have chemopreventive potential. Young animals were fed with AIN-76 purified diets containing either 10-12.5% ground freeze-dried neem flowers for 1 week prior to, during, and for 1 week after the administration of each carcinogen. Interestingly, it was found that neem flowers resulted in a marked reduction of the incidence of mammary gland (about 35.2%) and liver tumours (61.7% and 80.1% for benign and malignant tumours, respectively). Furthermore, the multiplicity of tumours per rat was also lower in the neem flower groups, i.e. those for mammary gland tumours and benign and malignant liver tumours were reduced to 44.0%, 87.9% and 88.9%, respectively. These results clearly demonstrated that neem flowers contain some chemopreventive agents capable of inhibiting liver and mammary gland carcinogenesis in rats [10] . Administration of ethanolic neem leaf extract (ENLE) inhibited DMBA­induced hamster buccal pouch carcinogenesis, as revealed by the absence of neoplasm. These results suggest that the chemopreventive effect of ENLE may be mediated by induction of apoptosis [11] . The modulatory effect of neem leaf with garlic on hepatic and blood oxidant-antioxidant status may play a key role in preventing cancer development at extrahepatic sites [12] . The ethanolic extract of neem has been shown to cause cell death of prostate cancer cells (PC­3) by inducing apoptosis, as evidenced by a dose-dependent increase in DNA fragmentation and a decrease in cell viability [13] .

Camellia sinensis (Tea) is one of the most popular beverages in the world. The consumption of tea has been associated with a decreased risk of developing cancers of the ovary [14] , oral cavity [15] , colon [16] , stomach [17] and prostate [18] . This beneficial health effect has been attributed to the catechins (flavonoids) in tea. Their biological benefits are due to their strong antioxidant and antiangiogenic activity as well as their potential to inhibit cell proliferation and modulate carcinogen metabolism [19],[20] . Citrus limon (Nibu) fruit contains flavonoid, flavone, limonoid, limonene, nobiletin and tangeretin. The flavonoid, tangeretin and nobiletin are potent inhibitors of tumor cell growth and can activate the detoxifying P450 enzyme system. Limonoids inhibit tumour formation by stimulating the GST enzyme. The limonene (a terpenoid) also possesses anticancer activity. Nibu fruit is used for inhibition of human breast cancer cell proliferation and delaying of mammary tumorigenesis. It is also used in metastasis and leukemia [21],[22] .

The derivatives (viz. chlorogenic, dicaffeoylquinic and tricaffeoylquinic acids) of caffeoylquinic acid contained in Ipomoea batatas tubers (Shakarkand) have potential cancer chemoprotective effect [23],[24],[25],[26] . 4-Ipomeanol (a furanoterpenoid) isolated from I. batatas has been found to exhibit anticancer activity against non-small cell lung cancer lines [27] . Further, leaves of Martynia annusa [28] , 0bark of Prunus spp. [28] , and stem of Rhaphidophora pertusa [29] have been used against neck, lung and abdominal cancers, respectively.

It has been reported that medicinal plants may promote host resistance against infection by re-stabilizing body equilibrium and conditioning the body tissues [1] . Several reports [2],[3],[41] describe that the anticancer activity of these plants is due to antioxidants such as vitamins (A, C, E), carotene, enzymes (e.g., superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathion peroxidase), minerals (e.g., Cu, Mn, Se and Zn), polysaccharides, polyphenols (e.g., ellagic acid, gallic acid and tannins), flavonoids (e.g., quercetin, anthocyanins, catechins, flavones, flavonones and isoflavones), lignins, xanthones, etc. Many medicinal plants mentioned in [Table 1] and [Table 2] contain several of these antioxidants.

  Conclusion Top

Considerable works have been done on the medicinal plants to treat cancer, and some plant products have been marketed as anticancer drugs. These plants may promote host resistance against infection by re-stabilizing body equilibrium and conditioning the body tissues. Several reports describe that the anticancer activity of these plants is due to presence of antioxidants (viz., vitamins, carotene, enzymes, minerals, polysaccharides, polyphenols, flavonoids, lignins, xanthones, etc.). Many medicinal plants described in this article contain several of these antioxidants. Thus, the various combinations of the active components of these plants after isolation and identification can be made and have to be further assessed for their synergistic effects. Preparation of standardized dose and dosage regimen may play a critical role in the remedy of cancer. The rate with which cancer is progressing, it seems to have an urgent and effective effort for making good health of humans as well as animals. There is a broad scope to derive the potent anticancer agents from medicinal plants, which need thorough research.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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