South Africa is blessed with a rich floral biodiversity of medicinally useful plants. One such plant is Harpagophytum procumbens DC (Family: Pedaliaceae). H. procumbens is widely used in South African traditional medicine for the treatment, management and/or control of a variety of human ailments. In the present study, the analgesic effect of H. procumbens secondary root aqueous extract was evaluated in mice, using the 'hot-plate' and 'acetic acid' test methods; while the antiinflammatory and antidiabetic effects of the plant's secondary root extract were investigated in rats. Fresh egg albumin-induced pedal oedema and streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes mellitus were used as experimental test models of inflammation and diabetes Diclofenac (DIC, 100 mg/kg i.p.) was used as a reference analgesic and antiinflammatory agent for comparison. Chlorpropamide (250 mg/kg p.o.) was used as a reference hypoglycaemic agent for comparison. H. procumbens root aqueous extract (HPE, 50-800 mg/kg i.p.) produced significant (p < 0.05-0.001) analgesic effects against thermally and chemically induced nociceptive pain stimuli in mice. H. procumbens root extract (HPE, 50-800 mg/kg i.p.) also produced dose-related, significant reductions (p < 0.05-0.001) of the fresh egg albumin-induced acute inflammation of the rat hind paw oedema. Furthermore, the plant extract (HPE, 50-800 mg/kg i.p.) produced dose-dependent, significant reductions (p < 0.05-0.001) in the blood glucose concentrations of both fasted normal and fasted diabetic rats. The results of this experimental animal study indicate that H. procumbens root aqueous extract possesses analgesic, antiinflammatory and hypoglycaemic properties, and lend pharmacological support to the suggested folklore uses of Harpagophytum procumbens root in the management and/or control of painful, arthritic and other inflammatory conditions, as well as for adult-onset, type-2 diabetes mellitus in some communities of South Africa.
2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.