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Background: Medicinally, refined camphor commonly known as “kafura pelebe” in south western Nigeria is used in various parts of the world for managing various ailments. It is used as circulatory stimulant, analeptic and for managing gastrointestinal disturbances. A survey of colorectal carcinoma patients in a Nigerian teaching hospital revealed that half of the patients had a history of ingesting refined camphor. The study was carried out to determine the cytotoxic and genotoxic potential of the commonly used preparation, aqueous extract of refined camphor (AERC).
Methods: This was done using brine shrimp lethality test (at 5, 50, 500 ?g/ml of AERC) and Allium cepa chromosomal aberration assays (at 2, 100, 200, 1000 and 2000 ?g/ml of AERC) as well as micronucleus and comet assays (at 1.77, 8.83 and 44.13 mg/kg of AERC) in mice.
Results: An LC50 of 1017.65 ?g/ml was estimated for the brine shrimp lethality assay using probit analysis. Significant (p<0.0001) reduction of A. cepa root length and root tip cells’ mitotic index as well as various forms of chromosomal aberrations including vagrant, bridged, and laggard types were observed at 200 - 2000 µg/ml of AERC. In the same vein, micronuclei polychromatic erythrocytes increased in the micronucleus assay.
Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that the aqueous extract of refined camphor is cytotoxic and genotoxic; its risk to benefit ratio needs to be properly evaluated before its use is encouraged going forward.
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