The wild Himalayan fig, commonly known as ‘Bedu’ in Uttarakhand’s Kumaon region, may be used as a safer alternative to synthetic pain relievers like Aspirin and Diclofenac, according to a study conducted on lab rats.
An international team, led by researchers at Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Punjab, noted that the popular fruit in the Himalayan region also has many other medicinal benefits such as curing skin diseases and wound infections.
Over three years, the researchers studied the analgesic effects of extracts from the wild Himalayan fig, which were tested on experimental rats.
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Scientifically known as ‘Ficus Palmata’, the wild Himalayan fig contains two major components Psoralen and Rutin, the researchers said.
In the study, Psoralen helped to block an enzyme called ‘Cyclooxygenase-2’ (COX-2), which is also blocked by pain relievers such as Diclofenac while Rutin helped bind the mu-opioid, a major binding site in Morphine.
The research, published in the journal Plants, concluded that the wild Himalayan fig has potential analgesic effects at different doses in general and a 400 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) dose in particular.
”Wild Himalayan fig aka Bedu are an excellent and safe plant-based alternative to the synthetic pain relievers like Aspirin and Diclofenac,” said Devesh Tiwari, Assistant Professor at LPU, who led the study.
”Our research is the first, to establish wild Himalayan fig as a natural pain reliever. Traditionally, this fruit was used for curing backaches in rural areas. So far, there was no study available on the analgesic effects of Ficus Palmita,” Tiwari told PTI.
The authors of the study noted that the most widely used drugs for the reduction of pain and inflammation are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
However, analgesic drugs like opiates and NSAIDs are not believed to be useful in all cases due to their low potency and adverse effects, they said.
”Both opiates and NSAIDs possess potential side effects like opiate poisoning, gastrointestinal disturbance, and hepatic dysfunction,” the authors wrote in the journal.
”Medicinal plants can serve as a potential alternative source due to the presence of a diverse and complex variety of chemicals from which the discovery of novel analgesic agents is possible,” they added.
Apart from LPU, the team included researchers from Kumaon University, Uttarakhand, Ganpat University in Gujarat, Sharda University in Greater Noida, Messina University in Italy, and Tehran University of Medical Sciences and Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, both in Iran.
In the future, the researchers plan to carry human trials on the fruit for many other therapeutic potentials as this is a widely consumed wild fruit in the Himalayan region.
”The current study is focused on fruits alone. However synergistic effects can be evaluated in future studies and it may further improve their effectiveness,” Tiwari added.