Tuesday, 10 April 2018

On the health benefits of Pimenta racemosa

A reader (Lary Hirabedian) left me with a question as a comment "On the allergenic potential of bay leaf" about two months ago. I have been so busy with work and my children that it was almost impossible to dedicate any time whatsoever to researching properly and responding to Lary. He asked me if I could comment on Pimenta racemosa vs bay laurel, i.e., establishing a comparative efficacy, health benefits against, for example, cholesterol reduction, diabetes, pain reduction, antiviral and antibacterial effects, etc. He also suggested that Pimenta racemosa in the shape of oil or infusion can be more effective than bay laurel.

I'd like to reinforce that I am not a plant biotechnologist and I am not a plant physiologist, actually I am quite far from enjoying the study of plants per se. My interest lays on the different substances that exist in the world (plant, animal or inorganic) as a scientist interested in those that have a toxicological potential or health benefit to all of us. Having said that, I think I'd like to contribute with a few lines to help responding to this question without presenting a dispute between these two plants. I prefer to provide you with what is out there, literature-wise, concerning the different molecules present in Pimenta racemosa.

But to start with, let's try and understand exactly what plant are we talking about. Pimenta racemosa is the scientific name for the plant that is commonly known as Bay-rum tree, others call it malagueta, and I am sure other people worldwide call it different names for this plant is quite widespread through Asia and Africa. The plant belongs to the Myrtaceae family and is famous for its essential oil with 'alleged' curative properties. That is what we will try to unfold in the coming lines.

In the article by Contreras (2014) [1] one can find a long list of different research studies on the  putative pharmacological effects and biochemical agents of the different Pimenta species, like for example the capacity to repel insects and its mosquito larvicidal and nematicidal properties, the capacity to reduce/inhibit pain (for example pain associated to dysmenorrhea), anti-inflammatory effects (possibly due to flavonoids, tannins, polyphenols), the capacity to counteract fever (possibly due to quinones), antimicrobial properties (e.g., flavonoids, tannins, triterpenes, steroids), antioxidant properties (e.g., flavonoids, saponins, polyphenols), antimutagenic effects (e.g., flavonoids, tannins, saponins), as an antidote against cobra venom and so on and so forth to a very detailed biochemical level. It is just a matter of getting that article and read thought the other references for the specific effect one is trying to learn more about.

Another very composed article [2] identified 52 components (where 1,8-cineole was the major one) present in the flower itself of this plant, after gas chromatography assays.  But the most interesting observation I could personally identify in this article was the cytotoxic activity against a panoply of human cell lines and the antimicrobial activity against Geotrichum candidum and bacillus subtilis - part of the human microbiome, and where the identified minimum inhibitory concentration  [MIC] is exactly the same as for the common antibiotics applied against these bacteria, Ampicillin and Amphotericin B, respectively. Actually, this article is a great add-up to the Alitonou et al (2012) [3]  where essential oils compositions of Pimenta racemosa from two different sites in Benin were studied thus unveiling the same antimicrobial, antioxidant and even acaricide properties, but only this time no anti-inflammatory effects were recognised.

In fact, great literature is starting to emerge on this topic and it is just a matter of looking in the right articles for gaining the adequate knowledge. Finally, the food industry will definitely want to look into this essential oils for its antioxidant properties, as well as the phamaceutical industry into all the different pharmacological effects identified.

Image kindly taken from Plantogram, Leon Bay Rum Tree, [https://plantogram.com/product/bay_rum_lemon/], last visited on the 10th of April 2018, last update unknown.

[1] Contreras, B. (2014). "Preliminary phytochemical screening of pimenta racemosa var. racemosa (Myrtaceae) from Tachira - Venezuela". Pharmacologyonline, 2, pp. 61-68.

[2] Al-Gendy, A. A., Moharram, F. A., Zarka, M. A. (2017). "Chemical composition, antioxidant, cytotoxic, and antimicrobial activities of Pimenta racemosa (Mill.) J. W. Moore flower essential oil". Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 6(2), pp. 312-319. 

[3] Alitonou, G. A., Noudogbessi, J-P., Sessou, P. et al (2012). "Chemical composition and biological activities of essential oils of Pimenta racemosa (Mill.) J. W. Moore from Benin". International Journal of Biosciences, 2(9), pp. 1-12.

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