Ethnopharmacological in vitro studies on Austria's folk medicine--an unexplored lore in vitro anti-inflammatory activities of 71 Austrian traditional herbal drugs

J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Oct 7;149(3):750-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.06.007. Epub 2013 Jun 13.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: In Austria, like in most Western countries, knowledge about traditional medicinal plants is becoming scarce. Searching the literature concerning Austria's ethnomedicine reveals its scant scientific exploration. Aiming to substantiate the potential of medicinal plants traditionally used in Austria, 63 plant species or genera with claimed anti-inflammatory properties listed in the VOLKSMED database were assessed for their in vitro anti-inflammatory activity.

Material and methods: 71 herbal drugs from 63 plant species or genera were extracted using solvents of varying polarities and subsequently depleted from the bulk constituents, chlorophylls and tannins to avoid possible interferences with the assays. The obtained 257 extracts were assessed for their in vitro anti-inflammatory activity. The expression of the inflammatory mediators E-selectin and interleukin-8 (IL-8), induced by the inflammatory stimuli tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and the bacterial product lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was measured in endothelial cells. The potential of the extracts to activate the nuclear factors PPARα and PPARγ and to inhibit TNF-α-induced activation of the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) in HEK293 cells was determined by luciferase reporter gene assays.

Results: In total, extracts from 67 of the 71 assessed herbal drugs revealed anti-inflammatory activity in the applied in vitro test systems. Thereby, 30 could downregulate E-selectin or IL-8 gene expression, 28 were strong activators of PPARα or PPARγ (inducing activation of more than 2-fold at a concentration of 10µg/mL) and 21 evoked a strong inhibition of NF-κB (inhibition of more than 80% at 10µg/mL).

Conclusion: Our research supports the efficacy of herbal drugs reported in Austrian folk medicine used for ailments associated with inflammatory processes. Hence, an ethnopharmacological screening approach is a useful tool for the discovery of new drug leads.

Keywords: Austria; E-selectin; IL-8; Inflammation; NF-ĸB; PPAR; Traditional European medicine (TEM).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / isolation & purification
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Austria
  • Databases, Factual
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Endothelial Cells / immunology
  • Ethnopharmacology*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Medicine, Traditional / methods*
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Medicinal / classification*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Plant Extracts