Oct. 16, 2009 -- The vegetable lamb plant contains substances that may one day help scientists develop new treatments for osteoporosis, a study shows.
The study is published in the Journal of Natural Products.
Young Ho Kim, PhD, of the Chungnam National University in Daejeon, South Korea, working with colleagues from scientific institutions in Vietnam, turned to the "vegetable" lamb plant as part of a larger study of medicinal plants in Vietnam.
Kim's group says it was able to isolate compounds from the plant (Cibotium barometz) and showed that the substances blocked activity of bone cells called osteoclasts, which break down bone tissue. Other bone cells called osteoblasts build new bone tissue.
The plant-extract substances, Kim and others write, "could be used in the development of therapeutic targets for osteoporosis."
If osteoclast production is increased, or if osteoblast production is decreased, bone mass is decreased, the researchers say.
Many plant-derived substances have been used as drugs for various diseases since ancient times; researchers say many traditional therapies are rich in phytotherapeutic regimens.
Cibotium barometz is plentiful in China, northeast India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan. The rhizomes -- horizontal plant stems usually found underground, sending out shoots, roots and nodes -- have long been used in Vietnamese folk medicine to treat rheumatism, limb ache, lumbago, neuralgia, and sciatica.