Effects of extracts of selected medicinal plants upon hepatic oxidative stress

J Med Food. 2010 Feb;13(1):131-6. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2008.0323.


Aqueous extracts of a few medicinal plants traditionally used in Portugal have been assayed for their effects upon hepatic oxidative stress in mice. Previous in vitro studies had allowed characterization of agrimony, sage, savory, and raspberry in terms of overall antioxidant capacity and phenolic content. In the present study, the antioxidant effect and safety of these four plants were evaluated in vivo. For this purpose, mice ingested extracts in aqueous form (or water, used as the control) for 4 weeks; damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA was evaluated by oxidative cell biomarkers by the end of that period. Levels of hepatic glutathione and activities of enzymes involved in metabolism thereof were also determined. Finally, catalase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activities were quantified, as these enzymes play a crucial role in antioxidant defense. When compared with the control, both raspberry and savory produced significant lipid protection; however, protein damage was significantly lower only in raspberry-treated animals. On the other hand, DNA damage was prevented only by savory. All plants led to a decrease in catalase activity, whereas all but sage also produced a decrease in SOD activity. With regard to glutathione levels and activities of enzymes involved in its metabolism, the aforementioned extracts exhibited different effects. In general, raspberry appeared to be the most promising extract, followed by savory, sage, and agrimony, sorted by decreasing performance in protection; the latter was even slightly toxic. Hence, the plants tested possess compounds with interesting biological activities that may support eventual inclusion in food or feed as functional additives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agrimonia
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Magnoliopsida*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Portugal
  • Protein Carbonylation
  • Rosaceae
  • Salvia
  • Satureja
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers
  • Plant Extracts
  • Catalase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Glutathione