Local herbs for fungal infections

Nigerian researchers have demonstrated how extracts of local plants could be effectively used to treat fungal and skin infections including thrush (Candida albicans), dermatitis, eczema and scabies.
Nigerian doctors have also identified local herb, which clears oral thrush faster and better than conventional drug.

Thrush is becoming one of the commonest infant diseases in the country, not sparing adults with compromised immunity due to certain diseases. It comes with white patches on the tongue and general skin diseases in infants (called nla in Yoruba and obu in Ibo) and in adults with white patches in genital areas. Thrush or candidiasis, caused by Candida albicans, is on the prowl.
But a local herb has been demonstrated by medical doctors to be more efficacious than a conventional antifungal drug, Nystatin, in the treatment of thrush. It has been shown that pathogenic fungi such as Candida albicans cause both superficial and serious systemic infections and are now widely recognized as important agents of hospital-acquired infection.
A very recent study has identified herbal combination of extracts of Mitracarpus scaber, Ocimum gratissimum, Senna alata and Jatropha multifida as novel treatment for fungal diseases including thrush. Mitracarpus scaber belongs to the plant family Rubiaceae.
Mitracarpus scaber is a perennial annual herb of about 30 centimetres tall or much smaller and possess rough leaves. In Nigeria, it is known as Ogwungwo or Obuobwa in Igbo language, Gududal in Hausa language and Irawo lle in Yoruba language. The leaf extracts of Mitracarpus scaber is widely used in traditional medicine practices in West Africa for the treatment of headaches, toothaches, amenorrhoea, dyspepsia, hepatic diseases, venereal diseases as well as leprosy.
It is claimed that the plant has both antibacterial and antifungal activities. In Senegal, the plant is used for the treatment of sore throat and also for leprosy in the same way as Cola cordifolia and in Nigeria, the juice from the crushed plant is known to be applied topically for the treatment of skin diseases such as ringworm, lice, itching, craw – craw and other fungi diseases or applied to dressings for fresh cuts, wounds and ulcers. It is also used as an ingredient in fish poison by some pagan tribes. Ocimum gratissimum is a shrub belonging to the family Lamiaceae. I
t is commonly known as Scent leaf or Clove basil and is found in many tropical countries. Africa and Asia are however, the two continents where most variants of the plant exist. O. gratissimum is found in the tropical and warm temperature regions such as India and Nigeria. It is called Nchu-anwu in Igbo, Efinrin in Yoruba, Aramogbo in Edo and Daidoya in Hausa. O. gratissimum has been described to have other species in the flora of tropical West Africa.
These include: Ocimum viride, Ocimum suave, Ocimum basilicum and Ocimum canum. Commonly called French physic nut; Spanish physic nut; coral plant, Jatropha multifida belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae. It is called ebosa in Edo; olulu idu in Ibo; botuje, botuje-pupa, lapalapa, or lobotuje in Yoruba.

