Background: Populations in Africa mostly rely on herbal concoctions for their primarily health care, but so far scientific studies supporting the use of plants in traditional medicine remain poor. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the anti-hyperglycemic effects of Picralima nitida (seeds), Nauclea latifolia (root and stem) and Oxytenanthera abyssinica (leaves) commonly used, in diabetic pregnancy.
Methods: Pregnant wistar rats, rendered diabetic by multiple low injections of streptozotocin, were treated with selected plant extracts based on their antioxidant activities. Vitamin C concentrations, fatty acid compositions and phytochemical analysis of plants extracts were determined. Effect of selected plant extracts on human T cell proliferation was also analysed.
Results: All analysed plant extracts exhibited substantial antioxidant activities probably related to their content in polyphenols. Picralima nitida exhibited the highest antioxidant capacity. Ethanolic and butanolic extracts of Picralima nitida, butanolic extract of Nauclea latifolia and ethanolic extract of Oxytenanthera abyssinica significantly decreased hyperglycemia in the diabetic pregnant rats. Butanolic extract of Picralima, also appeared to be the most potent immunosuppressor although all of the analysed extracts exerted an immunosuppressive effect on T cell proliferation probably due to their linolenic acid (C18:3n-3) and/or alkaloids content. Nevertheless, all analysed plants seemed to be good source of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
Conclusion: By having antioxidant, anti-hyperglycemic and immunosuppressive activities, these plants could be good candidates in the treatment of diabetes and diabetic pregnancy.