Past and present postgraduate students

| MSc Med | 2004 -2007
A laboratory model for studying inhalation therapy in traditional healing rites.

The burning of selected indigenous plants and the inhalation of the smoke liberated from them has been a widely accepted and practised form of administration in traditional healing therapy dating back to as far as the Koi and San, and is a method still widely practised in South Africa today. Inhalation has various advantages as a method of administration in both allopathic and traditional practices. Not only is inhalation a highly effective mode of administration because of its direct and local effect on the lungs for the treatment of respiratory ailments, but also because of its ability to deliver drugs effectively systemically. This study elucidated the rationale behind this widely practised treatment by examining chromatographic and antimicrobial data. Five plants that are commonly administered traditionally through inhalation were chosen: Heteropyxis natalensis, Myrothamnus flabellifolius, Artemisia afra, Pellaea calomelanos, and Tarchonanthus camphoratus. An apparatus was designed and constructed and the burning process that occurs in the traditional setting was simulated with the selected plants. The induced volatile fraction (smoke) was captured for analysis. Control solvent extracts were made for each plant using conventional extraction solvents, methanol, acetone, water, and the essential oil of the aromatic plants was also investigated. Antimicrobial assays revealed that the extracts (smoke) obtained after burning had lower minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values than the corresponding solvent extracts in most cases. For Klebsiella pneumoniae all five inhalation samples were far more active than the conventional extracts. When tested against the pathogen B. cereus, M. flabellifolius and P. calomelanos inhalation samples proved to exhibit superior antimicrobial activity compared to the respective solvent extracts. Pellaea calomelanos inhalation extract had the lowest MIC values compared to the solvent extracts for all pathogens (P. calomelanos inhalation extract MIC values: 0.53; 1.00; 0.53; 0.53 mg/ml for S. aureus, B. cereus, K. pneumoniae and C. neoformans respectively). Inhalation extracts exhibited different chemical profiles from the solvent extracts of the same plant. For example, A. afra inhalation extract had an abundance of peaks at various retention times from 3.2 to 5.4 minutes, which were not present in the chromatograms of the acetone and methanol extracts of the same plant. These results, albeit preliminary,  suggest that the chemistry and antimicrobial activity of plants are influenced by the combustion process which is often used in traditional healing rites.

Lesedi | inhalation - South Africa [2009 ©]