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The leaves, bark, roots, fruit and seeds of Indian almond have been used to effectively reverse blood sugar regulating functions in damaged pancreas of diabetics, prolong ejaculation, stop the spread of lung cancer, and sickle cell anaemia. CHUKWUMA MUANYA reports.

RECENT studies have shown that diabetes and its attendant complications (erectile dysfunction/premature ejaculation, leg ulcer/gangrene, liver/ kidney failure), lung cancer and sickle cell anaemia can be addressed with extracts of Indian almond.

Nigerian and Indian researchers have regenerated the pancreas with Indian almond extracts thereby boosted blood sugar regulation, improved sexual and liver/kidney functions in diabetics.

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a chronic disease caused by inherited and/or acquired deficiency in production of insulin by the pancreas, or by ineffectiveness of insulin produced, such a deficiency results in increased concentration of glucose in the blood, which in turn damages many of the body's systems in particular the blood vessels and nerves.

Indian almond is botanically called Terminalia catappa and belongs to the plant family combretaceae. It is found in almost every town and village in Southern Nigeria. In Efik, it is called m_b�_s__ m_b�k�r� (groundnut of whiteman). It is also known as Malabar Almond, Tropical Almond, Fruit (by some Nigerians).

Indian almond is a large deciduous stately tree, originally from India, growing up to 90 feet. It thrives as an ornamental tree in many tropical cities in the world.

All parts of the plant (leaves, bark, roots, fruit and wood) are used in traditional medicine, such as in dysentery; dressing of rheumatic joints; treating coughs, asthma. The fruit may be helpful in treatment of leprosy, headaches, in reducing travel nausea. Leaves have been used to get rid of intestinal parasites; treat eye problems, rheumatism, wounds; and stop the bleeding during teeth extraction.

Indian almond has strong antibacterial properties and works against Gram positive and Gram negative micro-organisms. The leaves have been shown to protect against acute liver injury produced by some hepatotoxicants (chemicals that produce liver damage). .

In Nigeria fallen leaves are used as an herb to treat liver diseases. The leaves also have potential in the management of sickle cell disorders. Dried leaves are used for fish pathogen treatment, as an alternative to the use of chemicals and antibiotics.

Leaves have antioxidant as well as anti-clastogenic (preventing breakage of chromosomes) properties. Research suggests that moderate consumption of the seed kernel may be useful in the treatment of men with sexual dysfunctions, primarily from premature ejaculation.

The various extracts of leaves and bark of the plant have also been reported to be anticancer, antioxidant, anti-Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) reverse transcriptase, and anti inflammatory (painkiller).

According to The Useful Plants of Tropical West Africa by H. M. Burkill, the bark is used in Asian medicine as an astringent for dysentery. It has also been recommended for use as a decoction for gonorrhoea and leucorrhoea, bilious fever and stomach-cramp. The tree yields an insoluble gum of the bassoin type. The leaves and flowers also contain tannin, and the presence of a sterol is reported. In the Philippines and S India sap from young leaves is made into an ointment for scabies, leprosy and other cutaneous diseases.

The leaves when applied externally are refreshing and sudorific, and appear to exercise an anodynal effect on pain for they are used for headache, on rheumatic joints, or in an oily ointment for breast-pain.

In Nigeria, the leaves macerated in palm oil have been used as a remedy for tonsilitis. Leaf in Java has shown some antibiotic activity. The fruit contains six to 20 per cent tannin. The fleshy pericarp is eaten in Gabon. The kernel is edible, and has a very subtle flavour making it a delicacy. The husk however is tough, not amenable to separation, so that the kernel is difficult to obtain. The kernel contains 51-63 per cent of a fixed oil known as Indian Almond oil, oil of Badamier, or from the Philippines as Talisay oil.

Material from Cote d'Ivoire has been analysed to contain glycerides of palmitic acid 34.4 per cent, oleic acid 32.1 per cent, linoleic acid 27.5 per cent and stearic acid six per cent. It closely resembles sweet almond, cotton seed, kapok and ground nut oils, which it might substitute for dietetic and other industrial uses.

