Posted by: Glow-worm PJ12 JAN 2011
Cyclamens are plants native to an area of southern Europe, northern Africa and western Asia bordering the Mediterranean sea.
The Cyclamen genus comprises around 20 species, the most familiar being C purpurascens, widely cultivated as a houseplant for its showy, dark green leaves flecked with silver, and nodding white, pink or red flowers with their familiar, reflexed petals.
In the UK it is associated with the winter months, because it flowers at this time of year, and plants are offered for sale as gifts around the festive period.
Dioscorides, the first century AD military surgeon and naturalist, noted a multitude of uses of various parts of the plant ranging from an antidote to serpent bites to the speeding up of childbirth when worn by the expectant mother.
He also noted that the juice of the root can be absorbed through the nose to “purge the brain” and, more interestingly, when ground into a paste can be used as a love potion.
In medieval times cyclamen retained its plethora of uses, but became used increasingly in the treatment of rheumatic and arthritic conditions.
Recent research has focused on reported anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive effects of cyclamen extracts. The roots contain triterpene glycosides known as saponins and researchers at the University of Padua in Italy have found that extracts of the tubers of Cyclamen repandum show promising activity when tested on rats and mice.
The researchers have isolated and identified the various glycosides and have carried out further in vitro studies measuring the anti-inflammatory properties of cyclamen extracts. They concentrated particularly upon the activity of a newly isolated saponin called repandoside. Results showed that repandoside is one of several saponins that did indeed mediate the inflammatory response by influencing the behaviour of human macrophages.
It is hoped that these compounds can be developed for future use in the treatment of inflammatory conditions.