Medicinal plants contain bioactive compounds capable of preventing and fighting oxidative related diseases. Medicinal plants play a great role in human life and have substances that are used for traditional therapeutic and modern drug production purposes in primary health care delivery. Costus afer as a medicinal plant is commonly used for traditional therapeutic and other socio cultural purposes such as wrapping of indigenous food items, mat making, feed to small ruminants, treatment of cough, measles, malaria, eye defects, hunch back and evil repellants. These compounds must be screened and assayed before effective drugs are developed. Thus, phytochemical constituents and antioxidant activities of methanolic leaf extract of Costus afer ker-Gawl were evaluated. Costus afer contains Flavonoids, phenols, Tannins, Cardiac glycoside, Cardenolides, Saponins. Furthermore, Total phenolic content was 0.359±0.0225mg (gallic acid equivalent/g).For the total flavonoid content was 0.119±0.087mg(gallic acid equivalent/g).Also the methanolic extract was assay for reducing power and Fe2+ chelating activity. Nevertheless, Methanolic extract of Costus afer possess anti-oxidative properties as well as bioactive metabolite. Thus, leaf of Costus afer could serve as sources of antioxidants and bioactive compounds for nutrition and therapeutic purposes. The present study reveals that leaf of Costus afer exhibits satisfactory scavenging effect in all radical scavenging assays.

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1.1   Background to the Study

The use of plant as tradition medicine is well known in rural area of developing countries. According to the world health organization (WHO) about 80% of the world’s population relies on tradition medicine for the primary health care needs. Human beings have always relied on plants for medicine, drinks, shelter, clothing, equipment dental care and to nourish and sustain the body.
In Nigeria traditional medicine has become a part of the people’s culture. The ministry of health in many African countries including Nigeria now has a department or agency that oversees the affairs of traditional health care delivery system.

Plant show enormous versatility in synthesizing growth or metabolic function these complex materials are referred to as secondary metabolite. plant secondary metabolite have recently been referred to as phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are naturally occuring and biologically active plant compounds. Phytochemical are effective in preventing disease due to their antioxidant effect (Halliwell and Gutteridge,1992).

1.2    Costus afer

Costus afer is a monocot, relatively tall herbaceous tropical plant. Costus afer ker-Gawl (costaceae)is among 150 species of Stout, perennial and rhizomatous herbs of the genus Costus (Edeoga and okoli, 2000). It can be found in the forest belt of senegal, south africa ,Guinea, Niger, sierra Leone and Nigeria(Burkill,1985). Costus afer is commonly called bush cane, Ireke omode (Yoruba-western part of Nigeria) and Opete(Igbo-Eastern part of Nigeria).It bears white and yellow flowers (Stentoft,1988). The stem, seeds and rhizome are harvested from the wild plant and they contain several bioactive metabolites.

The plant possess potent bioactive compounds capable of preventing and treating most oxidative related disease (Dahanuka et al.,2000) and have often been used in folkloric medicine. In developing countries the use of medicinal plants in treatment of infectious disease is rife and reasons include the high cost of effective drugs. However, potential indigenous plants exploited for medicinal purposes have to undergo basic Phytochemical screening and bioassay as first step towards the ultimate development of drugs. Therefore the present study aims at investigating the potential of costus afer as a source of antioxidants for nutritional and Therapeutic purposes.

1.2    Botanical Description Of Costus Afer

Costus afer which belongs to the family Zingiberaceae is a monocot and a relatively tall, herbaceous, unbranched tropical plant with creeping rhizome. It is commonly found in moist or shady forest of west and tropical Africa(Iwu1983).

Common name

English: Monkey sugarcane
Family: Zinngiberaceae
Genus: Costus
Species: Afer
Kingdom: plantae

1.3   Traditional Therapeutic Uses

Costus afer is a useful medicinal plant that is highly valued for its anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anthritic properties in south east and south west Nigeria (Soladoye&Oyesika,2008).

In Ogba community of River state, the leaf and stem of costus afer when cut and crushed into smaller bits, boiled together with the leaf &bark of Alcohornea cordiflora is used for the treatment of Hunch bark & Malaria.

Among the Ikwerre ethnic group in Rivers state, it is applied in various ways. The leaves are reputed to be an effective remedy for fever and malaria when boiled with leaves of Carica papaya(Paw paw),Citrus specie(Orange)&bark of Mangifera indica(Mango). The stem and juice has traditional use in the treatment of cough, measles and malaria in Aluu community.

In Ahoada community of Rivers State, Costus afer is believed to have supernatural power, when used as cane to flog or whip a witch or wizard. It is believed to automatically redeem and remove evil spirit from the body of the individual possessed.

1.4    Chemical Constituent

Diosgenin is a very important raw material found in C. afer used as a precursor in the synthesis of a number of steroid drugs including corticosteroids, sex hormones, oral contraceptive and anabolic agents. (Aweke, 2007)

1.5    Socio-Cultural Purposes

Costus afer is used in wrapping of indigenous food items ,Mat making, Feeds to small ruminants, Treatment of cough, measles, malaria, eye defects ,hunch back& evil repellants.(Omokhua,2011).

1.6    Phytochemicals

Phytochemical are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. The term “phyto” in greek means plants. Phytochemicals are responsible for color, flavor, aroma and other organoleptic properties. They are also non-nutritive plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties. Scientist have estimated that there may be as many as 10,000 different phytochemicals having the potential to affect disease such as cancer, stroke or metabolic syndrome, although certain phytochemicals are available as dietary supplements (Brown et al, 2001).

1.8    How phytochemical work

There are many phytochemicals and each works differently. These are some possible actions.