Commonly called bush candle, Cassia alata/Senna alata, which belongs to the plant family Fabaceae is an ornamental shrub. Senna alata also known as Cassia alata is a shrub from the leguminosae family.
It is called Asunrun Oyinbo in Yoruba and Ogalu in Ibo. It is locally used in Nigeria in the treatment of several infections, which include ringworm, parasitic skin disease. Senna alata is also credited for treatment of haemorrhoids, constipation, inguinal hernia, intestinal parasite, blennorrhagia, syphilis and diabetics.
The leaf of this plant was reported to be useful in treating convulsion, onolthoea, heart failure, abnormal pain, oedema as and as purgative but it was especially useful in treating dermatophytosis. Meanwhile, one of the studies titled “Efficacy of Two Commonly Used Antifungal Herbs in Nigeria Against Clinical Isolates of Fungi’ was published in Microbiology Journal and Science Alert.
The researchers include: Anejionu Miriam Goodness, Nweze Emeka Innocent, Dibua Esther Uju and Esimone Charles Okechukwu. The researchers concluded: “This present study has therefore demonstrated that the ethanolic extracts of Mitracarpus scaber and Ocimum gratissimum oil have antifungal activity against moulds and Candida albicans.
These findings justify their local use in Nigeria and other countries. Generally, the activity of O. gratissimum oil was better than M. scaber extract and the tested antifungal drugs as shown by the in vitro susceptibility test data of the fungal isolates to the antifungal herbal extracts. “The killing rate study indicated also that the oil has very good activity against the isolates.
The killing kinetics showed that the extracts started killing the tested isolates completely from two hour and upwards. However, further studies involving animal studies are warranted to confirm, among other things, the safety profile of these extracts.” The researchers wrote: “Mitracarpus scaber and Ocimum gratissimum are used extensively in Nigerian herbal medicinal practice to treat many ailments especially those caused by fungi.
In the current study, the antifungal activities of these two herbs against fungal isolates (moulds and yeast) recovered from subjects in the community were evaluated. Twenty species of moulds tested were isolated from three clinical samples including skin scrapping (n = 13), scalp (n = 4) and skin/scalp (n = 3) while 18 clinical isolates of Candida albicans were isolated from seven clinical samples including high vaginal swab (n = 8), sputum (n = 4), urine (n = 1), endo-cervical swab (n = 2), groin (n = 1), mouth thrush (n = 1) and palm (n = 1).
Studies on the in vitro antifungal activity of the ethanol extract of Mitracarpus scaber (50 μg mL-1) and Ocimum gratissimum oil (50 μg mL-1) showed that the clinical isolates were sensitive to the herbal extracts but more sensitive to O. gratissimum oil extract with minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) range of 0.8-1.25 μg mL-1 than to ketoconazole- an antifungal medication that fights infections caused by fungus- (MIC range of 0.31 to 5.00 μg mL-1).
The MIC ranges for sodium salicylate and aspirin were 0.75 to 1.60 and 7.81 to 31.25 μg mL-1, respectively. The microbial fuel cell (MFC) results revealed that the O. gratissimum oil had greater biocidal effect against most of the tested organisms (MFC range of 0.156 to 2.5 μg mL-1), whereas the effect of ketoconazole against the tested organisms was biostatic (MFC range of 1.25 to 5.00 μg mL-1).“Biocidal studies showed that the oil started to eliminate the organisms earlier than the ketoconazole.
The study has confirmed the in vitro activity of these two extracts on the fungal isolates tested.” Earlier studies by Nigerian doctors had confirmed the efficacy of the juice extracts of a local plant, Jatropha multifada, in the management of oral candidiasis.
The paediatricians in a preliminary study published in The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine concluded: “Compared to oral Nystatin suspension, it has the advantages of acting faster and being efficacious as a single dose. Its use in the management of oral candidiasis is recommended in third world countries where it is easily cultivated and accessible.”
The researchers include: Dr. Aladekomo Theophilus Adesola, lecturer/ consultant paediatrician at the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State; and Dr. Oyedeji Olusola Adetunji, lecturer/ consultant paediatrician at the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Teaching Hospital (LAUTTH), Osun State.
The study is titled “The Efficacy of Jatropha multifida in the Management of Oral Candidiasis: A Preliminary Study. ” Previous studies conducted in Tanzania had shown that Jatropha multifida has significant anti-fugal activity, against many species of Candida, but very little against Candida albicans.
However, the Nigerian study showed that the specie of Jatropha multifida cultivated in Nigeria, possess antibiotic activity against Candida albicans, and faster and more efficacious than Nysatin (a conventional drug) in the management of thrush. According to the Nigerian study, all the clinically detected cases of children with oral candidiasis at the children ’s outpatient department of the Osun State Hospital, Osogbo and children ’s welfare clinic of the Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesa were randomized into either Jatropha multifida Juice extract therapy or the Nystatin group.
The juice extracts from the Jatropha multifida leaves were applied to the tongue and the oral mucosal areas affected by candida lesions as a single application in the patients randomized to this group. Oral Nystatin was administered four times a day, for seven consecutive days to the children randomized to the Nystatin group.
The researchers studied a total of five patients (three boys and two girls) were studied with their ages ranging from two to 10 months. Clearance of the white lesions on the tongue was defined as cure and this was recorded within 24 hours in the patients on Jatropha multifida juice extracts, while those on oral Nystatin showed features of cure at 48 hours.
The researchers wrote: “…The present study has shown that Jatropha multifida leaf juice extract is effective in the management of thrush and works faster compared to Nystatin. Its mechanism of action is however unknown, as well as the active ingredient responsible for the antifungal action.
The drug however appears relatively safe because of the absence of complications in the present study. No side effects were also reported to Nystatin therapy in the present study. However, vomiting and diarrhea are some of the known side effects that might arise from Nystatin therapy. The small sample size in the present study might have hindered us from encountering these complications.“The Jatropha multifida fruit has been documented to contain toxins such astoxabulmin ricin.
Ingestion of large quantities of this fruit has been documented to cause severe diarrhea, dehydration, shock and hepatic impairment in children. Ricin also has cardiotoxic and hemolytic effects and several deaths have been reported from it. On the converse the roots, stems and leaves of the Jatrophamultifida plant possess useful ingredients and activities.

