Indigenous populations use plants as an important healthcare resource or remedy for different diseases. Here, isolated extracts from Justicia (family Acanthanceae) plant leaves used in Africa as remedy for anemia are characterized by different methods to assess composition and potential nutritional or therapeutic value. Extracts from Justicia leaves were obtained by aqueous extraction, with further isolation by centrifuging and high-performance liquid chromatography. Extracts and isolated compounds were characterized by ultraviolet-visible (UV-Vis) spectroscopy and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Hemoglobin activity was assessed using different hemoglobin assays (Cayman Chemical, and Sigma-Aldrich), as well as ELISA. In addition, the safety of the isolated samples was assessed in vitro and in vivo in mice. ICP-MS study results revealed many essential metabolites found in blood plasma. The UV-Vis spectroscopy results highlighted the presence of hemoglobin, with assays showing levels over 4 times higher than that of similar mass of lyophilized human hemoglobin. Meanwhile, in vivo studies showed faster recovery from anemia in mice administered with the isolated extracts compared to untreated mice. Moreover, in vitro and in vivo studies highlighted safety of the extracts. This study reveals the presence of high levels of elements essential for blood health in the isolated extracts from Justicia plant leaves. The findings inspire further research with the potential applications in food fortification, and as remedy for blood disorders like anemia, which disproportionally affects cancer patients, pregnant women, and populations in low- and middle-income countries.
Keywords: Justicia leaves; anemia; blood disorders; nutraceutical; safety.