Hepatoprotective Effect Of Methanol Extracts Biology Essay


The present work was carried out to investigate the hepatoprotective effect of ginger, chicory and their mixture against carbon tetrachloride intoxication in rats.The carbon tetrachloride intoxication significantly elevated the alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, alkaline phosphatase and gamma glutamyltransferaseactivity serum triglycerides and cholesterol concentration as compared to control group. It also increased RBCscounts and Hb concentration, total or differential leucocytes counts. However it decreased (P>0.05) platelet counts, platelet distribution width, mean platelet volume, platelet larger cell ratio (P-LCR). Methanol extract of ginger (250 and 500 mg/kg) and chicory (250 and 500 mg/kg) given alone or mixed (1:1 wt/wt) significantly restored the carbon tetrachloride -induced alterations in the biochemical and cellular constituents of blood. No toxic symptoms were reported in doses up to 5 g kg-1. Alkaloids and/or nitrogenous bases, carbohydrates and/or glycosides, tannins, flavonoides, saponins and unsaturated sterols and/or triterpenes are the main active constituents of their methanol extract. The hepatoprotective effect of ginger and chicory was also confirmed by the histopathological examination of liver tissue.

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Keywords: ginger, chicory, carbon tetrachloride, hepatotoprotective, histopathological, cholesterol, triglycerides, liver function, creatinine.

Liver dysfunction as a result of toxic chemicals, certain drugs and environmental pollutants has been largely increased in the last few decades. Herbal treatment of many diseases including hepatopathy is increasing in many countries[1]. Ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Zingiberaceae) is a commonly used flavoring agent and as a cooking spice added as herbal supplement. It has a large variety of pharmacological activities such as antibacterial, antioxidant, antiinflammatory and antitumor effect as well as attenuation of lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress[2,3]. It also improves various gastrointestinal illnesses[4,5] and immunologic function[6]. It also has antidiabetic activity and reduced liver damage[7]. It has an anticarcinogenic effect[8].It also can be used in hypertension and for its cardioprotective and antioxidant property[4,9].

Chicory (Cichorium intybus, Asteraceae) is a root vegetable whose green leafy tops also are used cooked, fresh in salads or as coffee supplement. Recently the pharmacological actions of chicory have attracted the attention of many researchers. It induces hypocholesterolemia[10], protectsagainst hepatocellular damage[11,12] and inhibits lipid peroxidation[13,14]. It also has an antihyperglycaemic[15], regulate appetite and carbohydrate and lipid metabolism[16]. Zingiber officinale rhizomesare tradionally used by people for long periods as drinks or spice while Cichorium intybus green plants usually consumed as salad. It was the aim of this work is to explore the hepatoprotective effect of their methanol extract when given either alone or in mixture looking for a synergistic effect.


Zingiber officinale Roscoe, Zingiberaceae) rhizome and Cichorium intybus, Asteraceae) green plant were identified by the staff members of the Herbarium of the department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Cairo University. A voucher sample was kept in the department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Cairo University, Egypt. The air-dried plant was moderately pulverized, and stored for further use. The powdered plant (200g) was extracted and percolated in methanol 95% for 5 to 7 times till complete extraction. The methanol extracts was concentrated under reduced pressure using Rotary Evaporator at temperature not more than 50°. The concentrated extract was kept at - 4° until used for phytochemical and pharmacological studies.


Sprague Dawley rats (150-170 g b. wt.) and Swiss mice weighing (20±5 g b. wt.) of both sexes were obtained from Laboratory Animal Colony Helwan Egypt. Animals were maintained in the Animal House of Pharmacology Department, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Cairo University under controlled hygienic conditions. Animals were fed on locally manufactured pellets and water was provided ad libitum. Animals were allowed to acclimatize to the laboratory environment for 7 days before start of the experiment. Rats were used for the hepatoprotective effect and mice were used for the acute toxicity testing of the used plant extracts.

