Molephantinin

In Burma, a decoction of the aerial parts is drunk to treat irregular menses. In China, the plant is eaten as a salad and is a believed to improve general health. In several Southeast Asian countries the plant is used to break fevers and prompt urination. In

Fig. 107. Elephantopus mollis. Flora of Malaya. FRI No 2171. Geographical localization: Fraser's Hill Pahang. Hillside near a stream. 10/15/1966. RM Kochummen. Det: 7/1974, Leiden.

the Philippines, a decoction of the plant provides an emollient remedy. In Guam, the plant is used to treat asthenia fever.

Elephantopus mollis is interesting because it elaborates a series of cytotoxic antitumor germacranolides including molephantinin and phantomolin, which are cytotoxic in vitro and in vivo against Ehrlich ascites carcinoma and Walker 256 carcinosarcoma in rodents (104,105). Molephantinin mitigates DNA and protein synthesis in Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cells and DNA synthesis. What is the activity of molephantinin on apoptosis (106)?

Blumea riparia (Bl.) DC. (Blumea pubigera [L.] Merr., Blumea chinensis DC.) is a sprawling herb that grows to 3 ft high in Malaysia, Taiwan, and Indonesia. The stems are terete and finely ribbed. The leaves are simple, spiral, and exstipulate. The blade is lanceolate, elliptic, and serrate and shows five to eight pairs of secondary nerves. The influorescences are conical heads (Fig. 108). In Taiwan, the plant is used externally to assuage headaches. Malays drink a decoction of roots to treat colic. In Indonesia, the plant is used to treat beriberi and gynecological disturbances. The plant is known to contain protocatechuic acid (107).

Fig. 108. Blumea riparia (Bl.) DC. Distributed from The Herbarium Botanic Gardens Singapore. No HMB: 2589. 7/17/1961. Coll. & Det.: Burkill. Geographical localization: Gunong Pulai. Exposed on rock. Alt: 1200 ft.

Kampa et al. made the interesting observation that protocatechuic acid, which is found in grapes and red wine from Vitis vinifera (Vitaceae), showed a time- and dose-dependent inhibitory effect on cell growth of T47D human breast cancer cells at low concentrations (108). The phenolic compound is a potent inhibitor of topoisomerase I (109). The plant likely contains some germanacrolides because these sesquiterpenes are known

Fig. 109. Spilanthes paniculata. From Flora of Singapore, Comm. Ex. Herb. Heort. Bot. Sing. Geographical localization: Geylang Singapore. 7/27/1934. Field collector: Teruya No: 2526. Det. Sri S. Tjitrosvedirjo 7/27/1998.

to occur in members of the genus Blumea, the apoptotic property of which is open for exploration (110).

Spilanthes paniculata Wall. ex DC (Spilanthes acmella [L.] Murr,), or para cress, toothache plant, heukala (Burmese), pokok getang kerbau, kerabu, galang, gutang (Malay), biri (Philippino), herbe de Malacca, cresson des Indes (French), or cuc ao, ngo ao (Vietnamese), is a tropical, branched, annual and herb that grows in the wild to a height of 15-30 cm in open waste places, old clearings, at low and medium altitudes. The stems are glabrous, fleshy, and purplish. The leaves are simple, without stipules, and opposite. The petiole is 2-7 mm long. The blade is 1.5-3 cm long, deltoid, and shows a single pair of secondary nerves. The influorescences consist of conical capitula, which are on 2.5-7-cm-long pedicels. The fruits consist of triquetous or compressed achenes (Fig. 109).

The plant is used in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam to treat dysentery and scorbut. The plant is used externally in Malaysia to assuage toothache and headaches, and a decoction is drunk to treat leukemia. In Indonesia, the capitula are chewed to promote salivation. In the Philippines, the roots are used to relieve the bowels from costiveness, and an infusion of the plant is drunk to promote urination. In Papua New Guinea, the

Fig. 110. Lactula indica. Flora of Malay Peninsula. Geographical localization: Expt. Plantation Kepong. Date: 6/12/1927. No 11786. Field collector: Ranger.

roots are chewed to mitigate toothaches. It would be interesting to learn whether further experiments on this plant confirm the antileukemic property mentioned previously. Is apoptosis involved here?

Lactuca indica L. (Lactula brevirostris Champ.) is an herb that grows in a geographical area spanning from North Asia to Papua New Guinea (Fig. 110). In China, the leaves are eaten as salad to facilitate digestion, and a decoction is drunk to break fever. In Taiwan, the plant is used to break fever, and it is used externally to soothe swellings. In Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, the plant is used to invigorate, promote digestion, and it yields a paste used externally to soothe inflammation. The latex of the plant is known to induce narcosis. In Papua New Guinea, the seeds are chewed for social purposes.

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