The protective effects of the juice of Opuntia ficus indica fruit (prickly pear) against carbon tetrachloride (CCl(4))-induced hepatotoxicity were examined in rats. The animals were treated orally with the juice (3 mL/rat) 2 h after administration of the hepatotoxic agent. Preventive effects were studied by giving the juice (3 mL/rat) for 9 consecutive days. On day 9 the rats received the hepatotoxic agent. Morphological and biochemical evaluations were carried out 24, 48 and 72 h after induction of the hepatic damage. Data show that O. ficus indica fruit juice administration exerts protective and curative effects against the CCl(4)-induced degenerative process in rat liver. Histology evaluation revealed a normal hepatic parenchyma at 48 h; the injury was fully restored after 72 h. Moreover, a significant reduction in CCl(4)-induced increase of GOT and GPT plasma levels is evident; these data are in agreement with the functional improvement of hepatocytes. O. ficus indica fruit juice contains many phenol compounds, ascorbic acid, betalains, betacyanins, and a flavonoid fraction, which consists mainly of rutin and isorhamnetin derivatives. Hepatoprotection may be related to the flavonoid fraction of the juice, but other compounds, such as vitamin C and betalains could, synergistically, counteract many degenerative processes by means of their antioxidant activity.
Copyright 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.