The antimutagenic activities of extracts of 36 commonly used anticancer crude drugs from Chinese herbs were studied by using the Salmonella/microsomal system in the presence of picrolonic acid or benzo[a]pyrene to test whether they contain direct or indirect antimutagens. Each crude drug was extracted with boiling water for 2 h, the method which is commonly used by Chinese people to prepare the drug for oral intake. The extracts of Pteris multifida P. showed the highest antimutagenic activity against picrolonic acid-induced mutation. The extracts of 6 other different kinds of Chinese herbs were shown to have a moderate antimutagenic activity against picrolonic acid-induced mutation, and they are: Actinidia chinensis P., Artemisia lavendulaefolia DC. and Crotalaria sessiflora L., Prunella vulgaris L., Paris polyphylla S. and Ampelopsis brevipedunculata T. The extracts of Smilax china L., Prunella vulgaris L. and Actinidia chinensis P. were demonstrated to inhibit the mutagenicity of benzo[a]pyrene completely. The 12 other kinds of extracts of Chinese herbs which had a moderate antimutagenic activity against benzo[a]pyrene were: Pteris polyphylla S., Ampelopsis brevipedunculata T., Duchesnea indica F., Gossypium herbaceum L., Lithospermum erythrorrhizon SZ., Artemisia lavendulaefolia DC., Selaginella doederleinii H., Dianthus superbus L., Centipeda minima ABA., Curcuma zedoaria R., Marsdenia tenacissima WA. and Kalopanax septemlobus K. Among them, there were 5 kinds of crude drugs, Actinidia chinensis P., Artemisia lavendulaefolia DC., Prunella vulgaris L., Paris polyphylla S. and Ampelopsis brevipedunculata T., containing antimutagenic factors against both picrolonic acid- and benzo[a]pyrene-induced mutation.
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