African locust bean is a condiment many relish in vegetable soup. But unknown to many people, African locust bean can serve as prophylaxis and remedies for several diseases caused by high blood sugar and cholesterol such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.
Now, in a new study, researchers observed African locust bean significantly lowered fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol and triglyceride but increased HDL-cholesterol significantly.
Specifically, they stated that diabetic patients should consume more of African locust bean to reduce their blood sugar level as well as even non-diabetic individuals for the prevention of diabetes and other coronary heart diseases.
African locust bean (Parkia biglobosa) is popularly known as ‘iru’ among the Yoruba, ‘dorawa’ among the Hausa and ‘origili’ among the Ibo. The fermented seeds of African locust bean is used in all parts of Nigeria and indeed the west coast of Africa for seasoning traditional soups.
Parkia species have found use traditionally as food and medicinal agent. The bark is employed in wound healing, treatment of bronchitis, pneumonia, skin infection, gores, ulcer, bilharziasis, malaria, diarrhoea and hypertension. In The Gambia, the leaves and roots are used in preparing a lotion for sore eyes.
A decoction of the bark of P.biglobosa is also used as a bath for fever and as hot mouth washes to steam and relieve toothache.
The pulped bark is used along with lemon for wound and ulcer. Fibres from pods and root are used as sponges and as a string for a musical instrument.
Despite the availability of known anti-diabetic medications, remedies from medicinal plants are used with increasing success to treat this disease and manage its complications better.
Increased evidence of therapeutic effectiveness of herbal medicines may have influenced the interest of the WHO in hypoglycemic agents of plant origin used in the traditional treatment of diabetes.
In the study, 10 adult male albino rats with bodyweight between 100 and 120 g were allowed seven days acclimatisation period and were divided randomly into two groups of five rats each.
Animals in group one were administered normal saline solution while those in group two were administered extract of African locust bean. The animals were exposed to the African locust bean and saline solution at a dose of 3ml per 100 g body weight 12 hourly via the oral route of administration.
After 14 days of the administration, the animals were fasted overnight and anaesthetized using diethyl ether. Blood samples were collected by cardiac puncture. The animals fasting blood sugar and cholesterol level were determined.
African locust bean was observed to significantly lower fasting blood sugar, total cholesterol and triglyceride but increased HDL-cholesterol, the ‘good cholesterol’ significantly when compared to those of the control group.
Also, the 2019 study on the Asian Journal of Research in Biochemistry said LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) was not significantly different when animals treated with ALB were compared with those of the control group.
Numerous population studies have shown an inverse correlation between HDL-cholesterol levels and risk of cardiovascular disease, implying that factors associated with HDL-cholesterol protect against atherosclerosis.
According to them, “This strongly supports the notion that dietary supplementation with the extract of African locust bean can lead to a reduction in the risk of developing heart diseases, because a high HDL-C/LDL-C ratio has been shown to be beneficial and is indicative of a lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).”
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. It occurs as a result of damage or disease in the heart’s major blood vessels.
Meanwhile, researchers in Senegal in the journal, Science, tried out locust beans on rats to find out whether it actually has an impact on controlling blood pressure and the results obtained showed that adequate doses of locust beans helped to decrease arterial blood pressure. In the study, diastolic blood pressure measurement enjoyed more reduction than even the systolic blood pressure,
Moreover, in 2005, researchers in the journal, Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology, say that the blood sugar lowering effect of African locust bean was comparable with glibenclamide, a reference anti-diabetic drug.
Aside from its protective effects against some complications of diabetes, the study indicated that it also ameliorates the loss of body weight usually associated with diabetes as well as protects against ischaemic heart disease
To benefit from its hypertensive and diabetic effects, an expert in medicinal plants and former Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Medicinal Plants Development Company (NMPDC), Hajia Zainab Sharruif recommended one to two tablespoons of roasted and crushed locust beans seeds to one teacup of boiled water and as an infusion to replace coffee or tea.