UH Hilo DKICP faculty publish research on anti-inflammatory properties of native plant

Date: Friday, February 17, 2023
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 932-7669

For Immediate Release

Two faculty members, a postdoctoral associate and a graduate student from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy are part of a team of researchers working to isolate compounds from roots of a native Hawaiian plant and evaluate their medicinal properties.

Roots of ʻŪhaloa, (Waltheria indica) have long been used in the Hawaiian culture as a treatment for inflammatory conditions, including asthma and infections.

Supakit Wongwiwatthananukit, Pharm.D., Ph.D., Leng Chee Chang, Ph.D., Feifei Liu, postdoctoral associate, and graduate student Sasha (Kovacs) Nealand are authors of the paper “Anti-inflammatory Quinoline Alkaloids from the Roots of Waltheria indica,” published in this month’s Journal of Natural Products.

“We believe the approach of the drug leads and clinical candidates should be driven from natural products, which have their origin in traditional medicine,” Wongwiwatthananukit said. “So we got involved in the Hilo community by seeking collaboration, both culturally and academically, with Kumu Dane Kaohelani Silva, a native Hawaiian practitioner with vast knowledge and experience in the use of laʻau lapaʻau, or Hawaiian medicine.”

“In our research, we were able to isolate and identify 16 new compounds from the Waltheria indica root, and then evaluate the anti-inflammatory potential of each compound,” Chang explained. “Several showed measurable activity and a few demonstrated significant levels of anti-inflammatory activity.

“Our research results support the traditional use of this plant in the treatment of inflammatory-related disorders,” she noted, adding that the next stage of their research involves determining if the most active compounds can be modified to make them even more effective.

Wongwiwatthananukit said the team hopes this work can help translate research from the laboratory to clinical practice and improve the health of people of Hawaiʻi, the Pacific and the world.

Added Chang, “We are very grateful to have worked with Kumu Silva, who shared with us his knowledge of Hawaiian culture and practices as they pertained to indigenous medicinal plants and their uses. He called his work Lōkahi and was actively making preliminary strides to cultivate medicinal plants and design the ʻLōkahi Farmacy.’”

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