A Small Green Red-Ox Carries a Bright Medical Future for Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Chinyere Aloke
  • Ihechi I. Ezeigbo
  • Ikenna C. Ohanenye
  • Chibuike C. Udenigwe
  • Claus Jacob
  • Chukwunonso E. C. C. EjikeEmail author
Natural Products: From Chemistry to Pharmacology (C Ho, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Natural Products: From Chemistry to Pharmacology


Purpose of Review

Redox-related diseases are prevalent globally. Given the cost of allopathic medicines, “green preparations” are often relied on in economically developing countries. This review sought to identify medicinal plants of sub-Saharan Africa which have scientifically validated antioxidant properties, the compounds responsible for these properties, and to highlight the role of nanosizing of such plant materials in the medical future for the region.

Recent Findings

Eighteen plants (from 13 families) with reported antioxidant properties were identified. The Euphorbiaceae (3 plants) and Capparaceae (2 plants) were the most represented families. Most of the plants were reported to be used in folk medicine for the treatment of infections and inflammation, and water and methanol were the most widely used solvents for preparing the bioactive extracts. In vitro studies (13 cases) predominated. Forty-six different bioactive compounds were reported in the 18 plants identified. Catechin/epicatechin (13 plants), gallic acid (7 plants), caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, and vitexin/isovitexin (5 plants each) were the most widely reported antioxidant phytochemicals. Given that synergism can occur to enhance the antioxidant activities of phytochemicals, nanosizing the plant leaves identified may open new vistas of opportunities in the development of redox active green pharmaceuticals.


Given the abundance of antioxidant phenolics in the plants of sub-Saharan Africa, and the challenges of solvent extraction techniques (with respect to upscaling), nanosizing presents an eco-friendly means of sustainably exploiting these plant resources for medicinal purposes. Therefore, it appears that “a small green red-ox carries a bright medical future for sub-Saharan Africa.”


Antioxidants Nanosizing Phytochemicals Plant leaves Redox Sub-Saharan Africa 



The authors acknowledge the support of their respective Universities: The Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi State, Nigeria; the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, Nigeria; the Cranfield University, UK; the University of Saarland, Germany; and the University of Ottawa, Canada. CJ thanks the NutRedOx and Academics International networks for their support. CECCE thanks the DAAD for a 2018 research stays fellowship.

Authors’ Contribution

Conception, CECCE and CJ; literature search and data mining, ICO and CA; structures, ICO; figures, CECCE; table, CA and CECCE; preparation of initial draft of manuscript, CA, IIE, and CECCE; correction of draft for intellectual content, CCU and CJ; manuscript revision after peer-review, CCU and CECCE. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical standards were complied with in the preparation of the manuscript.

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no real or perceived conflict of interest to declare.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects, and as such no rights could be violated and consent was not necessary.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, College of MedicineAlex Ekwueme Federal UniversityAbakalikiNigeria
  2. 2.Department of Veterinary PharmacologyMichael Okpara University of AgricultureUmudikeNigeria
  3. 3.Plant Science LaboratoryCranfield UniversityBedfordshireUK
  4. 4.School of Nutrition Sciences, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  5. 5.Division of Bioorganic Chemistry, School of PharmacySaarland UniversitySaarbrueckenGermany

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