Diarrhea remains a dangerous disease in these modern times. It is the second leading cause of death among young children below the age of five years. It is especially widespread in the developing countries in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Ethiopia suffers from the fifth highest rate of diarrhea-related deaths in the world. The disease is the second leading cause of death in the country regardless of age.
Traditional Ethiopian healers use several medicinal plants to treat diarrhea. The stem of L. camara is one of the common sources of herbal medicine for the disease. Ethiopians call the plant michi-charo, Enaro, and Yewef kollo. While long used as an anti-diarrhea medicine, its effects have not yet been scientifically evaluated.
Diarrhea is a common symptom of a gastrointestinal disease. The latter can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasitic organisms.
Earlier studies showed that L. camara possessed properties that allowed it to kill those disease-causing pathogens. It also demonstrated antioxidant, antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory, and anti-ulcer activities.
Furthermore, its leaves have been shown to reduce motility and stop diarrhea in mice. It can also neutralize substances that cause gastrointestinal muscles to spasm during diarrhea attacks. (Related: No more oopsy daisies: Taking a probiotic drink can prevent diarrhea.)
A research team from Addis Ababa University (AAU) chose to evaluate L. camara's anti-diarrhea and anti-motility activities. They created an extract from the aqueous stem of the plant to test its effectiveness in treating the disease.
The acute toxicity of the extract was tested by giving a 2,000 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) dose to fasted mice. They observed the loaded animals over the course of 14 days.
They then analyzed several new mice models. Three test groups got 100, 200, and 400 mg/kg doses of L. camara extract. A positive control group took the standard drug Loperamide, while the negative control group only got water.
In the anti-diarrheal activity model, diarrhea was induced into the mice via castor oil. The researchers recorded the time it took place, the number and weight of the wet droppings, and the total number and total weight of feces. They used this data to calculate the percentage of fecal output and diarrhea inhibition.
A similar model sacrificed the castor oil-induced mice. Their intestines were analyzed for length, weight, and intestinal content. The data was used to determine the weight of the intestinal contents and the reduction in their intestinal secretion.
The third model was for the gastrointestinal test. The treated mice were fed charcoal suspension. They were sacrificed to see how far the charcoal got through the gastrointestinal tract.
The AAU researchers confirmed that the L. camara extract possessed anti-diarrhea activity. All three doses successfully reduced the instances of defecation and decreased the wetness of the fecal excretions.
Furthermore, the plant extract prevented castor oil from causing uncontrollable intestinal secretion and gastrointestinal motility. The herbal remedy showed similar effectiveness to loperamide, which is a common pharmaceutical remedy for diarrhea.
Analysis of the extract showed the presence of a large number of phytochemicals. These alkaloids, flavonoids, phytosterols, saponins, and tannins may be acting by themselves or together to stop diarrhea.
The researchers believe the results of their experiments supported the use of L. camara as a folk medicine that can treat diarrhea.