Hepatoprotective species from the Chilean medicinal flora: Junellia spathulata (Verbenaceae)

J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Mar 1:267:113543. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113543. Epub 2020 Nov 2.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Chilean population relies on medicinal plants for treating a wide range of illnesses, especially those of the gastrointestinal system. Junellia spathulata (Gillies & Hook.) Moldenke var. spathulata (Verbenaceae), called as "verbena-azul-de-cordilleira", is a medicinal plant native to Argentina and Chile traditionally used for treating digestive disorders. Although the species of the genus are important as therapeutic resources for the Andean population, the plants are very scarcely studied.

Aims of the study: The purpose of the present study was to find out the main constituents and investigate the protective effect of J. spathulata against oxidative stress induced by the potent oxidant 2,2'-azobis (2-amidinopropane) dihydrochloride (AAPH) in human hepatoblastoma cells.

Materials and methods: The crude methanol extract of J. spathulata and an iridoid obtained by chromatographic processes were tested to access the hepatoprotective effect and cytotoxicity in HepG2 cell. In addition, the reducing power of the samples and their ability to scavenge free radicals were evaluated using FRAP and ORAC assay systems.

Results: The iridoid asperuloside, the main compound of the crude methanol extract of J. spathulata, was isolated and identified by means of NMR analysis. The crude methanol extract of J. spathulata and asperuloside protected HepG2 cells against oxidative damage triggered by AAPH-derived free radicals. This effect can be credited to the ability of the extract and asperuloside to protect the liver cells from chemical-induced injury, which might be correlated to their free radical scavenging potential.

Conclusions: This study experimentally evidenced the ethnopharmacological usefulness of J. spathulata as a treatment of digestive disorders. Our result could stimulate further investigations of hepatoprotective agents in other Chilean Junellia species.

Keywords: Asperuloside; Chilean native species; Hepatoprotection; Iridoid; Junellia spathulata; Verbenaceae.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Chile
  • Cyclopentane Monoterpenes / isolation & purification
  • Cyclopentane Monoterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Free Radical Scavengers / isolation & purification
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology*
  • Glucosides / isolation & purification
  • Glucosides / pharmacology*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Pyrans / isolation & purification
  • Pyrans / pharmacology*
  • Verbenaceae* / chemistry


  • Cyclopentane Monoterpenes
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Glucosides
  • Plant Extracts
  • Pyrans
  • asperuloside