Native Pear Exudates Offer Protection Against Dental, Skin Problems Features - Natural Health -Thursday, 15 July 2010 00:00 BY CHUKWUMA MUANYA http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/inde...-problems-&catid=44:natural-health&Itemid=599 Nigerian researchers suggest that extracts of the native pear could be used in making toothpastes, cosmetic products and bone strengthening formulations. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes. IT is usually eaten in Nigeria with corn. They go hand in hand. The fruit is oval in shape and matures within the months of May and July. The fruit pulp (the fleshy parts of the body) is boiled, roasted or eaten raw as a dessert fruit. The pulp may also be boiled or roasted to form a kind of butter. The season for native pear, local pear or rather African pear is here again! It is usually eaten as snack, but recent scientific findings suggest they might provide the next best toothpaste and skin care product. Indeed, researchers have found why the exudates of native pear are much sought after in traditional medicine for the treatment of wounds and parasitic skin disease. They say exudates of native pear can also be used as a pharmaceutical agent in the formulation of toothpaste. Scientific evaluation of the essential oil of native pear shows it has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Commonly called African pear, native pear or bush butter, Dacryodes edulis belongs to the plant family Burseraceae. It called safoutier in French. In Nigeria, it is ibe in Kalabari; boshu in Bokyi; orunmwun in Edo (indicating something edible); ube in Ibo; orumu in Urhobo; and elemi in Yoruba. The local pear grows mostly in the tropics. It grows up to 18 metres in height and exudes an odoriferous gummy substance called resins or exudates from injured or excised portion of the stem. It is cultivated in most rural communities by the peasant farmers for its fruits. The fruit is red, turning blue-black when ripe with unpleasant turpentine smell. Resins or exudates from some species are used in African medicine. The stem bark yields a resin or exudates, which is also primitive oil. The resin is reported to be medicinal and is applied to cure skin diseases such as ringworms, craw-craw and wounds. They are also used to treat parasitic organism like ticks and jiggers. Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that are often found in tall grass where they will wait to attach to a passing host. Ticks are external parasites, living by on the blood of mammals, birds, and occasionally reptiles and amphibians. Ticks are vectors of a number of diseases. Jiggers are any of various small, six-legged larvae of mites (insect-like organisms) of the family Trombiculidae, parasitic on insects, humans, and other vertebrates. The jigger's bite produces a wheal that is usually accompanied by severe itching. Previous studies indicate that the exudates are used in food and cosmetic industry as thickeners flavors, stabilisers and as emulsifying agents in drugs and cosmetics. Exudates from D. edulis when applied in lotions and creams stabilize emulsion, add smooth to the skin and form protective coating on the skin. The exudates are used in traditional medicine as antibacterial agent and as incense. It is believed that the smoke and sweet smell from the exudates when burning wades off evil spirit. However, according to a new study, phytochemical screening of the plant showed that they contain the presence of bioactive compounds comprising saponins, alkaloids, tannins, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. The carbohydrates, lipids and protein content were 77.4278.90 per cent, 2.024.185 per cent and 16.6318.38 per cent respectively. The researchers found that the exudates are a good source of water-soluble vitamins; ascorbic acid, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. Both plants exudates are good sources of minerals such as calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), phosphorus (P), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu) and manganese (Mn) while chromium (Cr) and cobalt (Co) were trace. The study is titled "Evaluation of the chemical composition of African pear (Dacryodes Edulis) and Raphia palm wine tree (Raphia hookeri) exudates used in herbal medicine in South Eastern Nigeria." The study by D. E. Okwu and Fred U. Nnamdi of the Department of Chemistry, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, was published in African Journal for Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines in 2008. The researchers wrote: "The enormous concentration of calcium and phosphorus in the exudates is very significant because calcium is known to enhance the qualities of bone and teeth. It is well documented that the surface enamel is more resistant to carries attack than the surface dentine. This is attributed to the content of fluoride and other trace elements such as zinc, copper, iron; cobalt and manganese, which are thought to protect the surface enamel from demineralisation. "However, iron is known to be an important element in human body. It is a component of haemoglobin. It helps in oxygen transport. Iron together with haemoglobin and ferrodoxin play vital roles in man's metabolism. It is worthy of note that magnesium, zinc, sodium, phosphorus and calcium are present in the exudates from R. hookeri and D. edulis. The combination of these elements together with fluoride may have therapeutic, protective and preventive roles in teeth. "Exudates from R. hookeri and D. edulis can be used as a pharmaceutical agent in the formulation of toothpaste. This implies that calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium and other mineral elements are essential components for human health. Mineral deficiencies such as calcium, zinc and iron are the major health problems in developing countries particularly for infants. Zinc or iron deficiency causes poor growth, impaired immune function and consequently delayed mental development. Exudates from R. hookeri and D. edulis can therefore act as mineral supplement. "The vitamin content showed that D. edulis contained 26.40 mg 100g?1 and R. hookeri had 7.04 mg 100g?1 of ascorbic acid. The exudates also contained the B-vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. Deficiency of any of the vitamins can cause widespread clinical symptoms. Lack of ascorbic acid impairs the normal formation of intracellular substances through out the body, including collagen, bone matrix and tooth dentine. A striking pathological changes resulting from this defect is the weakening of the endothelial wall of the capillaries due to a reduction in the amount of intracellular substance. "Consequently, the clinical manifestation of scurvy from mucous membrane of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract, anaemia, pains in the joints and defect in skeletal