Plants used for the treatment of diabetes in Israel

Plants used for the treatment of diabetes in Israel

145 Journal of EthnophamacoZogy, 19 (1987) 145-151 Elsevier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd. PLANTS USED FOR THE TREATMENT OF DIABETES IN ISRAEL*...

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Journal of EthnophamacoZogy, 19 (1987) 145-151 Elsevier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd.



ZOHARA YANIV”, AMOTS DAFNIb, JACOB FRIEDMAN’ and DAN PALEXITCH” “Department of Medicinal, Spice and Aromatic Plants, Agricultuml Reseamh Organization, The Vokani Center, Bet Logan, bZnstitute of Evolution, Haifa University, Haifa 31999 and cDepartmmt of Botany, The George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv 69978 (Israel) (Accepted December 12, 1986)

Summary In an extensive ethnobotanical survey (130 informants) of the medicinal plants of Israel, 16 species were found to be used for hypoglycaemic treatments. The list includes Achilles fmgmntissima (Forssk.) Sch.-Bip, Ammi visnaga* (L.) Lam, Atriplex halimus L., Capparis spinosa L., Cemtonia siliqua L., Cleome droserifolia (Forssk.) Del., Eryngium creticum* Lam., In&u viscosu* (L.) Ait., Mutricuria aurea* (Loefl.) Sch.Bip, Origabm syriaca* L., Paronychia argentea Lam, Pmsopis far&u* (Banks et Sol.) Macbride, Salvia fruticosa* Mill., Sarcopoterium spinosum (L.) Sp., and l’eucrium polium* L.; eight of them (marked with an asterisk) are first recorded here as used for this purpose.

Introduction Many plant species are known in folk-medicine of different cultures to be used for their hypoglycaemic properties (i.e. decreasing the blood-sugar concentration, and therefore used for treatment of diabetes) (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis, 1977). About 25 species from the Middle East and North Africa are mentioned for this therapeutical use in the current literature (Fahmy, 1956; Chopra et al., 1960; Al-Bawi and Chakravarty, 1964; Alami et al., 1975. Oliver-Bever and Zahnd, 1979; Nagarajan et al., 1982). The present paper is an attempt to update a list of plants used currently by local healers in Israel. A partial list was previously published by us (Dafni et al., 1984; Palevitch et al., 1986). ** Contribution from the Agricultural Research Organization, Bet Dagan, Israel No. 1165-E, 1984 series. 0378-8741/87/$02.80 @ 1987 Elsevier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd. Published and Printed in Ireland

F 240





Ida viscosa (L.) Ait D 127 Leaves Matricwia aurxa (Loeffl.) D lS6 Leaves Sch. Bip.

COMPOSITAE Achilles fmgmntissima (Forssk) Sch.-Bip.

CHENOPODIACEAE Atripkx halimus L. F 250

CARYGPHYLLACEA Pamnychin argentea D 176 Lamk.

F 232


CAPPARACEAE capparis spinosa L. D 118

Cleome d~~~fol~ (Forssk.) Del.


Plant part

CAESALPINIACEAE Ckmtoniu siliqua L. D 107

Botanical name and family, and voucher specimen no.

Central Negev

Samaria Upper Galilee

Tisane is taken daily Tisane is taken daily

Central Negev

Lower Galilee

Southern Sinai

Jordan Valley

Geographical region

Tisane is prepared and taken unsweetened

Tisane is taken daily

Tisane is taken daily for 40 days

Decoction is prepared and taken every morning

Fruit is boiled and decoction is taken

Tisane is prepared and taken for 40 days

Preparation and use










Healers ethnic groups

Twaij, 1983

Me& et al., 1973 Frenkel et al, 1972

Bailey and Danin, 1981

Bailey and Danin, 1981

Additional ref ereneea

Decoction is prepared and taken as needed

Lower Galilee

Judean Mts.

Upper and Lower Galilee Esraelon Plain

Jordan Valley

Golan Heights Golan Heights Lower Galilee

Jordan Valley Judean Mts.

%thnic @OUpS: B = Bedouins; CA = Christian Arabs; D = Druze; MA = Moslem Arabs. Collectors: F = J. Friedman, D = A. Dafni.


Ekyngium creticum Lam. D143

Roots are boiled and decoction is taken as needed

Decoction is drunk daily


ROSACEAE Sarcopoterium spinosum D 107 (L.) SP.

