Porophyllums : Medicinal Utility : A Recap

The infusions of some species of Porophyllum are used in traditional medicine because of activity against cramps and venereal diseases, as well as for their antispasmodic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and insecticide properties. The terpenoid compounds of the Porophyllum genus have been of great interest due to the large number of biological activities they present. In vitro and in vivo studies performed with the purified extracts and compounds of these plants support most of their reported uses in folk medicine for the treatment of a wide variety of pathological conditions.

Of all the known species of this genus, the species P. ruderale is the most investigated, however, there are few studies focused on the pharmacological activity of its compounds. It is important to mention that there are very few studies on its toxicity, which indicates that plants of this genus are well tolerated for human consumption (Vázquez-Atanacio etal 2021). It should be noted that monoterpenes, such as sabinene, β-pinene, α-phellandrene,terpinen-4-ol, and limonene are the most abundant compounds identified in this genus.

Terpenoids, or terpenes (1), comprise one of the most important groups of active compounds in plants with over 20, 000 known structures. All terpenoid structures may be divided into five-carbon units (isoprene) containing two unsaturated bonds. During the formation of terpenes the isoprene units link in a head to tail fashion and the number of units that incorporate to form a particular terpene and also serves as the basis for classifying these compounds

  1. or isoprenoids
  • C5H8 – Isoprene
  • (C5H8)n  – Terpene
  • C10H16 – Monoterpene – Essential oils e.g. menthol
  • C15H24 – Sesquiterpene – Bitter principles
  • C20H32 – Diterperne – Resin acids, bitter principles
  • C30H48 – Triterpene – Saponins, steroids
  • C40H64 – Carotenoids
Isoprene C5H8
Monoterpene (2 isoprene units bonded) C10H16
and on it goes.

Terpenes are highly aromatic compounds that determine the smell of many plants and herbs (1), such as rosemary, pine, lavender and citrus peel. Terpenes are also major biosynthetic building blocks. Steroids, for example, are derivatives of the triterpene squalene. Terpenes and terpenoids are also the primary constituents of the essential oils of many types of plants and flowers. In plants, terpenes and terpenoids are important mediators of ecological interactions; they play a role in plant defence against herbivory, disease resistance, attraction of pollinators, as well as potentially plant-plant communication.

  1. as well as their colour and taste

Terpenes have a wide range of medicinal uses. Monoterpenes specifically are widely studied for their antiviral property. With growing incidents of cancer and diabetes in modern world, terpenes also have the potential to serve as anticancer and antidiabetic reagents (Cox-Georgian etal 2019). Certain terpenes were widely used in natural folk medicine. One such terpene is curcumin which holds anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, antiseptic, antiplasmodial, astringent, digestive, diuretic, and many other properties. The terpenes linalool, myrcene, pinene, limonene, and caryophyllene have been widely researched for their potential pain-relieving attributes. Any terpene that has been demonstrated to offer anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive, or analgesic properties might prove to be useful as a pain treatment. Myrcene has the ability to alleviate pain and uneasiness. This terpene possesses potent muscle-relaxing abilities. Many studies have examined the anti-inflammatory effects of this terpene. One study in particular utilized myrcene in Porophyllum ruderale essential oil. This essential oil was administered orally to mice that were enduring inflammation in the lining of their lungs (1) and demonstrated immunoregulatory effects (Gour 2015)(Souza etal 2003).

  1. a condition known as pleurisy

New studies demonstrate that terpenes have physical health benefits as well as mental. A study published in the Journal of Toxicological Research (Cho etal 2017) showed that the Japanese practice of forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, in a terpene-rich environment has potential anti-inflammatory, anti-tumorigenic, and neuroprotective effects on human health. I myself have always enjoyed the delicate scent that emanates from my Papaloquelite when I water my garden in the early morning. The aroma takes me back to México and definitely exerts a beneficial effect on my well-being.

Major terpenes and their medicinal qualities.

Chemical compounds (note the terpenes) in various Porophyllums

Vázquez-Atanacio etal 2021
Vázquez-Atanacio etal 2021

The aqueous extracts of Porophyllum tagetoides and Annona reticulata were investigated for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic activities in animal models.

The leaves of P. tagetoides and were obtained from the Merced market, in Mexico City. They were then dried under shade and then powdered with a mechanical grinder and stored in airtight container. Aqueousextract of the leaves was prepared with 100 g of powder in 1000 ml of distilled water, mixed for 30 min at 95ºC and then the aqueous extract was vacuum dried; each 100 g of dried leaves powder yielded 39 g of powder lyophilized. One part of the aqueous extract was adjusted at 60 mg/ml and adjusted to pH 7.4 for biological experiments. In an acetic acid-induced writhing model (in mice), the extract showed a good analgesic effect. Other results demonstrated that P. tagetoides presented with remarkable anti-inflammatory activity, which supported its traditional use in the treatment of various diseases associated with inflammation.

It was found that at high doses the P. tagetoides aqueous extract was lethal to the test subjects (mice)(Cobos etal 2019). This is a little unusual as most papers don’t mention the potential toxicity of this plant. It is generally considered a safe herb.

  • 1.5 g (1500mg)/kg intense contortions, ataxia, death
  • 3.0 g (3000mg)/kg seizures, death
  • 5.0 g (5000mg)/kg seizures, death

For comparison sake. The lethal doses for various other substances,

  • Arsenic (15mg/kg)
  • Caffeine (140mg/kg)
  • Aspirin & Lorchel mushroom (200mg/kg
  • Lead (450mg/kg)
  • Vitamin A (2000mg/kg)
  • Table salt (3g/1kg)
  • Alcohol (7060mg/kg)
  • Sugar (30g/kg)

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  • Cho, K. S., Lim, Y. R., Lee, K., Lee, J., Lee, J. H., & Lee, I. S. (2017). Terpenes from Forests and Human Health. Toxicological research, 33(2), 97–106. https://doi.org/10.5487/TR.2017.33.2.097
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