Discover amazing properties of Iranian endemic medicinal plants

July 12, 2020 - 16:52

TEHRAN – Bioactive compounds of medicinal herbs have possible health benefits with antioxidative, anticarcinogenic, antihypertensive, antimutagenic and antimicrobial activities. Iranian traditional medicine is rich of various herbs which have been used to treat various diseases and disorders since ancient times.

An article, entitled “Antioxidant, antibacterial and therapeutic properties of some endemic medicinal plants of Iran: a review” and conducted by Sara Haghju, Hadi Almasi, provides a brief overview of the medicinal benefits of some important endemic herbs of Iran. 
Recently researchers and food manufacturers have become increasingly interested in plant extracts as natural sources of antioxidants. The antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of various extracts from medicinal plants have been of great interest because of their potential use as natural additives for the prevention of oxidation, controlling pathogens and/or toxin-producing microorganisms in foods.

Medicinal plants have been used as traditional medicines all over the world for thousands of years. A report by Gen8 showed that out of the 104 compounds that are used globally as drugs over 37 years, 60 of them originated from Chinese traditional medicinal plants.
This review introduces 8 endemic medicinal plants of Iran that have antioxidant, antimicrobial and therapeutic activities.

Anethum graveolens “Shevid”

Anethum graveolens L. (Dill), a member of the Apiaceae family, is an herbal plant characterized with a single stem and a terminal or primary umbellate flower. Dill has been used in various foods such as cans, soups, sauces and also flavoring salads. It is traditionally used in Iran as a treatment for some gastrointestinal ailments such as flatulence, indigestion, stomachache and colic and has also antispasmodic effect on the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract.

Different experiments showed dill excellent antioxidant activity and the effects of dill extracts on the female reproductive system.

Coriandrum sativum “Geshniz”

Coriandrum sativum L. (Coriander) is a culinary and medicinal plant from the Umbelliferae family which is used as flavoring agent in food products, perfumes, and cosmetics. It is generally cultivated for its seeds. The seeds contain essential oil and the linalool (monoterpenoid compound), as the main components. Coriander traditionally used in Iran to treat some ailments including dyspeptic complaints, loss of appetite, convulsion, insomnia, and anxiety.

Study showed that Ethyl acetate extracts of both seeds and leaves had highest amounts of phenolic compounds and strongest radical-scavenging activity. In addition, leaves extracts were more effective antioxidants than the seeds one. The results of the study indicated that the compounds with medium polarity were the most potential antioxidants.

Cuminum cyminum “Zireye sabz”

Cuminum cyminum is an annual herbaceous plant, belongs to the Apiaceae family. Each fruit of this plant contains a green seed with aromatic characteristics. It is used in Iranian folk medicine since more than 200 years ago.41 The fruits have been extensively used as an Iranian traditional medicine for treatment of toothache, diarrhea, and epilepsy.

Dhandapani et al. evaluated the effect of C. cyminum seed powder supplementation on the plasma and tissue lipids in alloxan diabetic rats. Results showed that oral administration of cumin extract to diabetic rats significantly reduced the blood glucose levels and increased levels of plasma cholesterol, phospholipids, free fatty acids, and triglycerides.

And other researches has shown antioxidant and antibacterial activities, bioactive compounds, and health effects of some herbs of Apiaceae family grown in Iran.

Cichorium intybus “Kasni”

Cichorium intybus (Chicory) belongs to the Compositae family is called as “Kasni” in Iran. It is used for treatment of acne, inflammation of throat, enlargement of the spleen, diarrhea, and vomiting. Chicory has also used as an herbal medicine due to its tonic effects upon the liver and digestive tract. Fresh chicory consists of 68% inulin, 14% sucrose, 5% cellulose, 6% protein, 4% ash, and 3% other compounds, whereas dried chicory contains about 98% inulin and 2% other compounds.

Expriments investigated protective effects of C. intybus in short and long-term diabetes in albino rat models. Feeding with dried powder of Chicory leaves lowered the blood glucose level to near normal level (85-100mg/dl). Other papers compared conventionally and biodynamically-grown chicory for its polyphenol content and antiradical activity. Results indicated that total polyphenol content was higher in plants exposed to water stress.

 Melissa officinalis “Badranjbooye”

Melissa officinalis L. is an Iranian medicinal plant locally named Badranjbooye, Varangboo and Faranjmoshk and grows in the north, north-west and western parts of the country.55 It is traditionally used as a treatment for headaches, flatulence, indigestion, colic, nausea, nervousness, anaemia, vertigo, syncope, malaise, asthma, bronchitis, amenorrhea, cardiac failure, arrhythmias, insomnia, epilepsy, depression, psychosis, hysteria, ulcers, and wounds. The leaves of M. officinalis L. are also utilized in Iranian traditional medicine as digestive, carminative, antispasmodic, sedative, analgesic, tonic, and diuretic as well as for functional gastrointestinal disorders.