The root is peeled and cooked in water Decoction is drunk

Tisane is taken daily Tisane is taken daily Tissue is taken daily

Ground and l/2 tap of powder is taken daily Cooked until soft and spread over legs

UMBELLIFERAE Ammi uisnagu (L.) Lam. D 176 Inflorescence and seeds


Leaves Leaves Leaves

MIMOSACEAE pmsopis fmta (Banks et Sol.) MacBride D 181

LABIATAE Or&uwn +aca L. D 141 saluiu fruticosaMill. D 146 Teucrium podium L. D 152

CUCURBITACEAE Citdlus cofocynthis (L.) F 212 Dried fruit Schrad. PufP







Shani et al., 1970 Carraz et al., 1968 Steinmetz, 1965

Sulman & Menczel (1962)

Boulos, 1983


Materials and methods The field work was conducted during the years 1980-1985in Israel, and encompassed the north, with its cooler Mediterranean climate, and the south, with its Saharo-Arabian conditions. Information regarding folkmedicinal practice was collected for about 150 plants. The reports are based on interviews of 130 informants representing different ethnic groups (Moslem Arabs, Christian Arabs, Druze, and Bedouins), as well as different geographical regions. The identity of the plants was confirmed by comparison with live specimens, photographs, and slides, and verified by comparison with equivalent specimens preserved in the TELA herbarium, Tel Aviv University, Israel. A therapeutical use was accepted if mentioned by at least three different informants. Most of the people interviewed are active as herbal healers. About 75% of them were above the age of 60 and only very few were under 40. In most cases only one healer from each village was interviewed, to prevent repetitions of the same local tradition. Diabetic conditions were diagnosed by the healer and confirmed by modern medical examinations. Results Table 1 summarizes our data regarding 16 species claimed to have hypoglycaemic properties. The methods of preparation and use, the plant part employed, and geographical locations are mentioned. References concerning similar uses and pharmacological evidence in the literature are listed for many of these plants. Discussion This survey includes “hypoglycaemic” plants representing ten families; three of them (Achilka fmgmntissima, Cleome droserifolia, and Atripkx halimus) are typical plants of the arid zone, and they are used by the Bedouins of the desert. These plants are also known for their hypoglycaemic properties as cited in the literature (Dastur, 1970; OliverBever and Zahnd, 1979; Bailey and Danin, 1981; Nagarajan et al., 1982; Twaij, 1983). Experimental evidence, i.e. the demonstration of hypoglycaemic activity in tested animals, has been presented for Sarcopoterium spinosum (Steinmetz, 1965; Carraz et al., 1968; Shani et al., 1970; Oliver-Bever and Zahnd, 1979) and for A. hulimus (Aharonson et al., 1969; Frenkel et al., 1972; Mertz et al., 1973). Half of the plants are unique to this survey and have not been mentioned previously in the literature of folk medicine of the neighboring countries. It was found that only local plants were used by the various healers for the treatment of diabetes. Plants with a wider geographical distribution, such as S. spinosum and


Citrullus colocynthis, were used by most healers in different regions, in the Galilee as well as in the desert. Methods of preparation and use are very similar for all plants; the preparation of a tisane from leaves, or of a decoction (after boiling) from other parts of the plant, such as roots, fruits, and seeds. The drink is then taken orally daily, usually in the morning, as long as needed. It is noteworthy that a number of Israeli native plants mentioned in the literature as having hypoglycaemic properties in other materia medica, were not mentioned by the healers in our survey. These are: Pegunum harmala, Marrubium vulgare, Zygophyllum coccineum, Nasturtium officinale, Ambrosia maritima, Centuurium spicatu (Boulos, 1983) Myrtus communis (Friedman, 1966), Artemisia herba-alba (Levy, 1978) Plantago major and Urticu dioica (Hutchens, 1973) Lycium barbatum (Lapinina and Sisoeva, 1964) Xanthium strumarium (Turner and Craig, 1975) Adiantum capillus-veneris (Nagarajan et al., 1982) Centuurecr pallescens (Ahmed et al., 197 l), Glycyrrhizu glabra (Klgamal et al., 1965; van Hulle, 1968), Quercus boissieri; (Dar et al., 1976; Nagarajan et al., 1982) Rosa cuninu (Montolivo, 1939), and Portulaca olemceu (Nagarajan et al., 1982; Boulos, 1983). This list sustains the view that in spite of the fact that these plants are widely distributed throughout the Middle East, their use for curing diabetes is rather scarce outside Israel. Literature dealing with the use of plants for the treatment of diabetes is available from India (Nagarajan et al., 1982). Hypoglycaemic plants are mentioned in the folklore of North America (Hutchens, 1973), North Africa (Boulos, 1983), China (Keys, 1976), and Europe (Grieve, 1974). A comprehensive review was published by Oliver-Bever and Zahnd (1979).

Acknowledgments We wish to thank Mr. Yoel Amiran of the National Council for Research and Development for financial support. This work was supported by a grant from the National Council for Research and Development, Ministry of Science, Jerusalem.

References Aharonson, Z., Shani, J. and Sulman, F.G. (1969) Hypoglycaemic effect of the Salt Bush (Atriplex hahnus), a feeding source of the sandrat (Psnmmomys obesus). Diabetologia 5, 379-383. Ahmed Z .F., Hammouda, F.M., Rizk,.A.M. and Iemail, S.I. (1971) Phytochemical studies of certain Centaurea species. Planta Medica 19, 264-269; 18, 227-231. Alami, R., Macksad, A. and El-Gindy, A.R. (1975) hfedicinal Plants of Kuwait. Ministry of Health, Kuwait.

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