Studies of the in vitro anticancer, antimicrobial and antioxidant potentials of selected Yemeni medicinal plants from the island Soqotra

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009 Mar 25:9:7. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-9-7.


Background: Recent years have witnessed that there is a revival of interest in drug discovery from medicinal plants for the maintenance of health in all parts of the world. The aim of this work was to investigate 26 plants belonging to 17 families collected from a unique place in Yemen (Soqotra Island) for their in vitro anticancer, antimicrobial and antioxidant activities.

Methods: The 26 plants were extracted with methanol and hot water to yield 52 extracts. Evaluation for in vitro anticancer activity was done against three human cancer cell lines (A-427, 5637 and MCF-7) by using an established microtiter plate assay based on cellular staining with crystal violet. Antimicrobial activity was tested against three Gram-positive bacteria, two Gram-negative bacteria, one yeast species and three multiresistant Staphylococcus strains by using an agar diffusion method and the determination of MIC against three Gram-positive bacteria with the broth micro-dilution assay. Antioxidant activity was investigated by measuring the scavenging activity of the DPPH radical. Moreover, a phytochemical screening of the methanolic extracts was done.

Results: Notable cancer cell growth inhibition was observed for extracts from Ballochia atro-virgata, Eureiandra balfourii and Hypoestes pubescens, with IC50 values ranging between 0.8 and 8.2 microg/ml. The methanol extracts of Acanthospermum hispidum, Boswellia dioscorides, Boswellia socotrana, Commiphora ornifolia and Euphorbia socotrana also showed noticeable antiproliferative potency with IC50 values < 50 microg/ml. The greatest antimicrobial activity was exhibited by extracts from Acacia pennivenia, Boswellia dioscorides, Boswellia socotrana, Commiphora ornifolia, Euclea divinorum, Euphorbia socotrana, Leucas samhaensis, Leucas virgata, Rhus thyrsiflora, and Teucrium sokotranum with inhibition zones > 15 mm and MIC values <or= 250 microg/ml. In addition, the methanolic extracts of Acacia pennivenia, Boswellia dioscorides, Boswellia socotrana and Commiphora ornifolia showed good antioxidant potential at low concentrations (more than 80% at 50 microg/ml).

Conclusion: Our results show once again that medicinal plants can be promising sources of natural products with potential anticancer, antimicrobial and antioxidative activity. The results will guide the selection of some plant species for further pharmacological and phytochemical investigations.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Candida / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Yemen


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts