Chestnut leaves have been used as a natural remedy against a variety of health problems for centuries in Europe. In some countries, they have been used to eliminate bacteria such as Streptococcus Aureus, which sparked a new research led by Cassandra Quave, ethnobotanist from the Emory University to try and determine if the stories were real. The results have been incredible – the leaves do work, but not in a traditional way by killing the bacterium. In fact, the subdue their ability to create toxins and wreak havoc on the tissue.
“The leaves effectively strip the bacterium off its weapons and shut down its ability to produce toxins,” Quave said, and hopes that the same method can be used against antibiotic-resistant bacteria which work in a similar fashion.
According to the CDC, antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA affect 2 million people annually and kill more than 20 000. Luckily, the chestnut leaves’ ability to block important functions in the pathogens could spell a new way of treatment. This can be the base for future cures against MRSA and other harmful bacteria that science hasn’t found a way to eliminate yet. Quave and her team have been studying the folk remedies of people from southern Italy for years, and recently they focused on chestnut leaves. They discovered that the leaves were used in the form of tea, which was used to rub the inflamed skin and tissue in order to prevent infections.
After seeing the results of the study, Quave teamed up with a microbiologist named Alexander Horswill who has a lab that focuses on creating tools that are used for drug recovery. The team steeped the leaves in various solvents in order to extract chemical components. “We were trying to isolate the most active compounds from the mixture. The process is pretty methodical and takes a lot of time,” Quave said. The team managed to isolate 94 compounds, with oleanane and ursine the most active. These are the compounds which allow the leaves to do their magic.
“Now, we have a mixture that really works,” Quave says. “We’re trying to further refine it into a compound which the FDA would consider.” The potential use of this mixture in the form of tampons or coatings can be the base for treatment of MRSA infections and other harmful bacteria as well.
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