Mentha piperita (Na’na)

Mentha piperita (Peppermint) belongs to the Lamiaceae family and is probably originated in Eastern Asia. This medicinal plant is particularly beneficial in building the immune system and fighting secondary infections. M. piperita is rich in polyphenolic compounds and therefore has strong antioxidant activity. Menthol is the most abundant constituent of the essential oil which has antibacterial effects.

Studies evaluated antimicrobial activity and chemical composition of M. piperita oil against food spoilage microorganisms.

Mentha pulegium “Pooneh”

Mentha pulegium L. commonly known as pennyroyal is a medicinal plant of Labiatae (Lamiaceae) family. The flowering aerial parts of the plant has been conventionally used for its antiseptic properties to treat cold, sinusitis, cholera, food poisoning, bronchitis and tuberculosis and also used as antiflatulent, carminative, expectorant, diuretic, antitussive and menstruate.64 Kamkar et al., investigated antioxidative activities of the essential oil, methanol and water extracts of Iranian pennyroyal in vegetable oil during storage. 
Antioxidant activity of the essential oil and extracts were evaluated and proved.

 Urtica dioica “Gazaneh”

Urtica dioica L. (nettle) is an herbaceous perennial flowering plant, belongs to the Urticaceae family. Herbal infusion of leaves is used to treat diarrhea, vaginal discharge, internal/external bleeding.67 In addition leaves have been shown to have hypotensive and anti-inflammatory effects, diuretic and immunomodulatory activity, and to alleviate rheumatic pain. 

Steroids, terpenoids, phenylpropanoids, coumarins, polysaccharides, lectins; and seven flavonol glycosides (kaempherol-3-O-glucoside and -3-O-rutinoside; quercetin-3-Oglucoside and -3-O-rutinoside, isorhamnetin-3-O-glucoside, -3-O-rutinoside and -3-Oneohesperidoside) have been identified as major components of root and flowers of U. dioica respectively.

Antioxidant activity of hydroalcoholic solution extracts of U. dioica and M. neglecta Wallr plants and their mixture were investigated. Hydroalcoholic extracts of both plants had strong antioxidant activity, reducing power, superoxide anion radical scavenging, hydrogen peroxide scavenging, free radical scavenging, and metal chelating activities in comparison to natural and synthetic standard antioxidants such as BHA, BHT, and ?-tocopherol. The total antioxidant activity of these two plants was nearly the least while that of the mixture extract was higher than estimated.

Future trends

When consumed consciously and systematically, many herbal plants are very important for human health because of their phenolic compounds. Most medicines are produced synthetically today and many microorganisms can develop resistance very quickly against them, which is not possible in the case of phytochemicals. 

In recent years, especially in the developed countries, there is a tendency towards increased use of phytochemicals. Medicinal herbs as a source of phytochemicals can help people to stay fit. Healing and nourishing processes may go together. However, endemicity and seasonal or periodical growth of the most of these plants has limited their availability. 

Accordingly, cultivation, processing and preservation of herbal plants could be a good idea for increasing the availability of endemic plants for all people around the world. The herbs of these plants can also be provided in the form of capsules and powders, as dietary supplements and thus differ from conventional foods or food ingredients. On the other hand, more research into the medicinal effects and health benefits of all the endemic herbal plants in different organs is needed, both from the epidemiological perspective and in animal and cell models. Medicinal benefits and possible harmful effects of the herbal plants should be completely introduced to the consumers.

Iran’s 1,738 endemic medicinal herbs 

Tarahom Behzad, deputy director of the Forests, Ranges, and Watershed Management Organization, has said that some 2,300 species of medicinal plants bare cultivated across Iran, of which 1,738 species are endemic species.

Of the 8,425 species of herbs identified in the country, 2,300 have medicinal, aromatic and cosmetic properties, he added.

In the first nine months of the past Iranian calendar year (started March 2019), 1,600 tons of medicinal plants were exported, which was 1,434 tons last year and 870 tons a year before, he said, adding that export of medicinal plants has increased over the past two years.

He also stated that this year 26 products have been exported, with 4 new products compared to the last year’s products.

According to the World Health Organization, the global market for herbal products is $60 billion annually. About 25 percent of medicines worldwide are made of herbs. Among 252 important medicines of WHO, 11 percent are exclusively produced from medicinal plants.


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