, Volume 70, Issue 4, pp 1261–1278 | Cite as

In vitro safety assessment of the strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo L.) water leaf extract and arbutin in human peripheral blood lymphocytes

  • K. Jurica
  • I. Brčić Karačonji
  • A. Mikolić
  • D. Milojković-Opsenica
  • V. Benković
  • N. KopjarEmail author


Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo L.) leaves have long been used in the traditional medicine of the Mediterranean region. One of their most bioactive constituents is the glycoside arbutin, whose presence makes A. unedo suitable as a potential substitute for bearberry [Arctostaphylos uva ursi (L.) Spreng] leaves, an herbal preparation widely used for treating urinary tract infections. The safety and biocompatibility of strawberry tree water leaf extract have not yet been documented well. This study estimated arbutin content in strawberry tree water leaf extract (STE) using high performance liquid chromatography. Furthermore, we performed an in vitro safety assessment of the 24 h exposure to three presumably non-toxic concentrations of standardized STE and arbutin in human peripheral blood lymphocytes using the apoptosis/necrosis assay, the alkaline comet assay, and the cytokinesis-block micronucleus cytome assay. The STE was also tested for total antioxidant capacity and lipid peroxidation. At a concentration corresponding to the maximum allowable daily intake of arbutin, the tested extract was not cytotoxic, had a negligible potential for causing primary DNA damage and even hindered micronuclei formation in lymphocytes. It also showed a valuable antioxidant capacity, and did not exert marked lipid peroxidation. These promising results represent a solid frame for further development of STE-based herbal preparations. Although arbutin generally had a low DNA damaging potential, the slowing down of lymphocyte proliferation observed after 24 h of exposure points to a cytostatic effect, which merits further research.


Apoptosis Arbutus unedo L. Cytokinesis-block micronucleus “cytome” assay Oxidative stress Primary DNA damage 



This study was financially supported by the Mali Lošinj Tourist Board and Institutional funding provided by the Ministry of Science and Education of the Republic of Croatia.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ministry of the InteriorZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.Institute for Medical Research and Occupational HealthZagrebCroatia
  3. 3.Faculty of ChemistryUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia
  4. 4.Faculty of ScienceUniversity of ZagrebZagrebCroatia

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