A review of the medicinal potentials of plants of the genus Vernonia (Asteraceae)

Author(s): Toyang NJ, Verpoorte R


Ethnopharmacological relevance: The Vernonia genus has about one thousand species and members of the genus are widely used as food and medicine. The aim of this review is to analyze published data on the ethnomedicinal, ethnoveterinary and zoopharmacognostic uses of plants of the Vernonia genus. This will help to identify the state of ethnopharmacological knowledge in regard to this genus and to propose future research priorities.

Materials and methods: The major scientific databases including SciFinder, Sciencedirect, Medline and Google Scholar were queried for information on Vernonia genus using various keyword combinations. The International Plant Name Index was also used to verify the names of species and authors.

Results: A total of 109 Vernonia species were reported in the literature to have medicinal properties. One hundred and five (105) plants were linked to the treatment or management of 44 human diseases or health conditions. Plants of the genus also feature in ethnoveterinary and zoopharmacognostic practices. A total of 12 vernonia species were identified to be used in ethnoveterinary medicine while 2 species are used in self medication practices by chimpanzees and gorillas. In vitro and in vivo research studies reporting the validation of the medicinal properties of some species were also reviewed. One hundred and three bioactive compounds isolated from various Vernonia species were also identified. Vernonia amygdalina was identified as the most frequently used member of the Vernonia genus. The Vernolides, a class of sesquiterpene lactone were identified as the most studied compounds from the genus and show interesting bioactivity in antiplasmodial, antileishmanial, antischistosomial, cytotoxicity, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory assays.

Conclusion: On the basis of results from a combination of in vitro and in vivo efficacy and toxicity studies reported, Vernonia amygdalina holds the most promise for development into a nutraceutical against diabetes and malaria while Vernonia cinerea has potential against cancer and inflammatory conditions. Vernolide A is so far the most promising single agent from a Vernonia species that has potential for development into an anticancer agent. The other Vernonia species and isolated compounds require further studies to ascertain their medicinal potentials.

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