This study was done to learn about the anticancer effects of the saponins in Tribulus terrestris (TT) on normal human skin cells (fibroblasts) in the test tube. TT has been used to improve physical activity and sexual function in men. Saponins have anticancer effects. The anticancer effects of TT must be compared to the effects of TT on normal cells. The saponin extract used was an alcohol extract. The saponins were separated for use on healthy human skin cells.
TT caused a reduction in the incorporation of thymidine into the skin cells and some reduction in the survival of the cells. The results showed that TT could stop the growth of skin cells at doses from .06 to 5-6 micrograms/ml of cultivating media. Cell toxicity increased at a dose of 12.6. This was low level activity compared to that against hepatoma, breast cancer, malignant melanoma, oral epidermoid cancer, ductal breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
The dose of 6 microgm./ml is the transition at which TT seems to switch from blocking the growth of cells to being toxic to cells. The cell death seems to be by apoptosis. Polyamines, such as putrescine, spermidine and spermine, were tested. Polyamines are up- and down-regulated to alter cell growth and proliferation and seem to function in the initiation of apoptosis.
CONCLUSION: Tribulus terrestris (TT) shows little cell toxicity for normal cells. An extract of TT is less toxic toward normal human skin cells than against a number of different cancer cell types. Polyamines levels are altered by the use of saponins and seem to play a role in cell survival, proliferation and death. This study gives more information about the anticancer effects of TT. TT has useful anticancer effects against a number of cancers.
NOTE: Saponins are ‘soapy’ glycosides found in many herbs. Polyamines, such as putrescine, cadaverine, spermine and spermidine, are chemicals containing at least two amino- groups and are found in soybeans, natto, mushrooms, orange and green tea, wine, and sake. They are reduced in aging humans, perhaps due to poor diet.
Read about polyamines in green tea.
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