Monkey sugarcane (Costus afer) has five amazing health benefits that would surprise you. The plant, which is always greenish and perennial, is usually found in West African countries ad beers white and yellow flowers. Every part of Monkey sugarcane offers an amazing health benefits. Othe coomon names of Costus afer include Okpete, Tete-egun, or Mbritem.
The plant contains some bioactive compounds that have nephroprotective properties on the kidneys. It also protects against neurodegenerative diseases as well as protection of the pancreatic beta cells.
Phytochemical Components of Costus afer
Costus afer contains several phytochemicals in their roots, stems, rhizomes and leaves. Some of the phytochemicals include:
The rhizome contains steroidal saponins such as
- Paryphllin C
- Aferoside B
- Aferoside C
The aerial parts contain kaempferol-3-O-R-L-rhamnopyranoside while the roots contain additional Aferoside A, Aferoside B and Aferoside C.
Health benefits of Monkey Sugarcane
Monkey sugarcane can be used in treating a wide range of illness which include:
Monkey sugarcane for ulcer treatment
The rhizome pulp and leave extracts of Costus afer are used in treating ulcers when taken, mostly by oral administration. Both the leaves and rhizome extracts increase gastroprotective factors, antioxidants such as glutathione, and decreases lipid peroxidation. Due to the increasing number of patients who suffers peptic ulcer, there has been intense search for permanent cure of this discomforting ailments. Among the other herbal remedies you can count on, Ewe laali leaves have also shown it strong antibacterial activity as well as the ability to suppress the acidic secretion in the mucosa wall.
May improve diabetes management
Diabetic patients would find the leaf and stem extracts of Monkey sugarcane useful in treating diabetes mellitus, as both extracts enhance glucose clearance and reduce hyperglycemia by increasing cellular glucose uptake. The leaf extract of monkey sugarcane protects the pancreas from autoimmune damage and also initiates the regeneration and repopulation of the pancreatic islet cells. This proves its efficacy in treatment of type one diabetes mellitus.
Aside protection of the pancreas and regeneration of islet cells, costus afer also ameliorate insulin resistance by sensitizing insulin receptors, and diosgenin is the bioactive component which ameliorates the insulin resistance by increasing glucose usage and intracellular glycogen synthesis. Costus afer also influences glucose absorption and inhibits liver gluconeogenesis.
Monkey sugarcane possesses antioxidant properties
The extracts of the various parts of Costus afer, especially the leaf extract is used in treating oxidative stress. It increases the activity of plasma superoxide dismutase (SOD) and increases the levels of glutathione and serum electrolytes such as Na+ and HCO–3 . Other enzymes whose activities, Costus afer extract increases include catalase and glutathione-S-transferase.
Monkey sugarcane protects the kidneys from toxic damage
The plant leaves, when taken, protect the kidneys from toxic and harmful substances. It is used in treating lead-induced kidney damage as it decreases the levels of glutathione peroxidase (GSH-PX), superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione S-transferase activity (GST) seen in the lead-induced kidney damage.
Read also (9 Health benefits of soursop fruit juice)
Possesses anti-inflammatory activity
Costus afer contains strong anti-inflammatory components such as Kaempferol, Aferoside A and Zn2+. They exert their anti-inflammatory activities by regulation the signaling activity of NF-kB pathways. Also, they inhibit the production of IFN-ϒ and IL-2, both which are proinflammatory factors. This regulatory effect of Costus afer extracts makes them useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Aside the regulatory role they play on NF-kB signaling pathways, they also exert inhibitory effect on the cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2) and interfare with G-protein-mediated signal transduction.
Antimalaria properties of monkey sugarcane
The stem of monkey sugarcane possesses anti-plasmodium activity. According to some researches, costus afer extracts suppress plasmodium growth and influences hematopoietic stem cells to produce RBC, especially when administered within the dose range of 100-500mg/kg body weight investigated in this study. This shows that monkey sugarcane can be given to malaria patients as a treatment therapy.
There are several other health benefits of monkey sugarcane which may not be covered within this scope. The availability of Costus afer coupled to its several health benefits makes monkey sugarcane a valuable home remedy for most ill health conditions.
To use monkey sugarcane for malaria treatment, boil the leaves together with the leaves of pawpaw, orange and stem bark of mango tree. Drink the decoction morning and night till you get relief.
Costus afer for cough
Monkey sugarcane is also used in traditional medicines for the treatment of cough, and whooping cough. In some places, the fruits are oounded and the juice used for the treatment of cough. In other traditional settings, the stem is chewed and the stem juice swallowed for cough treatment.
The stem decoction, or pounded fruit juice is also mixed with sugarcane juice and taken for cough, sour throat, and respiratory disorder.
Monkey sugarcane for measles
The stem juice of Monkey sugarcane is also used for the treatment of measle. As you know, measles is a viral infection that affects children. It is being spread through the air and can easily be contacted.
The presences of kaempferol and other active biochemicals in the plant may have contributed to this healing property of Monkey sugarcane against measles.
