We use indigenous natural herbs in day to day life as a tradition to treat diseases such as common cold, cough, fever and more. We know by the experience that we get healed without any side effects by using indigenous natural herbs. Actually, what is the real power of natural herbs to cure our diseases and to promote long term health? Cannot they used in treatments for other diseases which challenging our lives? This kind of questions will be raised to a person only who has understood the value of our indigenous natural herbs. That is why The National Institute of Fundamental Studies (NIFS), Kandy took an initiative to understand the power of indigenous natural herbs of curing diseases through scientific techniques.
With that goal in mind, Nutritional Biochemistry research unit of NIFS headed by Dr.Ruvini Liyanage and her research team started studying the functional properties of ten commonly consumed medicinal plants in Sri Lanka. They were Belimal(Aegle marmelos flowers), Iramusu(Hemidesmus indicus), Ranawara(Cassia auriculata), Walkottamalli(Scoparia dulcis), Nelli(Phyllanthus emblica), Rasakinda(Tinospora cordifolia), Polpala(Aerva Lanata), Babila(Sida alnifolia), Beligeta(Aegle marmelos tender fruits) and Venivel(Coscinium fenestratum).
Among functional properties of plants, antioxidant activity plays a major role in curing diseases. Plants get this antioxidant activity from secondary metabolites produced by them. Among those secondary metabolites, Phenolic compounds and Flavonoids are abundant. In our body, oxidative stress is generated due to various reasons such as bad life habits, unhealthy food habits, and mental stress and by free radicals entered to our body. Due to oxidative stress, tissues in the body organs get damaged and it is caused for various diseases from minor conditions such as common cold, fever and cough to sever conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart diseases.
Indigenous natural herbs that we use in ayurvedic medicine are rich in antioxidant activity which can fight against oxidative stress and cure damaged organs. In this study, research team used water extracts of above mentioned natural herbs by mimicking preparation of drinks in ayurvedic treatments. Then the extracts were analyzed for antioxidant capacity. According to the results, Nelli, Ranawara, Belimal, Beligeta and Walkoththamalli were high in anti-oxidant capacity. Moreover, Antioxidant capacity of Nelli was the top among all herbal plants analyzed.
|Herbal Plant||Total Phenolic content
|Total Flavonoid content ≈ (CE/g)|
Table 1. Total Phenolic and Flavonoid content of herbs
Furthermore, the research group analyzed herbs for α-amylase inhibitory activity. α-amylase is an enzyme that breakdown starch in the food that we eat into disaccharides such as maltose and maltotriose. By inhibiting the activity of that enzyme, patients with type 2 diabetes can control blood glucose level. The results of the analysis revealed that Nelli and Ranawara were the highest in α-amylase inhibitory activity
Through their research work, research group was successfully able to prove the significance of chemical compounds present in indigenous natural herbs that have been used for decades in treatments. One of the major breakthrough in this research was the discovery of higher antioxidant and α-amylase inhibitory activity of Nelli. Acording to Dr. Ruvini this special chemical composition of Nelli gives it the potential to be used in treatments for many non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases which are now big burdens to Sri Lanka. And also, this explains why Nelli has been used as a major ingredient of ayurvedic medicines from our ancient times.
Unfortunately, at present we do not get maximum benefits of Nelli and many other herbs found in Sri Lanka. As an example one Nelli per day can fulfill your daily need of antioxidants to protect your body. In the past, people used drinks made by Ranawara, Belimal, Beligata and Walkoththamalli which are rich in antioxidant activity. So people in the country should be encouraged to get maximum profits of those valuable natural herbs that are freely available through out the country for their healthy living.
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