Researchers explore health benefits of African plants and spices

Image: Researchers explore health benefits of African plants and spices

(Natural News) Spices aren’t just good for adding flavor and kick to your meals: They’re good for treating skin infections too. According to a study in the Journal of Medical Plants Research, several compounds extracted from native Cameroonian spices have been proven effective when it comes to treating skin infections, including those from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Researchers from the University of Dschang in Cameroon investigated whether the essential oils from four Cameroonian spices — Aframomum daniellii (African cardamom), Piper capense (Ethiopian long pepper) and Monodora myristica (Calabash nutmeg) — and a cream based on Aframomum citratum (alligator pepper) essential oil can be used to treat a skin infection caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The researchers added that while anecdotal references to the plants’ curative properties abound, no scientific investigations have been conducted to verify their antimicrobial properties, as well as their essential oils’ composition.

The researchers also noted that they focused on bacterial skin infections in the study, citing its prevalence throughout most of the globe. In addition, they added that the recent emergence of MRSA has become a challenge in clinical practice.

While conventional medicines are available on the market, these are expensive and often come with toxic side effects. This led to the rise of complementary and alternative medicine usage in up to 80 percent of developing countries, with essential oils being the product of choice for many users. (Related: Essential oils for good health: How to use them and when to avoid them.)

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Essential oils — while primarily used as natural preservatives, flavorings and fragrances in cosmetic products — are potential sources of antioxidants and natural antimicrobials, in addition to their anti-parasitic, analgesic and cytotoxic properties. The team used essential oils from the said spices, which they then tested against S. aureus and other microorganisms normally associated with skin infections, namely Microsporum gypseum and Trichophyton violaceumEnterococcus aerogenes, Enterococcus adecarboxylate, Escherichia coli,  Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Bacillus subtilis, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Shigella flexneri. The researchers also tested the compounds against several yeast (Candida) species. Their findings revealed that compounds from the oils worked well, with A. citratum seen to be the most effective in the batch.

“Essential oil of A. citratum was the most active against bacteria and fungi, followed in decreasing order by those of A. daniellii, P. capense and M. myristica,” the researchers said in their paper. They also noted that the antibacterial activity of A. citratum essential oil against MRSA and E. coli was higher than that of the amoxicillin that they used as a reference drug.

The combination of A. citratum and A. daniellii essential oils also displayed a synergistic effect, adding that the cream based on A. citratum essential oil and the reference drug Baneocin eradicated MRSA-induced dermatosis in rats after two weeks of treatment. The results, says the team, indicate that the essential oils possess antimicrobial activities which could be a function of either the individual or the additive effects of the identified phytoconstituents.

The results complement the findings of an earlier study in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, which looked into the medicinal properties of several Cameroonian plants and their effectiveness against multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria.

The 2016 study by researchers from the same university, found that six commonly-used medicinal plants — namely, Alstonia boonei, Ageratum conyzoides, Croton macrostachys, Cassia obtusifolia, Catharanthus roseus and Paullinia pinnata — demonstrated antibacterial activity against MDR bacteria, with the researchers even noting that the plants “…could be a reservoir of molecules to fight against MDR bacterial infections.”

Find out more about the potential benefits of herbs, essential oils and other natural cures at

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