South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Gunnera perpensa l., family gunneraceae, is among the most frequently cited of about 90 species used by South African traditional healers in pregnancy-related medicines. Seven bioactive compounds were isolated from Gunnera perpensa roots, with five of these being novel to the species at the time of identification. These are 3,3',4'-tri-O-methyl ellagic acid lactone, ellagic acid lactone, 1,1'-biphenyl-4,4'-diacetic acid, p-hydroxybenzaldehyde and Z-methyl lespedezate. The known antihaemorrhagic, antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic activities of some of these compounds signifies that they could be beneficial during pregnancy and birth. Two partially characterized phenolic glucosides strongly enhanced the response of isolated rat uterine tissue to acetylcholine. All compounds isolated in this study are phenolic, and such compounds are generally known for their antiseptic and anti-oxidative properties, which could benefit both the fetus and mother during pregnancy. The bioactivities described link to some of the documented properties attributed to this species, therefore supporting confidence of traditional healers in the safety, efficacy, and health benefits of this medicinal plant.