The fruits are widely used in traditional folk medicine in many parts of West Africa.
Other chemotherapeutic properties of this plant are used in the treatment of ascites, gout and constipation. “In conclusion, Jatropha multifida is a plant whose juice provides a cure for oral candidiasis.
It acts faster compared to Nystatin and compliance on the part of patients is likely to be better since it is a single dose application.
It is recommended for use in communities where it is easily accessible. However, further studies need to be carried out on this plant in order determine the ingredient in it, having the anti-fungal activities. This can be selectively extracted and made into oral preparations for general and commercial use.”
Another study published in the Journal of Microbiology Research concluded: “The study showed that the extracts from the leaves of Ocimum gratissimum had pronounced antifungal activities on all the fungi tested.
The preliminary screenings of O. gratissimum results are quite promising and have strongly indicated the antifungal activity spectra of leaves extract of the plant.
As the findings of study compared favourably with previous studies on the antimicrobial activity of Ocimum gratissimum against fungal infections, the plant holds great promise for use as both an antibacterial and antifungal agent.
Further studies should be carried out to unravel the identity of the active ingredients as well as its medicinal properties. Other methods of extraction should be tried to determine the best method for optimal yield of the medicinal ingredients. In-vivo testing using laboratory animals should also be carried out.”
The study is titled “Effects of Ocimum Gratissimum Leaves on Common Dermatophytes and Causative Agent of Pityriasis Versicolor in Rivers State, Nigeria.” The researchers include: Mbakwem – Aniebo C., Onianwa O., and Okonko I.O. of the Department of Microbiology, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The antifungal activity of Ocimum gratissimum used by traditional medicine practitioners against the three major Dermatophytes – Trichophyton, Microsporum, Epidermophyton together with Malassezia furfur (the cause of Pityriasis versicolor (Eczema)), were studied by well-in-agar diffusion technique using different concentrations of ethanolic extracts.
Isolates from the scalp, skin, toes and feet of forty individuals (mainly children) were obtained in four locations namely Aluu, Choba, Rumuosi and Emohua areas of Rivers State, Nigeria. The results of the study revealed the significant inhibitory effect of Ocimum gratissimum at five different concentrations of 250mg/ml, 200mg/ml, 150mg/ml, 100mg/ml and 50mg/ml used.
The diameter zones of inhibition exhibited by the extracts against the test fungal species ranged between 12.50 and 20mm. The minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of the ethanol extract of O. gratissimum was 50.01, 52.40, 63.06 and 63.09 mg/ml for Malassezia furfur, Microsporum, Trichophyton and Epidermophyton, respectively.
Assessment of the various MICs showed that Ocimum gratissimum has great potential for use as an anti-dermatophytic agent. The study showed that the extracts from the leaves of Ocimum gratissimum had pronounced antifungal activities on all the fungi tested. The study has shown that the leaves extracts of O. gratissimum are quite promising and have strongly indicated the antifungal activity spectra of leaves extract of the plant.
In conclusion, the results from this study indicated potentials of leaves extract of Ocimum gratissimum as a source of antifungal compounds. Another study published in the Research Journal of Biological Sciences concluded: “In this study, the extracts of Senna alata leaf crude extract have high potential as antimicrobial agent.
It showed varying degrees of activities against all the tested dermatophytes with better antifungal activity against Microsporum canis, Trichophyton verrucosum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes and Epidermophyton jloccosum.
The phytochemical analysis revealed the presence of important secondary metabolite (alkaloids, saponins, tannins, steroid and anthraquinones), thus indicating the therapeutic potentials of Senna alata L. leaf.” “It showed the presence of bioactive compounds as well as the antifungal properties of ethanolic crude extract. However, this finding provides an insight into the usage of this plant in traditional treatment of foot infections, subcutaneous parasitic infection, intestinal parasitism, venereal diseases and other diseases associated with bacterial and fungal infections.”
The study titled “In vitro Antifungal Activity of Senna alata Linn. Crude Leaf Extract” was conducted by: W.F. Sule, I.O. Okonko, T.A. Joseph, M.O. Ojezele, J.C. Nwanze, J.A. Alli, O.G. Adewale and O.J. Ojezele. This study reports on the in vitro antifungal activity of Senna alata crude leaf extract on clinical test dermatophytes. The studies on the in vitro investigation of antifungal activities of ethanolic extracts of Senna alata leaf were carried out.
The test was conducted on dermatophytes, which included dermatophytes of the genera Trichophyton, Microsporum and Epidermophyton. These fungi are the causative agents of various types of dermatophytosis, which attack various parts of the body and tend to the following conditions, Tinea capitis, Tinea cruris, Tinea coporis and Tinea pedis.
The results obtained showed that the leaf exudates and the ethanol extract of the leaf of Senna alata: had marked antifungal effects on Microsporum canis, Trichophyton jirrucosum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes and Epidermophyton jlorrcosum. The ethanolic extract showed the highest inhibition on Trinchophyton verrucosuf and Epidermophyton jloccosum with 20.50 and 20.00 mm zone of inhibition, respectively. The MIC was also performed and the result showed that the MIC of Senna alata on all the tested dermatophytes was 5.0 mg mL-1, which is the standard.
The results obtain from the biochemical analysis of the plant Senna alata revealed the presence of alkaloids, saponins, tannins, anthracionones and carbohydrates.
A similar study in Malaysia by Ibrahim and Osman (1995) reported that ethanolic extracts of Senna alata plant show high antifungal activity against dermatophytic fungal such as Trichophyton mentagrophyte var. interaligitale and var. Metagrophytes, Trichophyton rubrum and Microsporum gypseum.
Several studies have documented the basis of the leaf of Senna alata in herbal medicine. Adebayo et al. (1999) documented that MIC of the plant extract was low on all fungal agents except Aspergillus niger.

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