Hepatoprotective effect:

The model described by Chakraborti and Handa[17] was used. Rats were divided into eight equal groups of six rats each. All groups received the administered doses orally by using stomach tube. Rats of group I (normal control) were given 2.5 ml of corn oil/kg-1 b.wt. daily for 5 days and kept as environmental control. Rats of the 2nd group were used as positive control and were given carbon tetrachloride (CCl4 50% in corn oil, 2.5 ml kg-1 bwt.). Rats of the 3rd and 4th groups were administered ginger extract in a dose of 250 and 500 mg/kg respectively, while those of the 5th and 6th group were administered chicory extract in a dose of 250 and 500 mg/kg. The 7th group received low dose of both ginger and chicory extracts (250 mg/kg 1:1, wt:wt). Doses were calculated depending on the yield of the methanol extract of an amount of the plants equivalent to human consumption. Rats of the 8th group were used as a standard one receiving silymarine, 25.0 mg/kg orally for the same period. All groups, except normal control group received CCl4 (50% in corn oil at an oral dose of 2.5 ml kg-1b.wt.) in the 2nd and 3rd day. At the fifth day, blood samples were collected from the orbital plexus of veins of all rats. Serum samples were separated and used for determination of different biochemical parameters then all rats were sacrificed and liver was taken for histopathological examination. Animals were handled according to the local rules and regulation of Experimental Animals, Cairo University.

Blood samples

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Blood samples were collected 24 h after CCl4 administration by puncturing the retro-orbital plexus of veins. Blood samples were allowed to clot and centrifuged to separate clear serum. The activities of alanine aminotransferases (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (AP)[18], gamma glutamyltransferase (GGT)[19] and the level of glucose[20], triglyceride[21], total proteins, albumin and bilirubin[22], were determined using kits from bioMérieux-France; creatinine[23], cholesterol[24] using kits from Diamond, Cairo - Egypt.

Pathological studies:

Liver tissue specimens were collected from all groups' immediately after sacrifice of rats and fixed in 10% formol saline. Paraffin sections of 5 thickness were prepared, stained by Hematoxyleneand Eosin (H & E) and examined microscopically.

Acute toxicity study in mice:

The acute toxicity of plant extract was tested as described by Tanira et al.[25] using three doses (0.4, 1 and 2.5 g/kg orally). Control rats were kept under the same conditions without any treatments. Observation period extended up to 72 h post administration. In addition, the general behavior of animals, signs of discomfort, or any nervous manifestations were observed. The large dose was selected to represent the maximum dose in relation to the extract-dry plant yield.

Phytochemical screening:

The extracts were screened for the presence of tannins, saponins, sterols and or triterpenes, alkaloids, anthraquinones, flavonoids, lactones/esters, protein and or amino acids and carbohydrates and or glycosides with thin layer chromatography (TLC) as described by Stahl[26]. Thin layer plates precoated with Silica gel G (Merck, 0.25 mm thickness) were used. Development was carried out with different solvent systems: ethyl acetate-methanol-water (100:13.5:10 v/v), ethyl acetate- formic acid -acetic acid-water (100:11:11:27 v/v), chloroform-methanol-water (64:50:10 v/v) benzene:ethyl acetate (86:14 v/v) and ethyl acetate:methanol:water:acetic acid (65:15:15:10 v/v/v/v). After development in the solvents the plates were dried and sprayed with Dragendorrf's, AlCl3, Hydroxylamine-ferric chloride, and ninhydrin and antimony trichloride for the detection of alkaloids, flavonoids, lactones/esters, protein/amino acids and sterols/triterpenes. Detection of anthraquinones, saponins, tannins glycosides/ carbohydrate was carried out using KOH, anisaldehyde-sulphuric acid reagents, ferric chloride and naphthoresorcinol reagents respectively[27]. Detection was carried out by visualization in visible light and under UV light (λ366 nm).

Statistical analysis:

Results are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (SD). Differences between means in different groups were tested for significance using a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) followed by Duncan's test and P value of 0.05 or less was considered significant.


Toxicity testing:

Oral administration of methanol extracts of either ginger or chicory in doses up to 5g/kg revealed no symptoms of morbidity or mortality were reported. Therefore LD50 is more than 5.0 mg/kg indicating that the tested plants are safe for use.

Phytochemical study:

Preliminary phytochemical screening of the tested extracts revealed the presence of alkaloids and/or nitrogenous bases, carbohydrates and/or glycosides, tannins, flavonoides, saponins and unsaturated sterols and/or triterpenes in both ginger and chicory. Resins are reported only in ginger methanol extract.

