Many Bauhinia species, including those indigenous to South Africa, are used in traditional medicine across the world for treating ailments such as gastrointestinal tract (GIT) disorders, diabetes, infectious diseases and inflammation.
Several relevant aspects of different fractions of leaf extracts of Bauhinia bowkeri (BAB), Bauhinia galpinii (BAG), Bauhinia petersiana (BAP), and Bauhinia variegata (BAV) used in South African traditional medicine to alleviate diarrhoea related symptoms were evaluated.
The antioxidative activities of the extracts were determined using the 2, 2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH), 2, 2'-azino-bis (3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulphonic acid (ABTS(+)) radical scavenging and ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) methods. In vitro antimicrobial activities of the extracts were determined against bacterial strains (Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis) and clinical isolates of the opportunistic fungal strains (Aspergillus fumigatus, Candida albicans, and Cryptococcus neoformans) using a serial dilution microplate method. The polyphenolic contents were quantified using standard methods, and anti-inflammatory activities of the crude extracts were determined using the cyclooxygenase and soybean 15-lipoxygenase enzyme inhibitory assays. The safety of the extracts was evaluated by determining the cytotoxicity against Vero cell lines.
The acidified 70% acetone crude extract and their fractions had good antiradical potency against the DPPH and ABTS radicals. The methanol soluble portions of the butanol fractions were more potent (EC(50) ranges from 0.64 ± 0.05 to 1.51 ± 0.07 and 0.88 ± 0.18 to 1.49 ± 0.09 μg/ml against DPPH and ABTS radical respectively) compared to the standard, trolox and ascorbic acid (EC(50) ranges from 1.47 ± 0.24 to 1.70 ± 0.27 μg/ml) for both DPPH and ABTS. The crude extracts contained variable quantities of phenolic content. The crude extracts and their fractions had weak to good antimicrobial activities, inhibiting the growth of the organisms at concentrations ranging from 39 to 2500 μg/ml. The BAG crude extract and its fractions were the most active against the fungi (MICs ranging from 39 to 625 μg/ml) while the BAB extract and its fractions were the least active with the MICs ranging between 39 and 2500 μg/ml. Aspergillus fumigatus was the least susceptible fungus while Cryptococcus neoformans was the most susceptible. The phenolic-rich crude extracts of BAB, BAG, and BAP had moderate to good dose-dependent cyclooxygenase-1 enzyme inhibitory activity with inhibitions between 22.8% and 71.4%. The extracts were however, inactive against cyclooxygenase-2. The extracts had some level of cytotoxicity towards Vero cell lines, reducing cell viability to less than 10% at concentrations more than 50 μg/ml.
The biological activities observed in Bauhinia species provide a scientific basis for the use of the plants in traditional medicines to treat diseases with multi-factorial pathogenesis such as diarrhoea, with each aspect of activity contributing to the ultimate therapeutic benefit of the plants. However, the use of the phenolic-rich extracts of these plants to treat diarrhoea or any other ailments in traditional medicine needs to be monitored closely because of potential toxic effects and selective inhibition of COX-1 with the associated GIT injury.