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Bioassay-guided evaluation of Dioscorea villosa – an acute and subchronic toxicity, antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory approach

Claudio Moreira Lima13*, Adriana Karla Lima13, Marcelia G Dória Melo1, Mairim Russo Serafini1, Dênisson Lima Oliveira3, Enrik Barbosa de Almeida3, Rosana Souza Siqueira Barreto1, Paulo Cesar de Lima Nogueira4, Valéria Regina de Souza Moraes4, Édica Ramone Andrade Oliveira4, Ricardo Luiz Cavalcanti de Albuquerque Jr23, Lucindo J Quintans-Júnior1 and Adriano Antunes Souza Araújo1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physiology, Federal University of Sergipe-UFS, São Cristóvão-SE CEP 49000-100, Brazil

2 Laboratory of Morphology and Structural Biology Science and Technology Institute -ITP, Aracaju, SE CEP 49000-000, Brazil

3 Tiradentes University, Aracaju, SE CEP 49000-000, Brazil

4 Department of Chemistry, Federal University of Sergipe, São Cristóvão, SE 49100-000, Brazil

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:195  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-195

Published: 28 July 2013



Dioscorea villosa (DV) has been used in Brazil as an alternative medicine to attenuate menopause symptoms, as well as for the treatment of joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis. In spite of the popular use of DV for the treatment of various disorders, there are limited scientific data regarding safety aspects of this herb. In this regard, we carried out to evaluated both antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activities in experimental models and assess the toxic effects of the acute (single dose) and subchronic (30 days) oral administration of dry extract of Dioscorea villosa in rodents.


The LC analyses were performed to assess the presence of the diosgenin in samples of DV. The antinociceptive study of DV was performed using models of acetic acid-induced writhing and formalin-induced pain in mice. The anti-inflammatory study was accomplished by leukocyte migration to the peritoneal cavity. A dry extract of DV was tested at doses of 100, 200 and 400 mg/kg (per os or p.o.). The toxicological properties of the dry extract were evaluated by toxicity assays of acute (5 g/kg, single dose) and subchronic (1 g/kg/day, 30 days) treatment. Haematological, biochemical, and histopathological parameters were studied. The results are expressed as mean ± S.D., and statistical analysis of the data were performed with the Student’s t-test or one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) followed by Tukey’s test. In all cases differences were considered significant if p < 0.05.


HPLC-DAD analysis of the extract from DV revealed the presence of diosgenin as the major compound. Doses of 200 and 400 mg⁄kg significantly reduced the amount of acetic acid-induced writhing in relation to the vehicle (p < 0.0001). In the first phase, using the formalin-induced neurogenic pain test, only the 400 mg/kg dose of DV showed significant inhibition of neurogenic pain (p < 0.001). In the second phase, 200 and 400 mg/kg of DV showed significant inhibition of inflammatory pain (p < 0.0001). Significant inhibition of leukocyte migration was observed with doses of 100 (p < 0.001), 200 (p < 0.01) and 400 mg/kg (p < 0.01). Haematological, biochemical and histopathological data obtained in both acute and subchronic toxicological assays revealed only unremarkable changes, which are unlikely to indicate DV toxicity with oral administration.


We found that DV possesses antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory properties in rodent models. In addition, no acute or subchronic toxicity was evident when the herbal extract was administered orally. These results supporting the folkloric usage of the plant to treat various inflammatory diseases.

Dioscorea villosa; Toxicity; Antinociceptive effect; Anti-inflammatory effect