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1.  Direct Detection of Triterpenoid Saponins in Medicinal Plants 
Direct detection of saponins in medicinal plants using Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy is reported in this paper. Crude dry plant powders were mixed with potassium bromide (KBr) powder and compressed to a thin pellet for infrared examination. FTIR spectra of the test samples showed -OH, -C=O, C-H, and C=C absorptions characteristic of oleanane triterpenoid saponins. The C-O-C absorptions indicated glycoside linkages to the sapogenins. Phytochemical analysis confirmed the presence of saponins in the tested specimens. Entada leptostachya was used as a reference sample. Dry plant powder was extracted sequentially with hexane, dichloromethane, ethyl acetate and methanol. FTIR spectra of the reference sample powder and its organic solvent extracts showed characteristic saponin absorption peaks. These results indicated that direct detection of saponins in medicinal plants was possible by infrared analysis. Lengthy exhaustive chemical analyses necessary for detection of saponins could be avoided.
PMCID: PMC2816600  PMID: 20162056
Medicinal plants; saponins; infrared spectra; potassium bromide; glycoside
2.  Antimicrobial Activity of Some Medicinal Plants Used by Herbalists in Eastern Province, Kenya 
The aqueous extracts from medicinal plants commonly used by herbalists in Mbeere, and Embu districts of Eastern province, Kenya, were tested for their inhibitory activity against three selected strains of bacteria. All the selected plant extracts (infusions: 1.0g sample in 100 ml water) investigated showed activity against Escherichia coli with inhibition zone diameters ranging from 5.8 – 18.0 mm. Terminalia brownii gave the largest inhibition zones against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Vernonia lasiopus and Tithonia diversifolia were inactive to S. aureus and Bacillus subtilis, respectively. Eighteen and sixteen plants showed sensitivity of greater than 10 mm against S. aureus and B. subtilis, respectively. All control discs gave zones of inhibition of 12 – 24 mm, which were larger than those of the extracts. The present study validated the use of the selected medicinal plants by the herbalists in the treatment of bacterial ailments caused by the strains of bacteria investigated. Medicinal plants used for non-bacterial diseases also exhibited sensitivity towards bacterial strains tested. This implied they could be used as multi-purpose medicinal plants.
PMCID: PMC2816592  PMID: 20162055
Terminalia brownii; inhibition zone; aqueous extract; Escherichia coli; Kenya
3.  Traditional Medicines Among the Embu and Mbeere Peoples of Kenya 
Ethnobotanical information and traditional medicines were investigated and documented in Embu and Mbeere districts, Eastern Province of Kenya. Oral interviews were obtained from over 100 herbalists, both men and women aged between 40 and 80 years. All the herbalists interviewed were Christians and had little formal education. Non-Christian herbalists were purported to combine herbal medicines with witchcraft and were not interviewed. Of the 40 commonly used herbal plants 25 were used as multi-purpose medicinal plants (mpmp), while 15 were used to treat one disease type. There was a correlation between the outpatient morbidity data at the local District hospital, and the common incident diseases treated by the herbalists. Generally a decoction or infusion of the herb was recommended for the treatment of internal or external condition of the patients. Malaria and typhoid were treatable with a total of 15 and 12 plants respectively and were among the first two commonest diseases found in the study area. Terminalia brownii was found to be the most used medicinal plant either alone or in combination with other herbs. The second and third most utilized medicinal plants were Ovariodendron anisatum and Wurbugia ugadensis respectively.
PMCID: PMC2816425  PMID: 20162075
Herbalists; Herbal medicine; Terminalia; Decoction

Results 1-3 (3)