Greek plant extracts exhibit selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM)-like properties

J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Nov 17;52(23):6956-61. doi: 10.1021/jf0400765.


To prevent bone loss that occurs with increasing age, nutritional and pharmacological factors are needed. Traditional therapeutic agents (selective estrogen receptor modulators or SERMs, biphosphonates, calcitonin) may have serious side effects or contraindications. In an attempt to find food components potentially acting as SERMs, we submitted four plant aqueous extracts derived from Greek flora (Sideritis euboea, Sideritis clandestina, Marticaria chamomilla, and Pimpinella anisum) in a series of in vitro biological assays reflective of SERM profile. We examined their ability (a) to stimulate the differentiation and mineralization of osteoblastic cell culture by histochemical staining for alkaline phosphatase and Alizarin Red-S staining, (b) to induce, like antiestrogens, the insulin growth factor binding protein 3 (IGFBP3) in MCF-7 breast cancer cells, and (c) to proliferate cervical adenocarcinoma (HeLa) cells by use of MTT assay. Our data reveal that all the plant extracts studied at a concentration range 10-100 microg/mL stimulate osteoblastic cell differentiation and exhibit antiestrogenic effect on breast cancer cells without proliferative effects on cervical adenocarcinoma cells. The presence of estradiol inhibited the antiestrogenic effect induced by the extracts on MCF-7 cells, suggesting an estrogen receptor-related mechanism. In conclusion, the aqueous extracts derived from Sideritis euboea, Sideritis clandestina, Marticaria chamomilla, and Pimpinella anisum may form the basis to design "functional foods" for the prevention of osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Calcification, Physiologic / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Greece
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3 / biosynthesis
  • Matricaria / chemistry
  • Osteoblasts / drug effects
  • Pimpinella / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / pharmacology*
  • Sideritis / chemistry
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 3
  • Plant Extracts
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators