A mechanistic study on the inhibition of bacterial growth and inflammation by Nerium oleander extract with comprehensive in vivo safety profile

BMC Complement Med Ther. 2021 May 1;21(1):135. doi: 10.1186/s12906-021-03308-z.


Background: Nerium oleander (L.) is well known traditionally used medicinal plant with several pharmacological activities. However, the anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory activity and in vivo toxicity potential of floral parts of this plant are not reported. Therefore the present study was designed to investigate these activities of Nerium oleander ethanolic flower extract (NOEE) in different animal models.

Methods: Antimicrobial activity of plant extract was compared with five different antibiotics using the disk diffusion method. The time-killing kinetic assay and bacterial killing mechanism of NOEE were also performed. Anti-inflammatory activity was assessed using granuloma induced by cotton-pellet, rat paw edema induced by carrageenan and levels of different inflammatory biomarkers on healthy Wistar rats. The protein and mRNA expressions of nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-1β (IL-1β) were also measured. Acute (14 days) and sub-acute (28 days) oral toxicity studies were also performed on healthy Sprague Dawley rats.

Results: NOEE produced highly significant (P < 0.005) and significant (P < 0.05) zones of inhibition at 30 mg/mL and 20 mg/mL respectively against most of the tested bacterial strains. NOEE produced a more drop in viable counts of Gram-negative isolates within 20 min. After 12 h exposure with NOEE, the SEM images of MRSA showed the destruction of cell membrane. NOEE showed highly significant (P < 0.005) anti-inflammatory activity in cotton-pellet and carrageenan inflammatory models. In addition, treatment with NOEE also decreased the production of NO, PGE2, TNF-α and IL-1β in the rat paw after treated with carrageenan. Similarly, NOEE also suppressed the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), TNF-α, IL-1β, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) mRNA expressions. It is also showed highly significant reduction in total leukocyte count (73.09%) and C-reactive protein levels (54.60%). NOEE also inhibited COX-1, COX-2, 5-LO and 12-LO in a highly significant manner. Moreover, acute and sub-acute toxicity studies of NOEE in rats confirm the toxicity with hepatotoxicity at higher doses (2000 mg/kg) i.e. four times greater than the therapeutic dose.

Conclusion: It is concluded that crude flower extract of N. oleander is a potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent with no toxicity potential at therapeutic doses.

Keywords: Acute and sub-acute toxicity; Anti-inflammatory activity; Nerium oleander; Time killing kinetics.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents* / toxicity
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents* / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents* / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents* / toxicity
  • Disk Diffusion Antimicrobial Tests
  • Female
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Nerium*
  • Plant Extracts* / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts* / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts* / toxicity
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Toxicity Tests, Acute


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Plant Extracts