MALARIA can cause a range of symptoms and life-threatening complications, so an early and accurate diagnosis is crucial. Now, researchers have substantiated the malaria protective effect of daily consumption of bitter kola.
In animal studies, researchers found it demonstrated antimalarial activity and could be considered a readily available and cheap alternative to malaria medicines like chloroquine.
The study which investigated the antimalarial properties of ethanolic extract of bitter kola against Plasmodium berghei in infected Swiss albino mice said its continuous consumption should be for at least four days for its effectiveness.
They said extract of bitter kola seed reduced average daily malaria parasite level in infected mice in a dose-dependent manner and its dose at 400 mg/kg competing favourably with chloroquine, the standard antimalarial drug.
The researchers had made an ethanol extract of bitter kola after chopping its seeds that was peeled into smaller pieces and airdried before finally grinding it into a fine powder using a blender.
The 2020 study in the Asian Journal of Medical Principles and Clinical Practice involved Augustine I. Airaodion at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State in collaboration with John A. Ekenjoku, K. O. Ngwogu and A. C. Ngwogu.
Bitter Kola, commonly called Namiji goro in Hausa, Orogbo in Yoruba and Aku-ilu in Igbo is a masticatory used in traditional medicine, cultural and social ceremonies.
The seeds are used to prevent or relieve colic, cure head or chest colds and relieve cough. The seed also has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antidiabetic and antiviral as well as antiulcer properties.
Sixty Swiss albino mice weighing between 20 and 25 grammes were randomly divided into six groups of 10 mice each. Groups two to six were inoculated with infected blood suspension containing malaria parasite (Plasmodium berghei) while those in group one were not infected and this served as the normal control group.
Animals in group two were administered normal salt solution (negative control), those in group three were administered Chloroquine diphosphate (standard antimalarial drug as positive control), and those in groups four, five and six were administered 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg of the ethanolic seed extract respectively.
All treatments were done 12 hourly for five consecutive days from when parasites were first seen in the infected animal blood. Four days after the treatment was stopped, the animals were weighed and sacrificed.
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On each day of treatment and post-treatment, a drop of blood was collected from each mouse to determine how much of the malaria parasite was in their blood. The animals’ packed cell volume (PCV) was tested.
In the study, an extract of bitter kola was observed to have prevented body weight loss linked with increasing level of the malaria parasite.
Body weight loss, fever and anaemia are some features of malaria infection. Anaemia results from the breakdown of red blood cells due to the infection. Therefore, a potent antimalarial plant should be able to prevent body weight loss in infected mice.
In this study, the packed cell volume (PCV) of malaria-infected mice (negative control) and infected treated with 100 mg/kg of bitter kola showed a significant decrease in PCV after four days of treatment.
This shows that malaria parasite infection significantly reduced red blood cells of animals and treatment with 100 mg/kg of Bitter kola was unable to remedy this situation.
However, treatment with 200 mg/kg, 400 mg/kg of bitter kola seed extract as well as those treated with 5 mg/kg chloroquine (positive control) showed a significant increase in PCV after four days of treatment.
According to the researchers, the increase in PCV and body weight in mice treated with bitter kola at 200 and 400 mg/kg when compared with the negative control group is suggestive of the ameliorating potency of bitter kola seed extract on the low blood level (anaemia) induced by the malaria parasite in the blood.
The number of malaria parasite level is the major factor in determining malarial infection. In this study, no noticeable difference was observed in the malaria parasite level of all the infected mice after three days of treatment.
However, the difference became noticeable after four days of treatment, suggesting that using this extract for three days might not yield significant antimalarial potency.