Alstonia scholaris has been used by traditional medicine practitioners since the medieval ages for the treatment of diseases. The aim of this research was to evaluate the acute and sub-acute oral toxicity of its methanolic extract. The acute toxicity test was conducted using Sprague Dawley (SD) rats. The methanolic extract of Alstonia scholaris stem bark (ASME) was administrated in a single dose of 2000 mg/kg via oral gavage; and the animals were observed for any behavioral changes or mortality. In the sub-acute toxicity study, SD rats received three doses of ASME (250, 500 and 1000 mg/kg) for 28 days via oral gavage. During these 28 days of treatment, the rats were observed weekly for toxicity symptoms. Following the 28-day treatment, the rats were sacrificed for hematological, biochemical and histopathology studies. In the acute toxicity study, Alstonia scholaris was found to be non-toxic at a dose of 2000 mg/kg b.w. In the sub-acute toxicity study, significant variations in body weight, hematological and biochemical parameters were observed in the experimental groups at the dose of 500 and 1000 mg/kg with the death of two female rats being recorded at the highest dose (1000 mg/kg b.w.). Histopathological studies revealed slight degeneration (lesion) and centrilobular necrosis in the liver, which was most expressed in the highest-dose group. These results demonstrate that, while a single dose and short term oral intake of Alstonia scholaris bark extract caused no toxicity up to a dose of 2000 mg/kg b.w., toxic effects manifested in the long term treatment at the highest dose (500 and 1000 mg/kg). The long-term toxic effect was found to be associated with alterations in hematological compositions and end-organ damage to the liver. Thus, prolonged use of high doses of ASME orally should be discouraged and lower doses encouraged.
Keywords: Alstonia scholaris; acute; extract; herb; plant; sub-acute; toxicity.