Indian researchers in a study titled "Anti-Diabetic Activity of Terminalia catappa Linn. Leaf Extracts in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rats" found that Terminalia catappa leaves extracts have anti-diabetic activity.

According to the study published in Asian Journal of Pharmacology, aqueous and cold extracts of Terminalia catappa exhibited significant anti- hyperglycemic (reduces blood sugar) activities in alloxan-induced hyperglycemic rats without significant change in body weight. Alloxan is a drug used to induce diabetes in animal models.

The researchers found that Indian almond extracts also improved conditions of DM as indicated by parameters like bodyweight, and lipid profiles along with serum creatinine (a chemical molecule that is present in the liquid portion of the blood), serum urea, and serum alkaline phosphatase. The lipid profile is a group of tests that are often ordered together to determine risk of coronary heart disease. Serum urea level is a biochemical indicator of protein metabolism. Serum alkaline phosphatase is a measure of the integrity of the hepatobiliary system and the flow of bile into the small intestine.

The researchers, which include Syed Mansoor Ahmed, Vrushabendra Swamy B.M., P Gopkumar R Dhanapl and V.M. Chandrashekara noted that the number of functionally intact _-cells in the islet organ is of decisive importance the development course and outcome of DM. Beta cells (beta-cells, _-cells) are a type of cell in the pancreas in areas called the islets of Langerhans. They make up 65-80 per cent of the cells in the islets. Beta cells make and release insulin, a hormone that controls the level of glucose in the blood.

The renewal of _-cells in diabetes has been studied in several animal models. The total _-cell mass reflects the balance between the renewal and loss of these cells. It was also suggested that regeneration of islet _-cells following destruction by alloxan may be the primary cause of the recovery of alloxan - injected guinea pigs from the effects of the drug.

In alloxan-induced diabetes, (-)-epicatechin and Vinca rosea extract have also shown to act by _-cell re-generation. Epicatechin is a strong antioxidant, has insulin mimic action and improves heart health. Similar effect in streptozotacin-treated diabetic animals was reported by pancreas tonic, ephedrine, and Gymnema Sylvestre leaf extracts.

The researchers observed damage to pancreas in alloxan-treated diabetic control, and regeneration of _-cells by glibenclamide. Glibenclamide (INN), also known as glyburide (USAN), is an anti-diabetic drug in a class of medications known as sulfonylureas, used in the treatment of type II diabetes. A comparable regeneration was also shown by aqueous and cold extracts of Terminalia catappa. This effect may be due to _-carotene (an antioxidant found in coloured fruits and vegetables. It is a precursor to vitamin A), which was reported to be constituents of Terminalia catappa.

The beneficial role of _-carotene in reducing diabetic complications like glycosylation in alloxan-induced diabetic rats had been reported previously. Glycosylation is the enzymatic process that links saccharides to produce glycans, either free or attached to proteins and lipids.

Photomicrographical data in the researchers studies confirm healing of pancreas by Terminalia catappa leaves extracts, as a plausible mechanism of their anti diabetic activity.

The researchers concluded: "Aqueous and cold extract of Terminalia catappa leaves exhibited significant anti hyperglycemic activities in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. These extracts showed improvement in parameters like body weight and lipid profile as well as regeneration of _-cells of pancreas and so might be of value in diabetes treatment."

Taiwanese researchers have also found that Indian almond stops the spread of lung cancer in animal models.

Shu-Chen Chu, Shun-Fa Yang, Shang-Jung Liu, Wu-Hsien Kuo, Yan-Zin Chang and Yih-Shou Hsieh in a study titled "In vitro and in vivo antimetastatic effects of Terminalia catappa L. leaves on lung cancer cells" investigated the effect of the extract of T. catappa leaves (TCE) on invasion and motility of tumor cells to find that TCE exerted a dose-dependent inhibitory effect on the invasion and motility of highly metastatic A549 and Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC) cells.

