Bioactivity of famine food plants from the family: Amaranthaceae
Information regarding the nutritional value of wild food plants in Africa and current information varies from source to source. Prior to commercialization of wild foods the nutritional, ethnobotanical, medical, chemical, anthropological and toxicity requires investigation. Plants from the Amaranthaceae family were chosen because the family is characterized by several species which are used by indigenous communities as a source of nutrition in different plants of the world. The focus of this study was to investigate the nutritional and biological activities of three plants from the Amaranthaceae family viz. Achyranthes aspera, Alternanthera sessilis and Guilleminea densa that are considered famine plants. This study aimed to determine the nutritional value (proximate, minerals and vitamins), biological activity, toxicity and potential of a tissue culture system for three species from the family Amaranthaceae. Nutritional analysis comprised of determining moisture, ash, protein, fat, carbohydrate, dietary fibre and energy. Mineral analysis of calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium and zinc was performed by microwave digestion and then analyzed by ICP Spectrophotometry. Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3 and Vitamin C were also analyzed. For biological and safety analyses aqueous and methanolic extracts were prepared. Anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of the extracts were tested; antimicrobial activity was tested by evaluating the bactericidal, fungal effect and minimum inhibitory concentration on selected bacteria and fungi using the agar disk diffusion method. Anti mosquito potential was determined by setting up repellency, larvacidal assay and insecticidal assay. The safety and toxicity analysis was carried out by measuring cytotoxicity, toxicity and mutagenicity. The potential of an in vitro tissue culture system of A. aspera, A. sessilis and G. densa was determined using micropropagation. A. aspera indicated significant amounts moisture, ash, dietary fibre, protein, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, magnesium and manganese. Plant extracts of A. aspera had antibacterial activity against the Gram negative bacteria Esherichia coli, Pseudomas aeroginosa and Salmonella typhi; Gram positive bacteria Staphylococcus epidermis and Staphylococcus aureus. The methanolic extract had antifungal activity against Sacchromyces cerevisiae and exhibited significant free radical scavenging activity as well as 85% repellency against Anopheles arabiensis. The aqueous extract stimulated the growth of the K562 (Chronic Myclogenous Leukaemia) cell line and the plant extracts showed no mutagenicity or toxicity. A. sessilis indicated significant levels of ash, dietary fibre, protein, energy, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, iron, magnesium and manganese present. Plant extracts of A. sessilis had antibacterial activity against Gram negative bacteria P. aeroginosa and Gram positive bacteria S. epidermis. The plant also showed antifungal activity against the yeasts S. cerevisiae and Candida albicans. The methanolic plant extract showed excellent antioxidant activity. The aqueous plant extract stimulated the growth of the K562 cell line and the plant extracts possessed no mutagenicity or toxicity. This plant grew well in a tissue culture system where it was propagated from callus to a fully grown plant able to survive in environmental conditions. G. densa has ash and dietary fibre, vitamin B2, vitamin B3 and iron. The plant extracts had antibacterial activity against Gram negative bacteria E. coli, P. aeroginosa and Klebsiella. oxytoca; Gram positive bacteria Baccilus stereathermophilus and S. aureus. The plant also has antifungal activity against C. albicans and significant repellency activity against A. arabiensis where it showed 100% repellency. This plant was not found to be mutagenic or toxic. The results obtained from this study show promising potential for the plants to be exploited as famine food plants. The nutritional value, biological activity and ability to micropropagate A. aspera, A. sessilis and G. densa indicates a good potential for purposes of harnessing biotechnological products.