Context: The flower bud of Tussilago farfara L. (Compositae) (FTF) is one of the traditional Chinese medicinal herbs used to treat cough, phlegm, bronchitic, and asthmatic conditions.
Objective: The objective of this study is to isolate four caffeoylquinic acids from the ethyl acetate extract (EtE) of FTF and to evaluate their antitussive, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory activities.
Materials and methods: The structures of compounds 1-4 isolated from EtE were determined by spectral analysis. Mice were orally treated with these compounds and their mixture (in a ratio of 5:28:41:26 as in EtE) at doses of 10 and 20 mg/kg once daily for 3 d. The antitussive and expectorant activities were evaluated separately with the ammonia liquor-induced model and the phenol red secretion model. The anti-inflammation activity was evaluated using leukocyte count in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid after ammonia liquor-induced acute airway inflammation.
Results: The four compounds were identified as chlorogenic acid (1), 3,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid (2), 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid (3), and 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid (4). All compounds, especially compound 4 (58.0% inhibition in cough frequency), showed a significant antitussive effect. However, the mixture was the most effective to inhibit the cough frequency by 61.7%. All compounds also showed a significant expectorant effect, while compound 2 was the most potent to enhance the phenol red secretion by 35.7%. All compounds significantly alleviated inflammation, but compound 4 showed the strongest effect to inhibit the leukocytosis by 49.7%.
Discussion and conclusion: The caffeoylquinic acids and their mixture, exhibiting significant antitussive, expectorant, and anti-inflammatory effects, could be considered as the main effective ingredients of FTF, and they may act in a collective and synergistic way.
Keywords: 3,4-dicaffeoylquinic acid; 3,5-Dicaffeoylquinic acid; 4,5-dicaffeoylquinic acid; chlorogenic acid; synergistic effect.