CURRENTLY, the only clinically accepted approach for the treatment of cataract is surgery. But the cost of the surgery hinders many individuals access to treatment in different parts of the world and has increased the need for less expensive, non-surgical approach to cataract treatment.
Now, researchers, in providing an alternative approach to treat cataract, have identified extract of the moringa oleifera stem as protective against cataract formation.
To validate its use as an eye drop in traditional medicine for the treatment of cataract, the researchers tested its extract on rats made to develop cataract in the laboratory. The changes in the opacity induced by hydrogen peroxide were observed under a microscope.
All lenses in normal control and moringa oleifera stem extract pre-treatment control groups were transparent, but 1 mM hydrogen peroxide remarkably induced opacity. After pre-treatment with moringa oleifera stem extract, the hydrogen peroxide -induced lens opacity levels were reduced remarkably.
The researchers said the moringa oleifera stem extract alleviates cataract formation induced by oxidative stress in cultured mouse lenses. It was in the 2019 edition of the journal, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Cataract causes the lens of the eye to become progressively cloudy, and when left untreated, can lead to total blindness. While cataract cannot spread from one eye to the other, it can occur independently in both eyes.
It is associated with several risk factors such as ageing, diabetes, exposure to sunlight and hypertension. However, oxidative stress caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) has long been regarded as the major mechanism by which cells are damaged and cataracts are formed.
However, in some cases such as ageing, ROS production is excessive or the ability of the lens to scavenge ROS decreases and oxidative stress injuries may occur and then cataracts are formed.
Moringa oleifera, also known as horseradish tree or drumstick tree, has been used in nutritious foods and traditional medicines for the treatment of various diseases such as rheumatism, inflammation, and diabetes in many countries.
Particularly, moringa oleifera is one of the best known and most widely distributed species that is rich in natural antioxidants. This suggests that moringa oliefera may inhibit the cataract formation induced by oxidative stress.
According to the researchers, moringa oleifera stem extract reduced the levels of free radicals in a cell-free system and inhibits the production of reductive oxidative stress in lenses.
They added that “Moringa oleifera stem, as a kind of natural antioxidant, has extensive sources and no obvious adverse effects. Therefore, the inhibitory effect of moringa oleifera stem extract on cataract formation has a great clinical interest. It can be used as a potential natural medicine in the prevention or treatment of cataract, especially induced by diabetes.”
Previous reports indicate that moringa oleifera had potential inhibitory effects on selenite-induced cataract in rat pups and high sugar-induced cataract in goat lens under laboratory conditions.
Also, in another study, researchers identified costus spectabilis, a common plant, as an alternative approach to treat cataract.
The researchers had tested different doses of the rhizome of costus spectabilis extract on rats made to develop a cataract in the laboratory and found that 0.5 mg/mL of costus spectabilis extract significantly decreased the opacity of the lens. Other doses of costus spectabilis demonstrated a mild decrease in cataract formation or opacity of the lens.
The 2019 study, published in the Tropical Journal of Natural Products Research, said the reason for the significant reduction in the severity of cataract by the extract at a lower dose, when compared with the higher doses, is not yet understood.
Costus spectabilis, commonly known as yellow trumpet, is sometimes harvested from the wild for local use of its edible leaves. It is used by traditional medicine to treat internal and external wounds, coughs, inflammation, arthritis, rheumatism, fever, maternal and neonatal infections. It is also recommended for its laxative, purgative and diuretic properties.
Plant extracts, such as from scent leaf, aqueous garlic extract, onion juice, as well as a fraction of substances extracted from emilia sonchifolia and polyphenolic compounds of camelia sinensis have been proven to ameliorate cataract induced by chemical substances such as selenite.
Previously, other researchers reported also that fresh sap from the rhizome of costus spectabilis or the water extract had been used as an eye drop in traditional medicine for the treatment of cataract.
This 2018 study was an inventory of medicinal plants used in the treatment of eye ailments in Zaria metropolis and published in the Nigerian Journal of Pharmaceutical Science.
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