Medicinal Plants as a Source of Antioxidants
Sushil Chandra Sati,
Presently, there has been an amplified interest worldwide to identify antioxidant compounds which are pharmacologically effective and have low or no side effects for use in preventive medicine and the food industry. Plants produce significant amount of antioxidants such as flavonoids, phenolics and polyphenolics (condensed and hydrolysable tannins) to prevent the oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species. Ayurveda, Unani Chinese and other traditional medical systems, provide substantial lead to find active and therapeutically useful antioxidant compounds from plants. Considering the growing interest in assessing the antioxidant capacity of natural products the phytochemistry of plants having antioxidant activity has been reported.
Received: February 04, 2010;
Accepted: March 28, 2010;
Published: July 17, 2010
Life on earth survives only due to presence of oxygen. Oxygen gives us energy
by oxidation of food which is essential for living. During this process highly
reactive and harmful oxygen species are also generated which can damage living
organisms. Organisms contain a complex network of antioxidant molecules and
enzymes that work together to prevent oxidative damage of cellular components
such as DNA, proteins and lipids (Sies, 1997; Vertuani
et al., 2004; Nicholls and Budd, 2000; Shirwaikar
et al., 2004; Halliwell et al., 1992).
In general, we can say that these antioxidants either prevent these reactive
oxygen species being formed or remove them before they can damage the cellular
components. The active oxygen species create hydrogen peroxide (H2O2),
hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and free radicals such as hydroxyl radical (●OH)
and superoxide anions (O2¯) (Valko et
al., 2007). These reactive oxygen species are generated during the sequential
reduction of molecular oxygen. The addition of one electron to O2
yields the superoxide radical (●O2¯), which
on further reduction gives hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a
divalent oxygen reduction product. Trivalent oxygen reduction occurs by reaction
of H2O2 with ●O2¯ to
produce the hydroxyl radical (●OH). The reaction rate of formation
of ●OH is enhanced in presence of metal catalyst (Fe+3)
via the Haber-Weiss reaction (Haber and Weiss, 1934)
(Table 1). Besides ●OH formation, experimentally
induced interactions between H2O2 and iron chelates may
also lead to the production of the reactive iron peroxocomplex and ferryl ion
(Rush and Koppenol, 1986; Winterbourn,
1987). However, their role in human and microbial physiology is basically
Although most investigations have focused on ●OH formation
by the Haber-Weiss mechanism, evidence also exists for the formation of ●OH
from ●O2¯ mediated reduction of hypochlorous
acid (HOCl) (Candeias et al., 1993; Long
and Bielski, 1980; Okolow-Zubkowska and Hill, 1982;
Ramos et al., 1992). HOCl is generated by the
interaction of H2O2 with phagocyte-derived peroxidases
is itself a powerful oxidant.
These reactive oxygen species are extremely reactive and initiate the chemical chain reactions with biological molecules. Due to these chain reactions the cell may function feebly or get damaged such as lipid peroxidation or oxidation of DNA or proteins (Fig. 1).
There is abundant evidence to connect free radicals in the development of degenerative
diseases (Huong et al., 1998; Haraguchi
et al., 1997). Active oxygen species (or reactive oxygen species)
and free radical-mediated reactions are involved in degenerative or pathological
processes such as aging (Yagi, 1987; Harman,
1982; Ames et al., 1993; Harman,
1995), cancer, coronary heart disease and alzheimers disease (Ames,
1983; Gey, 1990; Smith et
al., 1996; Diaz et al., 1997). In addition
to medicinal uses of antioxidants these compounds also possess lots of industrial
applications such as preservatives in food and cosmetics and put off the degradation
of rubber and gasoline. In food industries free radicals are found to be responsible
for lipid oxidation that is a major determinant in the deterioration of foods
during processing and storage (Nunez-Delicado et al.,
1997; Chen and Ho, 1997). Due to this fact considerable
interest has been shown to the addition of antioxidants in food and biological
systems to scavenge free radicals.
|| Natural antioxidant
Antioxidants which are widely used in the food industries since the beginning
of this century are synthetic materials such as Butylated Hydroxyl Anisole (BHA),
ethoxyquin, metabisulfite and Butylated Hydroxyl Toluene (BHT). The toxicological
and nutrition studies showed that use of these synthetic antioxidants are toxic
and harmful for human being, therefore the use of these synthetic antioxidant
has started to be restricted and substituted by natural antioxidants (Bronen,
1975; Ito et al., 1983; Grice,
1986; Imida et al., 1983). Recently, various
studies and research articles showed that some secondary metabolites such as
flavonoids, phenolics and polyphenolics (condensed and hydrolysable tannins)
demonstrate the potent antioxidative effectivity (Hagerman
et al., 1998). Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols and tocotrienols
(vitamin E), melatonin and glutathione (Fig. 2) which are
widely found in plant kingdom possess potent antioxidant properties. These plant
materials may provide safe replacement for harmful and toxic synthetic antioxidants.
Various studies indicated that there is an inverse relationship between the
dietary intake of antioxidant rich foods and the incidence of human diseases
(Sies, 1993; Halliwell, 1997).
There are many epidemiological results revealing an association between people
who have a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and a decrease in the risk
of cardiovascular diseases and certain forms of cancer. The natural antioxidants
are beneficial for our health without any side effect and scavenge the free
radical immediately after intake through metabolic activities. Thus, natural
anti-oxidants are suitable substitute for synthetic ones. Pathology and mechanism
of action of some representative group of antioxidant compounds is summarized
in Table 2 and structure of some natural antioxidants are
shown in Fig. 2.
Objective of the Review
Medicinal plants, as a group, comprise approximately 8000 species and account
for about 50% of all the higher flowering plant species of India. India is one
of the richest with vast resource of medicinal and aromatic plants. It constitutes
11% of total known world flora having medicinal property. Ayurveda has been
in practice in India for more than 3500 years and the first recorded book on
Ayurvedic medicine was Charaka Samhita dates back to 600 BC. The traditional
healers have used this resource since time immemorial for the benefit of mankind.
In this review article, we have summarized the plant species showing potent
antioxidant activity with their family, active principles and traditional medicinal
uses on the basis of the survey of literature (Table 3).
|| Mechanism of action of various natural antioxidants
|| Plant species showing potent antioxidant activity with their
family, traditional medicinal uses and active principles
Forty four plants have been reviewed for their antioxidant properties. Flavanoids and tannins are potant antioxidants followed by ascorbic acid and alkaloids (Fig. 2). The mechanism of action of some of the identified natural antioxidants is known (Table 2) but as the active ingredients in many plants extract possessing antioxidant properties remains to be identified. The review clearly indicates that there is a great possibility of finding potent antioxidants of plant origin.
The authors pay their sincere thanks to UGC New Delhi, India [Grant No. F.4-3/2006(BSR)/11-84/2008(BSR)], for financial assistance.
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