Arundo donax – or giant reed – is mostly known as an energy crop, a valuable alternative to fossil fuels, as it is a feedstock for biogas, bioethanol and bio pellets. What seems to be a long forgotten usage, however, is the medicinal use of Arundo donax. Many communities around the world (especially in the Middle East and Mediterranean) still guard the knowledge which holds great values and potentials today as well. In the third part of the series investigating Arundo homeopathy, you can read further about this plant as a remedy. The article is based on a 2015 review of the medicinal use of Arundo homeopathy.
Using Arundo homeopathy for antibacterial and antifungal effects
The aqueous extract of the stem nodes of Arundo donax exerted antibacterial activity against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (a bacteria causing skin imperfections) in a concentration of 128 μg/ml. The aqueous extracts of giant reed’s nodes (which contain the white hemicellulose membrane) demonstrated anti-biofilm activity, in preventing MRSA (methicilin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) biofilm formation and disrupting established biofilms.
These results suggest that the traditional application of the membrane of Arundo donax to fresh wounds may be useful as a prophylactic for biofilm-related infection. Biofilms can form on the teeth of most animals as dental plaque, where they may cause tooth decay and gum disease.
The antimicrobial effects of methanolic extracts of 14 medicinal plants species were examined comparing to conventional therapeutic antibiotics against standard bacterial strains (Staphylococcus aureus, Micrococcus luteus, Klebsiella pneumonia, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeroginosa). Arundo donax extract showed the maximum effect against Escherichia coliand Pseudomonas aeroginosaamong the examined fourteen medicinal plants.
Arundo donax also exerted antifungal activity against four Basidiomycetes (Trametes versicolor, Coniophora puteana, Gloephyllumtrabeum and Postia placenta).
Arundo medicinal use: anthelmintic effects
Crude aqueous-methanol extracts from the leaves of Arundo donax were tested against H. contortus, also known as the barber’s pole worm. It is a very common parasite responsible for anemia and oedema.
Arundo donax (25-50 mg/ml) showed anthelmintic effects and 56.7% mortality of H. contortus was recorded 10 hours post-exposure with. For Levamisole (the reference drug) there was 100% mortality of worms within 2 hours post-exposure. Of course, the anthelmintic effects of the plant was dose and time dependent. The ranking of efficacy of the Arundo donax fractions against H. contortus were ethyl acetate, chloroform aqueous followed by petroleum spirit fraction. Dose and time dependent ovicidal effects were recorded for these plant extracts. In egg hatch test, Arundo donax exhibited ovicidal activity with LC50 of 200.1 μg/ml; whereas, crude powder of Arundo donax resulted in 50.5% reduction in fecal egg count in sheep naturally infected with gastrointestinal nematodes. Arundo donax extracts had anthelmintic properties (around 55% efficacy) against gastrointestinal parasites (Ascarissp., Oesophagostomumsp. and Paramphistomum sp.) of cattle.
Arundo medicinal use: antiproliferative effects
Arundo donax was used in combination with Spartium junceum L. and Cynodon dactylon L. for the treatment of tumors (without specifying which kind of tumour).
A lectin with antiproliferative activity towards human cancer cell lines and mitogenic towards human peripheral blood mononuclear cells was purified from the rhizomes of Arundo donax. The lectin of the giant reed was thermostable upto 55 °C and showed optimum activity in therange of pH 7.0–9.0.
Arundo donax lectin displayed cytotoxic effect on Dysdercus peruvianusand nematicide activity against Meloidogyne incognita. Giant reed decreases the germinability and delayed the mean time for germinability of Lactuca sativa L.diasphores, and also showed significant mitogenic and chemotactic effect. However, the lectin induced toxicity in mice when administered intraperitoneally (through stomach) with doses of 300 mg/kg and 800 mg/kg, it caused 100% death of the animals within 30 hours after its administration.
Seven isoforms of Arundo donax were separated. Giant reed was found to be rich in Glu/Gln, Gly and Asp/Asn and Cys residues, and its N-terminal a and b chains contain tryptophan residues. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that helps the body make proteins and certain brain-signaling chemicals.
ADL-III showed significant mitogenic activity. Mitogens are important in cancer research due to their effects on the cell cycle. Cancer is in part defined by a lack of, or failure of, control in the cell cycle. Mitogens can contribute to this by causing the cell cycle to move forward when it should be prevented by some mechanism. Arundo donax was able to bind to transformed cells from T-47D, HT-29 and T-24 lines in vitro.
It is important to point out that the some of the medicinal uses of Arundo donax above were tested to cure animals, however, there is a great promise for development of novel drugs from Arundo donax to treat human diseases as well.
This article does not constitute for medical advice in any shape or form.