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Open Access Research article

Growth-Inhibiting and morphostructural effects of constituents identified in Asarum heterotropoides root on human intestinal bacteria

Haribalan Perumalsamy1, Moon Young Jung2, Seung Min Hong2 and Young-Joon Ahn2*

Author Affiliations

1 Research Institute for Agricultural and Life Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-921, Republic of Korea

2 Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, WCU Biomodulation Major, Seoul National University, Seoul 151-921, Republic of Korea

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 13:245  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-13-245

Published: 1 October 2013



The growth-inhibiting and morphostructural effects of seven constituents identified in Asarum heterotropoides root on 14 intestinal bacteria were compared with those of the fluoroquinolone antibiotic ciprofloxacin.


A microtiter plate-based bioassay in sterile 96-well plates was used to evaluate the minimal inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of the test materials against the organisms.


δ-3-Carene (5) exhibited the most potent growth inhibition of Gram-positive bacteria (Clostridium difficile ATCC 9689, Clostridium paraputrificum ATCC 25780, Clostridium perfringens ATCC 13124, and Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 12600) and Gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli ATCC 11775 and Bacteroides fragilis ATCC 25285) (minimal inhibitory concentrations (MIC), 0.18–0.70 mg/mL) except for Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium ATCC 13311 (MIC, 2.94 mg/mL). The MIC of methyleugenol (2), 1,8-cineole (3), α-asarone (4), (−)-asarinin (6), and pellitorine (7) was between 1.47 and 2.94 mg/mL against all test bacteria (except for compound 2 against C. difficile (0.70 mg/mL); compounds 1 (23.50 mg/mL) and 4 (5.80 mg/mL) against C. paraputricum; compounds 2 (5.80 mg/mL), 4 (12.0 mg/mL), and 7 (0.70 mg/mL) against C. perfringens); compound 1 against E. coli (7.20 mg/mL) and S. enterica serovar Typhimurium (12.0 mg/mL). Overall, all of the constituents were less potent at inhibiting microbial growth than ciprofloxacin (MIC, 0.063–0.25 mg/ mL). The lactic acid-producing bacteria (four bifidobacteria and two lactobacilli) and one acidulating bacterium Clostridium butyricum ATCC 25779 were less sensitive and more susceptible than the five harmful bacteria and two nonpathogenic bacteria (B. fragilis and E. coli) to the constituents and to ciprofloxacin, respectively. Beneficial Gram-positive bacteria and harmful and nonpathogenic Gram-negative bacteria were observed to have different degrees of antimicrobial susceptibility to the constituents, although the antimicrobial susceptibility of the harmful Gram-positive bacteria and the harmful and nonpathogenic Gram-negative bacteria was not observed. Scanning electron microscopy observations showed different degrees of physical damage and morphological alteration to both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria treated with α-asarone, δ-3-carene, pellitorine, or ciprofloxacin, indicating that they do not share a common mode of action.


A. heterotropoides root-derived materials described merit further study as potential antibacterial products or lead molecules for the prevention or eradication from humans from diseases caused by harmful intestinal bacteria.

Asarum heterotropoides; Natural growth inhibitor; Gram-positive bacteria; Gram-negative bacteria; Morphological alteration; Minimal inhibitory concentrations