LAFAYETTE, LA - Can traditional medicines that go to the root of Louisiana culture help beat modern illnesses?
It all boils down to a bush - in particular, the groundsel bush. Up until the early 20th century, this native shrub was an ingredient in folk remedies.
A team of investigators, including a University of Louisiana at Lafayette exercise scientist have concluded the anti-inflammatory properties of the bush could fight metabolic syndrome and related conditions, like obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Scott Fuller, an assistant professor in UL Lafayette's School of Kinesiology, and scientists from LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Rutgers University in New Jersey found that extracts from the bush's stems and leaves positively affect the metabolism of fat cells.
This is important in the fight against metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions that includes obesity, high blood sugar and high blood pressure. Those conditions affect one in three Louisiana residents and when they're combined, the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease goes up. Overall, metabolic syndrome affects 34 percent of all adults in the nation, and 50 percent of those 60 years or older.
"Healthy fat cells are indispensable for healthy blood sugar maintenance and proper metabolism in general," Fuller said. "This research shows that the groundsel bush can alter the function of fat cells in a beneficial manner and could support its use as a dietary supplement."
Groundsel is a perennial, semi-evergreen bush found throughout the southern U. S., and along the eastern seaboard.
It's "practically ubiquitous in Louisiana," said Dr. C. Ray Brassieur, a UL Lafayette anthropologist who has also investigated the historical use of native botanicals in folk medicine.
Brassieur said there's a well-documented Creole folk remedy involved making tea infused with groundsel leaves. Native Americans, Acadians and other ethnic groups also used the plant to combat mucus congestion associated with flu, pneumonia or heavy colds.
Fuller and the Pennington team prepared an extract from the groundsel bush's stems and leaves, and tested it with a series of dyes and other chemical solutions. The analysis showed the shrub promoted fat cell development, fought off inflammation in fat cells, and enhanced the creation of proteins that benefit the liver and skeletal muscle.
Biology, an international peer-reviewed journal, published the findings online last month. In addition to Fuller, its authors included Dr. David Ribnicky, Rutgers University; and Dr. Anik Boudreau, Dr. Allison Richard and Dr. Jacqueline Stephens, all of Pennington Biomedical.
The article is available here: www.mdpi.com/2079-7737/7/2/22/pdf.