BACKGROUND : Inflammation is a common risk factor in the pathogenesis of conditions such as infections, arthritis,
type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity and cancer. An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants used traditionally to treat
inflammation and related disorders such as pain, arthritis and stomach aches in southern Africa led to the selection
of 25 plant species used in this study.
METHODS : The antioxidant activities of acetone extracts were determined by measuring the free radical scavenging
activity and ferric reducing ability, respectively. The anti-inflammatory activities of the extracts were determined by
measuring the inhibitory effect of the extracts on the activities of the pro-inflammatory enzyme, lipoxygenase and
inducible nitric oxide synthase.
RESULTS : Extracts of Peltophorum africanum had good antioxidant activity with IC50 values of 4.67 ± 0.31 μg/mL and
7.71 ± 0.36 μg/mL compared to that of the positive control ascorbic acid (2.92 ± 0.14 μg/mL and 13.57 ± 0.44 μg/mL),
using the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) scavenging and 2,2′-azinobis (3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulphonic acid
(ABTS) methods, respectively. The metabolism of linoleic acid to leukotriene derivatives by 15-lipoxygenase (15-LOX)
was also inhibited by the crude acetone extracts of Peltophorum africanum (IC50 = 12.42 μg/mL), Zanthoxylum
capense (IC50= 14.92 μg/mL) compared to the positive control quercetin (IC50 = 8.75 μg/mL). There was a poor
correlation between the flavonoid content and 15-LOX inhibition by the extracts (R2 = 0.05), indicating that flavonoids
are not involved in LOX inhibition. Extracts of Clausena anisata, at a concentration of 6.25 μg/mL inhibited nitric oxide
production by RAW 264.7 macrophage cell lines in vitro by 96 %. The extracts of Zanthoxylum capense were the least
cytotoxic (IC50 > 1000 μg/mL) when the extract toxicity was determined against Vero (African green Monkey) kidney
CONCLUSION : Some plant species used traditionally to treat pain have reasonable anti-inflammatory activity and
flavonoids are probably not involved in this process.