Effect on serum biochemical constituents:

The CCl4 intoxication significantly elevated the ALT, AST, ALP and GGT activity as compared to control group. Ginger methanol extract in small or large dose decreased only the activity of ALP and GGT however it did not significantly affect the level of ALT or AST. Methanol extract of chicoryin both doses and mixture of both chicory and ginger (1:1; wt/wt) significantly decreased serum aminotransferases (ALT, AST) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP). Oral administration of silymarine (25 mg/kg) did not significantly alter the elevated serum liver enzymatic activity (fig. 1).

CCl4 significantly increased serum trigycerides and cholesterol concentration. Methanol extract of chicory and ginger in both doses as well as their mixture (1:1; wt/wt) significantly decreased serum trigycerides and cholesterol concentration. Their lowering effect was more potent than that of silymarine. There was no significant effect on serum total bilirubin, total protein level or albumen concentration after administration of methanol extract of ginger, chicory in both doses as well as their mixture (Table 1).These results revealed that the CCl4treatment at a dose of 2.5 ml /kg did not affect the serum glucose, urea or creatinine levelcompared to control group. Neither silymarine nor ginger and small dose of chicory affected serum glucose, urea or creatinine. Only large dose of chicory and mixture of both of ginger and chicory significantly decreased serum urea level (Fig. 2).

Effect on RBCs and related indices:

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CCl4 significantly increased RBCscounts and Hb concentration. Chicory in both doses and also the mixture of both ginger and chicory significantly increased the RBCs count, Hb and haematocrite concentration when compared control or carbon tetrachloride- intoxicated group. Ginger did not affect any of the blood parameters(Table 2).

Effect on total and differential leucocytic counts:

CCl4 did not affect significantly affect total or differential leucocytes counts. There was no significant difference in the total WBCs countbetween any of plant extract or silymarine- and CCl4 alone- treated groups. Lymphocyte and eosinophiles percent were significantly decreased. Monocyte percent was significantly increased in ginger treated rats. On the other hand monocytes was significantly increased and the eosinophiles was significantly decreased in chicory-, mixture of ginger and chicory- and silymarine-treated rats. Basophiles percent were significantly decreased in mixture of ginger and chicory- and silymarine-treated rats (Table 3).

Effect on blood platelets:

Results indicated that platelet counts (PLT) Ã- 103 μl in control group was 751.5 ± 78.87. In CCl4-intoxicated rats, platelet counts, Platelet Distribution Width (PDW), Mean Platelet Volume (MPV), Platelet Larger Cell Ratio (P-LCR) was significantly (P>0.05) decreased in comparison to normal control. Gingerin the large dose, chicory in both doses and mixture of both ginger and chicory as well as silymarinesignificantly increased platelets counts, platelet distribution width (PDW), mean platelet volume (MPV), platelet larger cell ratio (P-LCR)to levels nearly similar to that of normal control (Table 4).

Pathological examination:

Macroscopically, the livers in CCl4-treated group were enlarged, friable and pale in color. The livers of ginger-treated rats was slightly enlarged, moderate friable and mottled in appearance. Liver from rats treated with chicory was apparently normal in texture.Histopathological observation of CCl4-treated group showedvery severe hepatotoxicity as evidenced by the appearance of centrilobular necrosis, ballooning degeneration in hepatocytes, congestion in the central vein and sinusoids, proliferation of kupffer cells and mononuclear leucocytes inflammatory cells infiltration mainly surrounding the central vein (fig. 3B)compared to normal non treated rats (fig.3A). In ginger and chicory-treated groups, moderate to mild degenerated and necrobiotic changes (centrolobular) in the hepatocytes were observed (fig. 3C and D respectively). Similar picture was observed in silymarine- and mixture of ginger and chicory- treated groups (not shown).