Monkey sugarcane reverses pancreatic damage
In most of the cases, the onset of diabetes is caused by the oxidative destruction of the pancreatic islet cells. When this happens, the pancreas would be unable to produce enough insulin for the transport of glucose to various cellular compartments. As a result of this, glucose become accumulated in the blood and hyperglycaemia, which may itself become toxic to the body.
The antidiabetic activities of costus afer may be traced to its ability to reverse oxidative destruction of the pancreas cells. This leads to the production of enough insulin for glucose transport. This however may not be true for type 2 diabetes, otherwise known as insulin independent diabetes.
Monkey sugarcane for cancer
We cannot talk about the health benefits of Monkey sugarcane without mentioning its anticancer properties. Doing so would be an injustice to knowledge and to the plant.
Monkey sugarcane roots, like other costus species, possess various bioactive compounds that suppress the growth of cancer cells from different mechanisms. Some of these compounds include:
Costunolide which acts upon human breast cancer, human bladder carcinoma, human ovarian cancee, and human neuroblastoma. The mechanism of action is through the PARP cleavage, downregulation of NF-kB, and through the up regulation of Barx
Diosgenin this chemical compound acts on Human erythroleukemia (HEL), Human lung carcinoma, Human hepatocellular carcinoma, and Human epidermoid carcinoma. Diosgenin is also effective against several other cancer cell lines.
Lupeol is a popular anticancer triterpenoid. It acts on Human prostate adenocarcinoma, Human epidermoid carcinoma, and Hepatocellular carcinoma. Lupeol is present in most cancer preventive herbs. This shows how potent it is against cancer cell proliferation.
There are so many other anticancer compounds in costus afer which space may not permit us to go into detailed analysis on them here. A combination of Monkey sugarcane, soursop bitters, and pigeon pea leaves may strongly suppress the growth and proliferation of cancer cells of any cancer cell line. This is because, like costus afer, the other two herbs are strong anticancer herbs. So combining them in a herbal mixture would give it a synergistic effect.
What are other uses of Monkey sugarcane?
Aside medicinal use, Okpete, as it is called among the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria, is also used for several other things such as rapping foods and snacks. Ukpaka, a popular Igbo food seasoning is usually rapped and allowed to fermented with the leaves. The leaves even give the fermented Ukpaka a unique smell, which in turn is transferred to the food cooked with it.
Monkey sugarcane to chase evil spirits away
It is said that Okpete is a powerful herb for protecting your home from the inversion of evil spirits. The plant is cut and spread round the house. Anyone with an evil mind would be uncomfortable getting into your house. It is also said that evil witches do not visit anywhere that the herb is placed.
Because of this, in most village settings when a woman gives birth, monkey sugarcane is usually cut and spread at the entrance to the room’s door where the child is laying down, to chase away evil spirits.
Side effects of monkey sugarcane
When taken for a long period of time, the side effects from the use of Costus afer may include:
- Sufficient reduction of red blood cells, which result in anemia.
- Increased weight of the liver and vacuolar changes in the hepatic cells.
- When taken by pregnant women, may lead to miscarriage.
Ezejiofor, C. N. Orish, and O. E. Orisakwe, “Cytological and biochemical studies during the progression of alloxan-induced diabetes and possible protection of an aqueous leaf extract of Costus afer,” Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines, vol. 12, no. 10, pp. 745–752, 2014.View at: Publisher Site| Google Scholar
Ezejiofor, C. N. Orish, and O. E. Orisakwe, “Morphological changes in the pancreas and glucose reduction of the aqueous extract of Costus aferleaf on alloxan-induced diabetic rats,” Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 595–601, 2015.View at: Publisher Site| Google Scholar
Ezejiofor, Z. N. Igweze, N. A. Udowelle, and O. E. Orisakwe, “Histopathological and biochemical assessments of Costus aferstem on alloxan-induced diabetic rats,” Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 383–391, 2017.View at: Publisher Site| Google Scholar
Ekpe, E. Orok Udosen, D. Amaechi, and B. Yisa, “Impact of ethanolic extract of Tecoma stans and Costus aferleaves on lipid profile status of streptozotocin induced diabetic wistar rats,” International Journal of Sciences, vol. 4, no. 8, pp. 16–20, 2018.View at: Publisher Site| Google Scholar
Ezejiofor, C. N. Orish, and O. E. Orisakwe, “Costus aferker gawl leaves against gentamicin-induced nephrotoxicity in rats,” Iranian Journal of Kidney Diseases, vol. 8, no. 4, p. 310, 2014.View at: Google Scholar
Ezejiofor and O. E. Orisakwe, “The protective effect of Costus aferKer Gawl aqueous leaf extract on lead-induced reproductive changes in male albino Wistar rats,” JBRA Assisted Reproduction, vol. 23, no. 3, p. 215, 2019.View at: Publisher Site|
Okorie, Ndidiamaka & Ezealisiji, Kenneth & C.J, Obieze. (2023). EVALUATION OF ANTI-ULCER ACTIVITY OF CRUDE METHANOL EXTRACT OF AERIAL PARTS OF COSTUS AFER IN ETHANOL-INDUCED AND INDOMETHACIN-INDUCED ULCER MODELS.