calcification can be related to the association of ascorbic acid and normal connective tissue metabolism. This function of ascorbic acid also accounts for its requirement for normal wound healing. Ascorbic acid is essential to prevent diseases associated with connective tissue and to improve immune functions." Also, Gabonese researchers in a study published in Journal of Applied Sciences concluded: "These data have provided a wealth of information on the essential oil composition, antioxidant and antibacterial activities of the D. edulis resin. The essential oil is bactericidal for certain strains tested, its antibacterial spectrum is middle and the oil possesses a good antioxidant activity. "D. edulis may help to prevent oxidative damage in the human body, such as lipid peroxidation which is associated with cancer, premature ageing, atherosclerosis and diabetes. In other hand, the essential oil of D. edulis may be used in meat and poultry products to prevent or slow oxidative rancidity of fats that cause browning and deterioration. These results show that the essential oil could be used as a potential natural antioxidant and antibacterial agent." The Nigerian researchers in the study published in African Journal for Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines found that the highest phyto-constituents of plants exudates are the presence of saponins. They wrote: "Saponins are produced by plants to stop the bacterial and fungal attack. Some of the general characteristics of saponins include formation of foams in aqueous solution. Saponins natural tendency to ward off microbes make them good candidates for treating fungal and yeast infections. These compounds serve as natural antibiotics, helping the body to fight infections and microbial invasions. These compounds appear to greatly enhance the effectiveness of certain vaccines. "Plant saponins help humans to fight fungal infections, combat microbes and viruses, boost the effectiveness of certain vaccines and knock out some kinds of tumour cells particularly lung and blood cancers. They also lower blood cholesterol, thereby reducing heart disease. The most outstanding and exciting prospect for saponins is how they inhibit or kill cancer cells. They may also be able to do it without killing normal cells, as is the mode of some cancer fighting drugs. Cancer cells have more cholesterol-type compounds on their membranes than normal cells. Saponins therefore bind cholesterol and thus interfere with cell growth and division. "Other phytochemicals relevant in the pharmaceutical formulations from exudates include tannins, alkaloids and flavonoids. Tannins have astringent properties; hasten the healing of wounds and inflamed mucous membranes. In traditional medicine exudates from D. edulis when applied to open wounds, ringworms and craw-craw caused a significant increase in cell proliferation (wound healing). This suggests that the damaged tissue is effectively provided with nutrients to facilitate healing while undergoing treatment with exudates. This also supported the use of exudates from D. edulis in traditional medicine for the treatment of wounds and parasitic skin disease. "Pure isolated plant alkaloids and their synthetic derivatives are used as a basic medicinal agent for its analgesic, antispasmodic and antibacterial properties. Alkaloids exhibit marked physiological activity when administered to animals. Most of the plants used in the cure of diseases have been reported to contain traces of alkaloids." The researchers said the presence of alkaloids in the exudates from the R. hookeri and D. edulis suggests that the exudates investigated have medicinal properties. The biological functions of flavonoids include protection against allergies, inflammation, free radicals scavenging, platelets aggregation, microbes, ulcers, hepatoxins, viruses and tumours. They wrote: "Quercetin is found to be the most active of the flavonoids reported in literature. Many medicinal plants owe much of their efficacy and activity as a result of their high quercetin content. Quercetin has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity because of their direct inhibition of several initial process of inflammation. For example, it inhibits both the manufacture and release of histamine and other allergy inflammatory mediators. "Furthermore, quercetin exerts potent antioxidant activity and vitamin C sparing action. Quercetin forms the glycosides quercetrin and rutin together with rhamnose and rutinose respectively. Quercetin may have positive effects in combating or helping to prevent cancer, arthritis, cataracts, allergies or inflammations as well as respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma. "Phenols protect plants from oxidative damage and perform the same functions for humans. The outstanding phytonutrient feature of phenols is their ability to block specific enzymes that cause inflammations. They also modify the prostaglandin pathways, thereby protecting platelets from clumping." According to The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa, Vol. 1, "the bark is aromatic and on injury yields a resin, which is used as pitch on the inner surfaces of calabashes and for mending earthenware. It can be burnt as a primitive lamp-oil or bush-candle. "The resin has medicinal use in Nigeria for treatment of parasitic skin diseases, jiggers. Pulped-up bark is used in Gabon as a wound cicatrisant (to heal or become healed by the formation of scar tissue). In Congo, a bark-decoction is used for gargles and mouth-washes, for tonsillitis; it is taken powdered with maleguetta pepper (alligator pepper) as an anti-dysenteric, and for anaemia (a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells), spitting blood and as an emmenagogue (a drug or agent that induces or hastens menstrual flow); with palm-oil it is applied topically to relieve general pains and stiffness and to treat cutaneous (skin) conditions. Root-bark in decoction is taken for leprosy. "The leaves are eaten raw with kolanut as an antemetic (a drug that is effective against vomiting and nausea) in Congo. Leaf-sap is instilled into the ear for ear trouble, and a leaf-decoction is prepared as a vapour-bath for feverish stiffness with headache. The leaves in Gabon yield a dye. "The principal value of the tree lies in its fruit, which is about seven centimetres long by three centimetres in diameter. The leathery shelled stone is surrounded by a pulpy butyraceous pericarp about five millimetres thick, which is the portion eaten, either raw or cooked to form a sort of butter.' It has a mild smell of turpentine and is oily with palmitic acid 36.5 per cent, oleic acid 33.9 per cent, linoleic acid 24.0 per cent and stearic acid 5.5 per cent. The pulp is also rich in vitamins. The seed kernel is also rich in oil of the same fatty acids and approximately in similar amounts."