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Multi-flowered knotweed: Live longer thanks to root extract from a Chinese medicinal plant
The root of the many-flowered knotweed has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a medicinal plant for centuries. Extracts and powders of this plant are also offered as food supplements in Germany. Among other things, the funds are said to have a rejuvenating effect. A study has now shown that the extract from the plant can actually lead to a longer life - at least in worms.
Increase life expectancy through healthy lifestyle
Health experts repeatedly point out that life expectancy can be significantly extended through a healthy lifestyle. It can help to heed a few simple rules: No smoking, avoiding excess weight, regular exercise, balanced diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as little red meat and excessive alcohol consumption. Exotic medicinal plants could also help to prolong life. This works at least for worms, as has now been shown in a study.
Rejuvenating and particularly beneficial to health
The knotweed has been very popular for a long time.
Numerous suppliers sell extracts and powders of this plant as dietary supplements and advertise that the agents are supposed to have a rejuvenating and health-promoting effect.
So far, however, there have been only a few scientifically sound studies on the effects.
"Most of the studies focused only on the main active ingredient of the plant extract," explained nutritionist Prof. Dr. Wim Wätjen from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) in a message.
"In fact, however, it consists of many different substances, the combined effectiveness of which, on the other hand, has not yet been extensively researched," says the expert, whose research group has been researching the plant, its ingredients and their possible effects for several years.
Longer life thanks to root extract of the knotweed
As the scientists from Halle have now been able to show in a new study, a root extract of the knotweed leaves the nematode C. elegans live longer and protects it from oxidative stress.
The research team thus provides scientifically sound evidence of the effectiveness of this extract, which is used primarily in traditional Chinese medicine and as a dietary supplement.
At the same time, the experts describe for the first time molecular signaling pathways that could be the basis of the effect of the extract.
The study recently appeared in the international journal "Plants".
Anti-aging effects checked
In the study, the researchers checked whether the widely advertised anti-aging effects could actually be demonstrated.
To do this, they administered a large amount of the extract to the nematode C. elegans, a frequently used model organism in the bio and life sciences.
"Most of the studies to date have examined the effects of the plant with isolated cells or in a test tube, we wanted to examine it in the living organism," explained Wätjen.
For the highest concentration, 1,000 micrograms per milliliter, the scientists were able to observe various effects: the worms' lifespan was extended by almost 19 percent. For C. Elegans this corresponds to an increase of around three days.
In two further short tests, the researchers examined the extent to which the agent also protects the worms from oxidative stress or heat stress.
It was found that the extract does not improve the survival rate of the worms in the heat, but it does reduce the formation of harmful oxygen radicals and protects the animals much better against increased oxidative stress.
In the next step, the tests were repeated with worms, the genetic makeup of which had been specifically changed at certain points. This switched off the function of special proteins that are of central importance for aging.
"If the genes for the formation of the proteins DAF-16 or Sir-2.1 were defective, the positive effects of the root extract were significantly lower," summarized Wätjen. Incidentally, a longer lifespan could only be observed if all proteins functioned properly.
"This confirms that aging is a complex process that depends on many factors," says Wätjen.
New knowledge cannot be transferred directly to humans
As stated in the communication, the results of the new work fit well into the previous study situation: A main component of the root extract is a substance that has a similar structure to resveratrol.
“This substance can be found in grapes, for example, and it is known that it activates a special class of enzymes, the sirtuins. These have long been among the key substances that control aging processes in the body, ”explains Wätjen.
The new study provides information on the interventions of herbal ingredients in basic mechanisms and signaling pathways of aging, which can serve as the basis for further research.
However, the findings cannot be transferred directly to humans.
According to Wätjen, the basic principles and signaling pathways in other organisms may be similar, but whether the effects observed in C. Elegans can also be demonstrated in other organisms still has to be clarified in subsequent studies.
In Halle, the protective effect of the extract with regard to the formation of plaques in the context of Alzheimer's disease will also be investigated in the future. (ad)