Forest Treasure from the Land of Hornbills
ARE you a jackfruit lover? Have you tasted the wild jackfruits from Sarawak?
Wild jackfruits (also known as Artocarpus) belong to the Moraceae family. It comprises about 55 species and is distributed throughout South and Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and Southern Pacific.
Wild jackfruit is locally known as ‘terap’, and terap plants are well-known for their medicinal purposes and have been used to treat inflammation, ulcers, diarrhoea, and malaria fever in the local communities here.
There are also claims that the fruit is effective in healing wounds, ulcers, and burns and is used as an antidote against centipede and scorpion stings.
Compounds from the Artocarpus species have shown diverse biological activities, including antibacterial, antitubercular (to treat tuberculosis), antiviral, antifungal, antiplatelet (prevent blood clots from forming), antiarthritic (to relieve or prevent arthritic symptoms, such as joint pain and joint stiffness), tyrosinase inhibitory (used for the prevention of severe skin diseases), and cytotoxicity (a substance that kills cells, including cancer cells) properties.
Khong Heng Yen and her co-researchers dug deeper into their secrets where they studied the Artocarpus odoratissimus (AO) and Artocarpus Sarawakiansis (AS) varieties, investigating their chemical content and biological activities. These two plants originated from Borneo, the world’s oldest rainforest, and in this lush green beauty of the Sarawak forest, secrets of natural remedies hide within.
The study indicated that the root of AO has strong antioxidant properties. The bark of AO and AS displayed potent antimicrobial activities towards bacteria related to food spoilage and food-borne diseases. The team also proved that AS bark exhibited high anti-inflammatory and moderate anti-gout properties.
Due to the exciting result activity shown by the AO and AS crude extracts, the team has extended their research to isolate and purify bioactive compounds.
Khong’s team identified the following compounds in their experiments:
- Pinocembrin, which protects the hemorrhagic brain
- Pinostrobin, which has diverse biological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties
- α-amyrin acetate, which has anti-inflammatory activity
- ß-amyrin acetate for the management of malaria, ulcer, rheumatic pain, toothache, and inflammatory disorders
- traxateryl acetate
- hexyl dodecanoate
- ß-sitosterol, which may help treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) and lowers cholesterol
- stigmasterol, which indicates potent pharmacological effects
At the same time, AS elucidated six compounds from the stem bark extract and four compounds in its leave extract. All compounds except traxateryl acetate were identified for the first time from AO and AS.
Although compounds 1 and 2 were prevalent across a wide range of plant species, it was rare in Artocarpus species.
Khong and her team continued this research works whereby a total of 24 compounds were synthesised and derived accomplished in a shorter pathway in three steps. Some of these compounds exhibited strong antioxidant and anticancer properties against human breast cancer.
Based on the scientific data, Khong suggested that derivatives of pinocembrin and pinostrobin have great commercialisation potential for further development to be natural lead sources as antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer agents. The work has been published and registered for patent.
Indeed, the Sarawak folk have been proven correct. — DayakDaily
Dr Khong Heng Yen is a professor at UiTM Sarawak under the university’s Faculty of Applied Sciences. Her expertise include bioassay-guided fractionation and isolation of bioactive constituents from medicinal plants, standardisation of Malaysian medicinal plants, and essential oils extraction and identification.
‘Forest Treasure from the Land of Hornbills’ is a column that will be contributed periodically by UiTM Sarawak.