Research Highlight

Cure for brittle bone

doi:10.1038/nindia.2010.158 Published online 10 November 2010

Researchers have identified several organic compounds in three medicinal plants that could prevent bone loss in post-menopausal women. The compounds aid in the differentiation and mineralization of osteoblasts (bone forming cells).

The plant-derived compounds look to be promising candidates for curing osteoporosis (the thinning of bone) among post-menopausal women. Oestrogen deficiency is a major cause of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. Although hormone replacement therapy lowers the risk of coronary heart disease and osteoporosis, it is associated with increased risk of certain types of cancer such as endometrial and breast cancer.

Phytoestrogens are non-steroidal plant compounds found in many fruits, vegetables and grains. Rat models of osteoporosis support a significant bone-conserving effect of phytoestrogens. In addition, a lower prevalence of hip fracture rates has been found among Asian women whose diets are high in phytoestrogens.

This led the researchers to explore the potential of phytoestrogen-rich medicinal plants in the fight against osteoporosis. They first prepared extracts from the leaves of Allophylus serratus and Vitex negundo, and from the stem of Cissus quadrangularis. They then isolated fourteen organic compounds from these extracts, and studied the efficacy of the compounds with rat osteoblasts.

Of all the compounds, five demonstrated efficacy in the differentiation and mineralization of rat osteoblasts. These increased the activity of alkaline phosphatase, one of the markers of osteoblast differentiation, at concentrations of almost 1,000 times less than that of daidzein, a type of isoflavone found in soybean and soy products. Daidzein is used as a dietary supplement for post-menopausal women who have low levels of oestrogen in their blood.

These compounds exhibit significant bone-forming activity and could be pursued further for preventing menopausal osteoporosis, say the researchers.


  1. Kumar, M. et al. Anti-osteoporotic constituents from Indian medicinal plants. Phytomedicine 17, 993-999 (2010) | Article | PubMed