Woad has Anti-Cancer Properties

WOAD, the plant that was used by Ancient Britons and Celts to make their striking blue warpaint, has been found to be one of the most potent natural sources of a compound used to fight cancer.

Research Article

Glucobrassicin enhancement in woad (Isatis tinctoria) leaves by chemical and physical treatments

Stefania Galletti 1 *, Jessica Barillari 1, Renato Iori 1, Gianpietro Venturi 2

1Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura (C.R.A.), Istituto Sperimentale per le Colture Industriali, Via Corticella 133, 40129 Bologna, Italy 2Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Agroambientali, UniversitÓ degli Studi di Bologna, Via Fanin 50, Bologna, Italy

email: Stefania Galletti (s.galletti@isci.it)

*Correspondence to Stefania Galletti, Consiglio per la Ricerca e la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura (C.R.A.), Istituto Sperimentale per le Colture Industriali, Via Corticella 133, 40129 Bologna, Italy

Abstract

Woad (Isatis tinctoria), a long-known dye plant, is a noticeable source of indolic compounds, bioactive molecules exploitable as fine chemicals. Among these, glucobrassicin and its derivatives seem to play an antitumoral role, especially against mammary cancer.

Since different Brassicaceae, such as broccoli and cauliflower, which are present in the human diet, contain glucobrassicin, it would be interesting to study its metabolic pathway following the fate of the pure compound in vivo.

At present such studies are prevented by the difficulties encountered in the purification, mainly due to the lack of a rich vegetable source. Synthetic production is complicated and expensive.

This study aimed to assess the possibility of enhancing glucobrassicin in woad leaves through artificial wounding and fertilisation, in the greenhouse and open field, in order to obtain high levels of the compound suitable for its purification.

Jasmonic acid treatment on young woad leaves of the Casolavalsenio accession is confirmed to be highly effective in the enhancement of glucobrassicin content, especially in combination with N-S fertilisation, under greenhouse conditions.

For large scale production in the open field, where the use of jasmonic acid would be economically prohibitive, an alternative method of stimulation could be advantageously represented by artificial wounding that is able to provoke a remarkable increase of the compound, giving more then 1% d.w., which would allow its purification.

Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture Volume 86, Issue 12 , Pages 1833 - 1838

August, 2006

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