10 plants from Kakamega Forest, Kenya shown effective against cancer in laboratory studies

By Gatonye Gathura

Ten medicinal plants from Kakamega Forest have been identified, tested and confirmed to act against hard to treat cancers.

In a three phase study, researchers from the University of Nairobi and Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany, have confirmed the traditional herbs to be effective in treating cancer.

In the latest evidence published on 5th January the researchers say some of the herbs were found to act against emerging drug resistant cancers.

The report appearing in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, says the work proves traditional healers are correct in using these treatments but also the findings opens opportunities for the development of new cancer treatments.

“Due to multidrug resistance and severe side effects of currently used drugs in treating cancer clinical oncology, new candidate compounds are urgently required to improve treatment outcome, “says the new study,

The study led by Dr Dominic Ochwang’i also substantiates the rationale of using traditional medicine in cancer treatment.

“Even more interesting is that several extracts inhibited otherwise drug-resistant tumor cell lines with similar or even better efficacy than their drug-sensitive counterparts,” wrote the authors.

The researchers had tested the activity of 53 plant extracts against cancer cells in laboratory studies.  All the medicinal plants are used by traditional healers in Kakamega Country.

The extracts were tested against cancer cells that are drug sensitive as well as some multi-drug resistance cancer cells.

Ten of the plant extracts, the study says reduced the growth of cancer cell by more than 50 per cent.

“Some extracts also showed considerable activity against some drug-resistant cell lines.” Also the researchers found some extracts to work better when used in combination which may explain why most traditional healers will mix extract from different plants to treat a particular cancer.

The research team including Prof Thomas Efferth, of Johannes Gutenberg University started this work early this decade publishing their first report in 2013.

In the first study the team had identified 65 plant species from Kakamega Rain Forest used by traditional healers in the county to treat cancer.

The researchers aimed at identifying  all plant species being used for cancer treatment from Kakamega Forest, later investigate whether the medicines works and if so how to develop this into modern cures.

The most used plant parts for treatment, the report showed were mainly freshly or dried leaves and stem bark.

Almost all the treatment used by these traditional healers were administered orally with just a few used topically especially for breast cancer and skin sarcomas.

Next out of the 65 medicinal plant candidates the team had selected 35 for further chemical analysis.

The findings of this second phase reported in the journal Medicinal & Aromatic Plants in December 2016 presented evidence that many of the medicinal plant extracts contain medicinally important compounds.

The plants were found to contain 12 compounds known to be medically important for human health hence the researchers moved to the latest phase to test and confirm that actually these compounds act against cancers.

 

The plants:

  1. Harungana madagascariensis
  2. Prunus africana
  3. Entada abyssinica
  4. Phyllanthus fischeri
  5. Shirakiopsis elliptica/Sapium ellipticum
  6. Bridelia micrantha
  7. Futumia Africana
  8. Microglossa pyrifolia
  9. Bridelia micrantha
  10. Shirakiopsis elliptica/Sapium ellipticum
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