Ameliorative effect of methanol extract of Rubia cordifolia in N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced hepatocellular carcinoma

Pharm Biol. 2012 Mar;50(3):376-83. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2011.608073. Epub 2011 Dec 1.


Context: Rubia cordifolia Linn. (Rubiaceae) is a medicinal plant used in the ayurvedic system of medicine. It is also known as Indian Madder or Manjistha and is traditionally used as an antiinflammatory, antiseptic, and galactopurifier, but its anticancer propertis are yet not known.

Objective: The ameliorative effect of the Rubia cordifolia methanol extract on N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced experimental hepatocellular carcinogenesis in rats.

Materials and methods: Changes in liver weight, serum markers of liver damage, hydroxyl radicals, lipid peroxidation, levels of enzymic and nonenzymic antioxidants; mitochondrial and respiratory chain enzymes were also investigated using various biochemical parameters and histopathological studies. Male albino rats of Wistar strain were divided into four groups for a study period of 3 months. Animals of group I and group IV served as control and drug control, respectively. Hepatocellular carcinoma was induced in animals of groups II and III with 0.02% N-nitrosodiethylamine.

Results: Upon Rubia cordifolia methanol extract co-treatment (250, 500, and 750 mg/kg bodyweight) in group III alone levels of serum marker enzymes and antioxidants increased significantly in a dose-dependent manner. The levels of hydroxyl radicals and lipid peroxidation decreased. Mitochondrial enzymes and respiratory chain enzymes, which were decreased in N-nitrosodiethylamine-induced rats, increased significantly in RC treated rats. Further histological analysis of liver confirmed the prevention of pathological changes caused by N-nitrosodiethylamine on Rubia cordifolia supplementation.

Discussion and conclusion: These findings demonstrate that Rubia cordifolia can be a source of potent antioxidants for treatment of diseases such as cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology
  • Diethylnitrosamine / toxicity
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • India
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Male
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Rubia / chemistry*


  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts
  • Diethylnitrosamine