Investigation of Brassica juncea, Forsythia suspensa, and Inula britannica: phytochemical properties, antiviral effects, and safety

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019 Sep 11;19(1):253. doi: 10.1186/s12906-019-2670-x.


Background: General antiviral agents such as oseltamivir are associated with certain adverse effects and the emergence of resistance. This study investigated the phytochemical properties, antiviral activities, and safety of three herbs used in traditional Korean medicine.

Methods: Extracts of three medicinal herbs (Brassica juncea, Forsythia suspensa, and Inula britannica) were prepared using ethanol or water. The total phenolic, flavonoid, and saponin content, condensed tannin content, and reducing sugar content of the herb extracts were determined via phytochemical screening. Tandem mass analysis was performed using an ultra-performance liquid chromatography (UPLC)-electrospray ionization (ESI)-Q/Orbitrap instrument. Virus titrations were determined via tissue culture infective dose (TCID50) and cytotoxicity assays. Hemolysis and hepatotoxicity were measured to determine safety.

Results: Among the three medicinal herbs, F. suspensa showed the highest concentration of phenolic compounds, flavonoids, and saponins. The number of phytochemical compounds detected via tandem mass analysis of B. juncea, F. suspensa, and I. britannica was 5 (including sinigrin, m/z [M-H] = 358.02), 14 (including forsythoside A, m/z [M-H] = 623.19), and 18 (including chlorogenic acid, m/z [M-H] = 353.20), respectively. The antiviral effects of the B. juncea extracts (ethanol and water) and I. britannica extract (ethanol) were further investigated. The ethanol extract of B. juncea showed a 3 Log TCID50/25 μL virus titration reduction and the water extract showed a selectivity index of 13.668 against infected influenza H1N1 virus A/NWS/33. The B. juncea extracts did not show hemolysis activities and hepatotoxicity (< 20%). The ethanol extract of I. britannica showed the most effective virus titration decrease, whereas its hemolytic and hepatotoxicity values were the most significantly different compared to the control. Despite the high concentration of phytochemicals detected in F. suspensa, the extract showed approximately 1 Log TCID50/25 μL at the highest concentration.

Conclusion: B. juncea may show antiviral effects against H1N1 in a host. In addition, B. juncea may also show decreased disadvantages compared to other antiviral agents.

Keywords: Antiviral effect; Human safety; Medicinal herbs; Phytochemical properties.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / adverse effects
  • Antiviral Agents / chemistry
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line
  • Forsythia / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / drug effects
  • Influenza A Virus, H1N1 Subtype / growth & development
  • Influenza, Human / virology
  • Inula / chemistry*
  • Mustard Plant / chemistry*
  • Phytochemicals / adverse effects
  • Phytochemicals / chemistry
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Phytochemicals
  • Plant Extracts