July 26, 2018

Every day, our liver is subjected to various kind of substances, both toxic and non-toxic, in order to filter and keep our bodies free from harmful toxins and chemicals.

One of these toxic substances that provides a risk to our health and liver are “over-the-counter painkillers (OTC)” like acetaminophen (most common and very popular acetaminophen in the market is Tylenol). Now, a new study by a Malaysian research team discovered that a methanolic extract from the common fern Dicranopteris linearis can be used to protect the liver of mice and rats against toxic levels of acetaminophen (APAP).

Protecting the Liver

Since the liver gets exposed every day to toxic substances, it is important to be able to protect it from over-use. Unfortunately, certain over the counter drugs like acetaminophen, which are just over-the-counter painkillers, can overwhelm the organ when used continuously and in large doses.

The Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) conducted the study whose findings were published in the scientific journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Methanolic extract from Old World forked fern might protect the liver

The forked fern was collected from the wild. Methanol extracted from the plants. The extract was administered to mice in 5,000 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) dosage to determine acute toxicity.

Some information about the study:

  •  The acute toxicity of a single dose of methanolic extract from D. linearis was tested on the mice. The extract was investigated further with in vitro anti-inflammatory effects and subjected to chromatography.
  •  The mice were divided into three groups: a) a normal control group pre-treated with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), b) a hepatotoxic control group which received APAP, and c) a positive control group which got silymarin extract.

Three other groups received 50, 250, or 500 milligrams per kilogram of methanolic extract from D. linearis. Pre-treatments were given daily for a week, and on the last day, the rats received either DMSO or APAP.

  •  Blood and liver samples were collected from the treated rats. The former were studied for biochemical analysis while the latter was examined for endogenous antioxidant enzymes and histopathology.
  •  Pre-treatment with all three doses of methanolic extract successfully reduced the levels of alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST). The extract also restored the levels of catalase and superoxide dismutase to healthy values.
  •  Analysis of the livers showed that the hepatic cell architecture improved with increasing dosages of the extract. Chromatographic analyses confirmed the presence of non-volatile and volatile bioactive compounds.

The researchers conclude that the methanolic extract from D. linearis protects the liver by mobilizing the inherent antioxidant system and providing bioactive compounds with liver-protecting properties.

The UPM study also revealed that big amounts of the fern extract showed no toxic effects on the lab mice. They did not lose weight or change behaviors, their organs showed no lesions or pathological changes, and their blood and biochemical parameters remained the same.

Implications for Future Liver Protection Use

Previous studies of the D. linearis plant had scientifically proven that it exerts antinociceptive (the ability to reduce sensitivity to painful stimuli), anti-inflammatory, antipyretic (ability to prevent or reduce fever), antiproliferative (ability to prevent or retard the spread of cells), antioxidant, and chemopreventive properties. This newly discovered liver-protecting capability of D. linearis has many implications in terms of medicinal use in the future.

Over-the-counter drugs have been one of the more outstanding causes of liver damage or injury. In the United States, about 2,000 cases of acute liver failure happen every year, and drugs account for over 50% of them (37% are credited to acetaminophen, 13% are quirky reactions due to other medications). On the other hand, drugs are also the cause for 2–5% of cases of patients hospitalized with jaundice and about 10% of all cases of acute hepatitis. Of these, acetaminophen (APAP) has been widely linked with liver intoxication since it is a commonly used drug for alleviating pain and high fever.

So, do you think a common natural plant can be a potential protection against liver damage by commercial painkiller drugs? Share your views in the comments below.

Source: “Methanol extract of Dicranopteris linearis L. leaves impedes acetaminophen-induced liver intoxication partly by enhancing the endogenous antioxidant system”.

Image by PublicDomainPictures / CC0 1.0