|Hawaiian plant may be effective in treating tuberculosis
The Hawaiian plant Morinda citrifolia (Indian mulberry), known as noni
among Hawaiian natives, may be effective in combating Mycobacterium
tuberculosis, the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB). Scientists at the
2000 International Congress of Pacific Basic Societies in Honolulu, Hawaii,
reported on studies that identified certain active chemicals in the noni plant
that were effective in eliminating the TB bacteria in the laboratory setting.
The noni plant is a small evergreen shrub whose leaves have been used in
traditional cultures to treat respiratory conditions, including tuberculosis. It
is found in the Pacific Islands, Polynesia, Asia, and Australia. Interestingly,
these are areas with a high incidence of TB.
The conventional medical treatment for TB consists of a regimen of
antibiotics taken over the course of several months. Effective treatment
requires strict adherence to the treatment plan. The drugs used to treat TB may
cause side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, hepatitis in some, drug
interactions, hearing loss. But for the time being, antibiotics remain the only
proven effective treatment for TB. Nevertheless, scientists continue to search
for effective alternative approaches.
Researchers from the Philippines have tested a variety of plants, including
the noni, for antimicrobial activity in the presence of the tuberculosis
bacteria. These tests were designed to determine whether chemicals in plants
such as the noni could destroy the bacteria that cause tuberculosis. What the
researchers found was that extracts from the noni plant killed 89% of the
tuberculosis bacteria, which compares favorably with one of the currently
prescribed drugs for TB, rifampicin. The researchers identified the active
compounds in the noni plant to be plant steroids, or phytosterols.
The significance of these research results is two-fold. First, the
phytosterols in the noni plant may help resolve the serious health problem of
antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, and increasingly, multi-drug-resistant TB
(MDR TB), by attacking the bacteria through a different mechanism than
antibiotics. Treating MDR TB is challenging; some drugs are not effective in
combating drug-resistant strains of TB, and they often cause side effects. The
research on the noni plant may offer an effective alternative treatment,
especially for those in Hawaii, which has one of the highest rates of
antibiotic-resistant TB in the United States.
The research on the noni plant represents an important breakthrough in the
continuing search for plant compounds capable of effectively combating M.
tuberculosis and its various strains. Still, however hopeful the research on
the noni plant may be, there is no conclusive evidence of the curative powers of
the noni plant. More research is needed to evaluate its healing properties. For
now, effective control of TB depends on the use of conventional antibiotics.
Indeed, while there are known side effects to antibiotics, they are still
considered relatively safe, whereas the potential health risks or side effects
of the noni plant are unknown.
Saludes J, Garson M, Franzblau S, Franzblau S, Aguinaldo A, Aguinaldo A.
Potential antimycobacterial agents isolated from the leaves of noni. Presented
at: 2000 International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies; December
18, 2000; Honolulu, HI.
|Review Date: January 2001|
|Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial|
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