‘Justicia carnea leaf extract comparable to conventional blood tonic’

Have you been told that your iron levels are low? Have you been diagnosed with iron deficiency, also known as anaemia? Or are you a pregnant woman that needs to boost your blood level? Whichever case, a daily intake of Justicia carnea leaves extract can offer a rich supply of iron and vitamins to boost blood level.

In a new study, researchers proved that Justicia carnea leaves possess blood-boosting properties more effective than many medicinal plants and well known Western blood tonics.

Using animal models, they corroborated that its leaves possess blood-boosting and replenishing properties that enabled it effectively restored blood levels to normalcy within every short period of treatment.

For the study, the researchers had 46 male Wistar albino mice to assess the toxicity and blood boosting and replenishing properties of Justicia carnea leaves in the laboratory.

The 2019 study, published in the journal, Biomedical Research, involved Orjiakor Chidiogo Anthonia, Njoku Obioma Uzoma and Ezeanyika Lawrence Uchenna Sunday from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in collaboration with Uroko Robert Ikechukwu, from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State.

The anaemic rats were randomly distributed into seven groups of four rats each.  The rats had different amounts of the water extracts of Justicia carnea leaves. Astyfer, a well known Western blood tonic, was used as a control in the study.

The standard drug contains, among other things, active components such as iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 that have been reported to restore blood components.

Nutritional study showed the richness of the aqueous extract in minerals and vitamins contents. The extract caused no adverse reactions or death in the animals indicating it is relatively safe for consumption.

Leaves extract of J. carnea is shown to be a rich source of B2, B12, B9 and B1. The riboflavin content of J.carnea was higher when compared with a similar plant like T. occidentalis. B vitamins play a vital role in the function of the nervous system, aid in the formation of red blood cells and help to build tissues.

Significant reductions in the levels of blood levels observed in anaemic rats were significantly reverted within four to eight days of treatment with the extract.

There was no significant difference observed between blood levels and in anaemic rats treated Astyfer and anaemic rats treated with graded doses of aqueous extract of J. carnea leaves.

There was no significant difference observed in the liver and kidney functions of all the anaemic rats treated with the aqueous extract when compared with normal control, which could be attributed to the aqueous extract lacking the potential of causing liver and kidney damage.

The researchers, however, suggested that the extract restore blood components through the same mechanism as Astyfer, the standard drug.

According to them, “These findings validate claims by local consumers that it possesses anti anaemic effects that boost blood levels in anaemic patients, pregnant women and replenishes blood lost through the menstrual cycle when consumed inadequate amount.”

Justicia carnea, commonly called Hospital Too Far or Blood of Jesus, is generally considered as an ornamental plant. Several species of Justicia are widely used in folk medicine for the treatment of inflammation, respiratory, and gastrointestinal disorder. It has also been reported to be rich in both macronutrients and trace elements of which calcium and iron are in high quantity.

Justicia carnea is used as blood tonic locally in many parts of Nigeria and despite absence of sufficient scientific evidence to support its use as blood tonic by traditional consumers.

Anaemia is a widespread public health problem associated with an increased risk of morbidity and mortality, especially in pregnant women and young children.

Anaemia is frequently caused by loss of Red Blood Cells (RBCs), reduction in the production of RBCs, increased destruction of RBCs, and shorter life span of RBCs. Moreover, persistent bleeding episodes, deficiency of vitamins like folic acid, defective spleen and kidney as well as cancer medications could aggravate anaemic condition.

A good number of medicinal plants have been traditionally employed in alleviating anaemic condition. Some of these plants include Telfeira occidentalis (fluted pumpkin or ugwu), sorghum bicolor, Psorospermum ferbrifugum (Christmas berry), Jatropha curcas (Physic Plant) and Flacourtia flavenscens (Indian plum).

Moreover, foods that are rich in iron and vitamins are also used to beat anaemia and boost blood levels. These include beans, pigeon peas, spinach, green leafy vegetables, fish, oysters, and organ meat, such as kidney and liver.