Results of this study revealed that there were no symptoms of morbidity or mortality reported 48 h after oral administration of tested methanol extracts of both ginger and chicory in doses up to 5000 mg/kg in mice. These results indicated that both tested extracts were safe to be used and they are nontoxic. In this respect[28] reported that plants with LD50 more than 5000 mg/kg is considered nontoxic. A toxicological evaluation of a chicory root extract was also done by Schmidt et al.[29]. They reported that there were no observed adverse effects of chicory extract in their studies. The NOAEL (no observable effective level) for the extract is 1000 mg/kg when administered orally for 28 days. Moreover, the extract was nontoxic up to a dose of 1500 mg/kg[30].

Estimation of the activity of ALT, AST and GGT are good marker of assessment liver function. These enzymes are normally located in the cytosol of hepatocytes. When liver cells are damaged, these enzymes are released in the plasma and increased their activity in plasma is a useful marker of the extent and type hepatocellular damage[1]. Carbon tetrachloride administration to experimental animals induced acute pathological changes in the liver. This finding correlates with the marked increase in serum ALT, AST and GGT activities. Moreover, the increased triglyceride content in the blood is in correlation with the fatty degeneration of the liver induced by CCl4[31]. Biochemical mechanism for CCl4 toxicity based on mitochondrial damage was previously described[32].

The present results clearly demonstrate the marked antihepatotoxic effects of methanol extract of ginger, chicory and their mixture (1:1 wt/wt) as compared to the reference drug, silymarine. This fact is based on the tendency of liver enzymes, glucose and triglycerides to return towards their respective levels in the normal control group. Previous studies have demonstrated that both ginger[7,33], or chicory[11,12] exhibited hepatoprotective effect. In this study additional evidence that not only methanol extract of ginger or chicory but also a mixture of both (1:1 wt/wt) exhibited a hepatoprotective effect which was more effective in reducing serum liver enzymes towards or even below the normal values than ginger or chicory alone. The decreased liver enzymes below the carbon tetrachloride-treated or normal rats are probably due to a membrane stabilizing effect.

Although the active compounds of the tested plants have not been well identified in the present study, preliminary phytochemical study revealed the presence of alkaloids and/or nitrogenous bases, carbohydrates and/or glycosides, tannins, flavonoids, saponins and unsaturated sterols and/or triterpenes as major active constituents. Saponins, flavonoids, and alkaloids have been previously reported in the crude extract of ginger[4].The reduced lipid peroxidation in rat liver and homogenates were reported to be due to total phenolics or flavonoids contents of some medicinal plants[13]. Therefore the protective effect of plant extract against CCl4 may be attributed to the presence of triterpenoids and steroids[16].

Many compounds known to be beneficial against CCl4-mediated liver injury exert their protective action by toxin-mediated lipid peroxidation either via decreased production of carbon tetrachloride derived free radicals or through the antioxidant activity of the protective agents themselves[34]. Phenolic compounds were also separated from Ginger[5] and chicory[14]. These constituents were reported to exhibit strong antioxidant properties andcytoprotective actions in rats[5]. Therefore it may be suggested that the hepatoprotective effect of the tested plants is due at least partially to their content of flavonoids and or triterpenoids.

The triglyceride and cholesterol lowering effect could be related to the total lipid lowering effect by ginger[2,35]. The blood glucose lowering effect may be due to the presence of inulin and oligofructose[16,36].

Although no available literature could be obtained concerning the effect of the tested methanol extracts on blood cellular elements, however the increased RBCs count and Hb and HCT in chicory and mixture treated rats could be attributed to its protective effect on bone marrow[30,37]. The increased monocyte counts in blood of rats treated with methanol extract of ginger and /or chicory may be related to the antiinflammatory effect of their active constituents[38,39] and to their immunoprotectant effect[40,36]. The present data clearly demonstrate that oral administration of methanol extract of ginger or chicory has restored the platelets counts which were decreased afterCCl4-induced intoxication.

Oral administration of the tested methanol extracts revealed that administration of mixture of both ginger and chicory improved of the degenerative histopathological changes induced by CCl4 intoxication in liver. In this concern, it is reported that cichorium root extract therapy leads to normalization of some morphofunctional liver features (decreases glycogen content and cell of necrosis) in rats with CCl4-induced hepatitis[12]. The antihepatotoxic activity of ginger extract may be due to its direct radical scavenging activity[33]. In conclusion, ginger or chicorywere effective as antihepatotoxic and can be considered as good natural sources of hepatoprotective constituents.