Metastasis is the spread of a disease from one organ or part to another non-adjacent organ or part. Only malignant tumor cells and infections have the capacity to metastasize. Metastatic disease is a synonym of metastasis. Cancer cells can "break away", "leak", or "spill" from a primary tumor, enter lymphatic and blood vessels, circulate through the bloodstream, and settle down to grow within normal tissues elsewhere in the body. Metastasis is one of three hallmarks of malignancy (contrast benign tumors).

According to the study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, to further investigate the precise involvement of TCE in tumor metastasis, A549 and LLC cells were treated with TCE at various concentrations, up to 100 _g/mL, for a specified period and results from zymography and Western blotting showed that a TCE treatment may decrease the expressions of tissue inhibitors, in a concentration-dependent manner.

Zymography is used for the detection of enzyme activity. Western blot analysis can detect one protein in a mixture of any number of proteins while giving information about the size of the protein.

Furthermore, the inhibitory effect of TCE on the growth and metastasis of LLC cells in vivo was proven. These results indicated that TCE could be applied to be a potential antimetastatic agent.

Researchers have also assessed the biological value of Terminalia catappa seed meal-based diet in rats. Nasir O. Muhammad and Oyelola B. Oloyede of the Department of Biochemistry, University of Ilorin, investigated the effects of defatted the seed meal on the growth performance and carcass of rats.

According to the study published in Biokemistri, 12 weaning albino rats (Rattus norvegicus) with an average weight of 24.0 � 3.4g were maintained on diets composed of defatted T. catappa seed meal (Tc meal) and soybean meal (control) for six weeks.

The weights of the rats were monitored on weekly basis, at the same period of the day and before being served the (weighing) day's feed. The organs and carcasses of the rats were weighed after they were sacrificed and disemboweled, and the chemical compositions of the carcasses were also determined.

The body weights of the rats maintained on defatted Tc meal were significantly reduced to one-third of the weights of the control animal. The organ to body weight ratio of the Tc meal rats was significantly higher than that of the control.

In the carcass of rats fed Tc meal diet, ether extract, crude protein and ash contents were significantly reduced when compared with the control. However, the crude fibre and the nitrogen free extract (NFE) were significantly higher in the Tc meal rats than that of the control.

The researchers concluded: "It can be deduced that the defatted Terminalia catappa seed meal could cause depression in growth rate, enlargement of rat tissues with adverse effects on carcass of rats."

Researchers have also studied the effects of Terminalia catappa seeds on sexual behaviour and fertility of male rats.

W. D. Ratnasooriya and M. G. Dharmasiri of the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, evaluated the aphrodisiac potential of Terminalia catappa seeds using a suspension of its kernel (SS) in one per cent methylcellulose in rats. Methyl cellulose (or methylcellulose) is a chemical compound derived from cellulose. It is a hydrophilic white powder in pure form and dissolves in cold (but not in hot) water, forming a clear viscous solution or gel.

Preliminary chemical testing showed the presence of alkaloids, oils, amino acids and peptides in the seed kernel.

According to the study published in Asian Journal of Andrology, male rats were orally treated with 1500 mg/kg or 3000 mg/kg SS or vehicle, and their sexual behaviour was monitored three hours later using a receptive female. Another group of rats was orally treated with either 3000 mg/kg SS or vehicle for seven consecutive days. Their sexual behaviour and fertility were evaluated on days one, four and seven of treatment and day seven post-treatment by pairing overnight with a pro-oestrous female. The estrous cycle comprises the recurring physiologic changes that are induced by reproductive hormones in most mammalian placental females.

The results showed the 1500 mg/kg dose, had a marked aphrodisiac action (prolongation of ejaculation latency) but no effect on libido-sexual desire- (per cent mounting, per cent intromission and per cent ejaculation), sexual vigour (mounting-and-intromission frequency), or sexual performance (intercopulatory interval). An aphrodisiac is a substance, which is used in the belief that it increases sexual desire.

In contrast, the higher dose (3000 mg/kg) reversibly inhibited all the parameters of sexual behaviour other than mounting-and-intromission frequency and copulatory efficiency. The effects of high dose SS were not due to general toxicity, liver toxicity, haemotoxicity, stress, muscle deficiency, muscle incoordination, analgesia, hypoglycaemia (reduced blood sugar) or reduction in blood testosterone level. They were due to marked sedation.

