Borthekera, a medicinal plant found to protect from heart diseases: Study

Scientists are exploring the possibilities of a medicinal plant commonly called ‘Borthekera’ in the Assamese language to be a potential remedy against heart diseases. The administration of the dried pulp of the ripe fruit of Borthekera (traditionally forbidden for raw consumption) reduced cardiac hypertrophy indicators and oxidative stress and heart inflammation brought on by Isoproterenol (ISO).

Scientists at the Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), explored the possibility of this medicinal plant to prevent heart diseases.

The increasing risk of heart attack among all age groups

Heart diseases are increasingly becoming the major cause of death among all age groups. As per a WHO report, Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. Another report by WHO states that India accounts for one-fifth of the total deaths occurring from stroke and ischemic heart disease, especially in younger adults.

More than four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes, and one-third of these deaths occur prematurely in people under 70 years of age.

Speculations have been made in regard to the adverse impact of COVID-19 on heart-related diseases around the globe. As per a report by American Heart Association, the biggest increases in the overall number of CVD-related deaths were seen among Asian, Black and Hispanic people – populations most impacted in the early days of the pandemic.

People have died of heart attacks post rigorous exercising as well. A study based in the US found that about 16% of sudden indoor cardiac arrests happened in exercise facilities. Notably, intense exercise increases heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline hormone levels, which can potentially lead up to a plaque rupture, precipitating a heart attack.

About the Study on Borthekera

The sun-dried slices of the ripe fruit – Borthekera, are used for culinary and medicinal purposes and are known to have therapeutic properties like anti-inflammatory, anthelmintic, antibacterial, antifungal, antidiabetic, hypolipidemic, nephroprotective, and even neuroprotective activity.

With scientific interventions seeking proof of these claims, multiple studies have reported that G. pedunculata is a rich source of ‘antioxidants’. However, the study notes that cardioprotective potential was still not explored earlier.

Scientists at IASST fed a double dosage of bioactive chloroform fraction (GC) of the herb to Wistar rats at 24-hour intervals (85mg/kg body weight (BW) for 28 days.

In order to further assess the therapeutic effect of the herb, they injected isoproterenol as per the isoproterenol-induced myocardial infarction model. (Isoproterenol (ISP)-induced myocardial ischemia is a classical model to screen the cardioprotective effects of various pharmacological interventions).

When scientists later analyzed all the animals, they found that the disease group had significant ST wave (ST is the segment representing the interval between depolarization and repolarization of the heart’s ventricles) elevation, indicating myocardial infarction (commonly called a heart attack), which was normalized with Atenolol and GC treatment.

Some other heart conditions like Cardiac hypertrophy (a disease in which the heart muscle becomes thickened), cardiac troponin I, tissue lipid peroxidation (attack of oxidants on lipid), and serum inflammatory markers (which can mean a higher risk of heart attack) were all significantly elevated in the disease group. These were maintained at near-normal levels in the GC-pretreated groups. The endogenous antioxidants were also revamped in the GC-treated groups.

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