1.8.1   Antioxidant

Most phytochemicals have antioxidant activity and protect our cells against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.(Anyasor et al,2010)

1.8.2   Hormonal action

Isoflavones found in soy imitate human estrogens and helps to reduce menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis. .(Anyasor et al,2010)

1.8.3   Stimulation of Enzymes

Indoles ,which are found in cabbage, stimulate enzyme that make the estrogen less effective and reduce the risk of breast cancer. .(Anyasor et al,2010)

1.8.4   Interference with DNA Replication

Saponins found in beans interfere with the replication cell DNA, thereby prevailing the multiplication of cancer cells. .(Anyasor et al,2010)

1.9    Food Sources of Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are found in all plant product some foods such as whole grains, vegetable,beans, fruit and herbs contains many phytochemicals so it is advised that we consume a wide variety in order to gain maximum benefit from the nutrients.

1.10  Free Radical Formation

Free radical is any chemical species capable of independent existence and possessing one or more unpaired electron. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with odd(unpaired)number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interact with certain molecules. To prevent free radical damage the body has a defense system of antioxidant. Free radicals are very unstable and react quickly with other compound trying to capture the needed electron to gain stability. Free radicals are pollution, radiation, cigarette smoking and herbicides.

However the body can handle free radical but if antioxidant are unavailable or if the free radical production becomes excessive, oxidative stress occurs which can damage tissue.

Free radicals interacts with other molecules within the cell, this can cause oxidative damage to proteins, membrane and genes. Oxidative damage has been implicated in cause of many disease, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s which has an impact in body aging process. The theory that organisms age because cell which accumulate free radical damage overtime. The free radical theory was expanded to include not only aging but also age related disease such as cancer ,arthritis, atherosclerosis and diabetes.
Plants contains a wide variety of free radical scavenging molecules such as phenols, flavonoids, vitamins, terpenoids that are rich in antioxidant activity. Many dietary polyphenolic constituent derived from plants are more effective antioxidants in vitro than Vitamin E or C.

1.11 Types of Free Radicals

There are numerous types of free radicals that can be formed within the body include hydroxyl radical(OH)and superoxide anion (O2)

1.12  Antioxidant

Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Although there are several enzyme systems within the body that scavenge free radicals. Antioxidant are vitamin C, Beta-carotene and vitamin E. Additionally, selenium a trace metal that is required for proper function of one of the body’s antioxidant enzyme systems is sometimes included in this category. The body cannot manufacture these micronutrients so they must be supplied in the diet.

Antioxidant are divided into enzymatic (non-nutrient) and non-enzymatic(nutrient) antioxidant.

1.12.1 Enzymatic Antioxidant

Three group of enzymes play significant roles in protecting cells from oxidative stress .These enzymes include

⦁ Superoxide Dismutase (SOD)

Superoxide Dismutase are enzymes that catalyze the conversion of superoxide into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. The benefit here is that hydrogen peroxide is substantially less toxic compare to superoxide. SOD accelerates this detoxifying reaction roughly 10,000 fold over the non-catalyzed reaction. Superoxide Dismutase are metal containing enzymes that depend on a bound manganese, copper or Zinc for their antioxidant activity. Zinc containing superoxide dismutase is found in cytosol while copper and manganese superoxide dismutase is found in mitochondria.

2H+ + O2 + O2 O2 + H2O2

⦁ Catalase

Catalase is found in peroxisomes in eukaryotic cells. It degrades hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen and hence finishes the detoxification reaction started by superoxide dismutase. (Chelikani et al,2004)

2H2O2 2H2O + O2

⦁ Glutathione Peroxidase

Glutathione peroxidase is a group of enzymes, the most abundant of which contain selenium. These enzymes like catalases degrade hydrogen peroxide, they also reduce organic peroxides to alcohol, providing another route for eliminating toxic oxidants.

H2O2 + 2GSH Oxidized Glutathione + 2H2O

1.12.2 Non Enzymatic Antioxidant

The Non enzymatic antioxidant include vitamin A,C and E

Vitamin A(retinol)is a water soluble vitamin .It is the most widely studied carotenoid and is thought to be the best quencher singlet of oxygen.it is present in liver, egg yolk, milk and grains. Because carotene is converted to Vitamin A by the body where there is no set requirement.

Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid is a water soluble antioxidant that can reduce radicals from a variety of sources.it also appears to participate in recycling vitamin E radicals. It is present in citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, kiwi & strawberries.

Vitamin E (delta-alpha tocopherol) is the major lipid-soluble antioxidant and plays a role in protecting membranes from oxidative damage. Its primary activity is to trap peroxyl radical in cellular membranes. Alpha tocopherol also protects the fats in low density lipoprotein from oxidation and it is present in nuts, seeds, vegetable and fish oil.

1.12.3 Flavonoid

Also collectively known as Vitamin p and citrin are a class of plant secondary metabolites. According to the IUPAC nomenclature they can be classified into

-Iso flavonoid
-Neo flavonoid

Flavonoids are the most important pigments for flower coloration producing yellow or blue/red pigmentation in petals designed to attract pollinator animals. Flavonoid are plant based compounds with powerful antioxidant properties found in many fruits & vegetables like blueberries and grape.

1.12.4 Antioxidant Activity In Vitro (Flavonoid)

Flavonoid is mostly common for its antioxidant activity in vitro. Consumers & food manufacturers have become interested in flavonoid for their possible medicinal properties especially their putative role in prevention of cancers and cardiovascular diseases. The risk of some chronic disease may be lower at higher dietary flavonoid intakes.

Physiological processing of unwanted flavonoid compounds induces so called phase II enzyme that also help to eliminate mutagens and carcinogen and therefore maybe of value in cancer prevention. Flavonoid could also induce mechanisms that may kill cancer cells and inhibit tumor invasion.

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