The researchers concluded that the kernel of T. catappa seeds has aphrodisiac activity and may be useful in the treatment of certain forms of sexual inadequacies, such as premature ejaculation. "The present findings show that seeds of T. catappa possess potent aphrodisiac activity and provides scientific evidence in favour of the claims made in Ayurvedic medicine in Sri Lanka regarding this action. The results also suggest that moderate consumption of kernel of seed of T. catappa could be useful in the treatment of men with sexual dysfunctions resulting primarily from premature ejaculation."

Nigerian researchers have also studied the anti-sickling activity of Terminalia catappa leaves harvested at different stages of growth.

The researchers include: J. O. Moody, F. I. Segun and O. Aderounmu Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Ibadan; and O. O. Omotade, Institute of Child Health, University College Hospital, Ibadan.

According to the study published in the Nigerian Journal of Natural Products and Medicine, the aqueous and ethanolic leaf extracts of Terminalia catappa, a fruit bearing tree, popular in folkloric medicine for the treatment of sickle cell anaemia disease were assessed for their in-vitro anti-sickling activities. Extracts were prepared from the reddish-brown freshly fallen leaves, reddish-brown leaves and green leaves of the plant by maceration in the solvents.

Phytochemical examination of the extracts showed that cardiac glycosides are present in abundance in the reddish-brown freshly fallen leaves, moderate in the reddish-brown leaves and in trace amount in the green leaves. High concentration of saponin was however observed in the green leaves, while only present in trace amount in the reddish-brown leaves and absent in the reddish-brown freshly fallen leaves. Alkaloids were detected present in all the three samples of the leaves but anthraquinones and tannins were completely absent.

Antisickling activities of the extracts obtained from leaves harvested at different stages of growth (green leaves, reddish-brown leaves, reddish-brown freshly fallen leaves) were evaluated using p- hydroxybenzoic acid, (5mg/ml) and normal saline as controls. The method employed involved the inhibition of sodium metabisulphite-induced sickling of HbSS red blood cells collected from confirmed non-crisis sickle cell patients.

The researchers concluded that both the aqueous and ethanolic leaf extracts of the reddish-brown freshly fallen leaf exhibited highest anti-sickling activity (78 per cent inhibition at 180 min incubation and 77 per cent inhibition at 90 minutes incubation respectively).

Nigerian researchers have also studied the antimicrobial activities of methanolic extracts of Terminalia catappa against some pathogenic microorganisms

H. Babayi of the Department of Biological Sciences, Federal University of Technology, Minna; and I. Kolo, J. I. Okogun and U. J. J. Ijah of the Pharmaceutical Microbiology Division, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Idu - Abuja, investigated the ethanolic extracts of leaves of Eucalyptus camaldulensis and Terminalia catappa for in vitro microbial activities by agar dilution method.

The phytochemical analysis of the crude extracts of the medicinal plants revealed the presence of saponin, saponin glycosides, steroid, cardiac glycoside, tannins, volatile oils, phenols and balsam (gum). The methanolic extracts of the two plants inhibited the growth of Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC 103207 and Clinical strain respectively) but had no inhibitory effects on Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Salmonella typhi and Escherichia coli.

Staphylococcus aureus is the most common cause of staph infections. It is a spherical bacterium, frequently found in the nose and skin of a person. About 20 per cent of the population are long-term carriers of S. aureus. S. aureus can cause a range of illnesses from minor skin infections, such as pimples, impetigo (may also be caused by Streptococcus pyogenes), boils, cellulitis folliculitis, furuncles, carbuncles, scalded skin syndrome and abscesses, to life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis, osteomyelitis endocarditis, Toxic shock syndrome (TSS), and septicemia. Its incidence is from skin, soft tissue, respiratory, bone, joint, endovascular to wound infections. It is still one of the four most common causes of nosocomial infections, often causing postsurgical wound infections.

Bacillus subtilis is a Gram-positive, catalase-positive bacterium commonly found in soil. B. subtilis is not considered a human pathogen; it may contaminate food but rarely causes food poisoning

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