Peppermint (Mentha piperita L.)

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Extraction, Preliminary Characterization and Evaluation of in VitroAntitumor and Antioxidant Activities of Polysaccharides from Mentha piperita


This study describes the extraction, preliminary characterization and evaluation of the in vitro antitumor and antioxidant activities of polysaccharides extracted from Mentha piperita (MPP). The optimal parameters for the extraction of MPP were obtained by Box-Behnken experimental design and response surface methodology (RSM) at the ratio of water to raw material of 20, extraction time of 1.5 h and extraction temperature at 80 °C. Chemical composition analysis showed that MPP was mainly composed of glucuronic acid, galacturonic acid, glucose, galactose and arabinose, and the molecular weight of its two major fractions were estimated to be about 2.843 and 1.139 kDa, respectively. In vitro bioactivity experiments showed that MPP not only inhibited the growth of A549 cells but possessed potent inhibitory action against DNA topoisomerase I (topo I), and an appreciative antioxidant action as well. These results indicate that MPP may be useful for developing safe natural health products.

Keywords: Mentha piperita, response surface methodology, polysaccharide, antitumor, antioxidant


Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and a diverse group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled proliferation of anaplastic cells, leading to invasion of surrounding tissues and metastasis to other organs [1]. It is one of the most lethal diseases severely threatening to human life. Chemotherapy is one of the most frequently used therapeutic modalities for the treatment of cancer, but the therapeutic outcome is usually unsatisfactory due to serious and intolerable adverse side effects. Therefore, it is very important to develop novel antitumor substances with little toxicity to the host. In recent decades, numerous polysaccharides isolated from natural materials have been proven to have few adverse effects and possess a wide range of biological functions such as antitumor and antioxidant properties [2,3,4,5]. Natural polysaccharides may prove to be important potential pharmaceuticals for the prevention and treatment of cancer in the future.

Mentha piperita L., belonging to the family Lamiaceae, is a perennial herb native to Europe, sparingly naturalized in the northern USA and Canada, and cultivated in many parts of the world. It used to be known as a hybrid of M. spicata L. (spearmint) and M. aquatic (water mint) [6]. It is best known for its fragrance and flavor compositions. In Eastern and Western traditional medicines, peppermint and its oil have been used in:

  • anti-spasmodics
  • aromatics
  • anti-septics
  • treatments for colds
  • cramps
  • indigestion
  • nausea
  • sore throat
  • toothache
  • cancer

Modern pharmacology research has demonstrated that M. piperita possesses:

  • anti-oxidant
  • anti-tumor
  • anti-allergenic
  • anti-viral
  • anti-bacterial

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In the present study, we used RSM with a BBD to optimize the MPP extraction process and investigated its chemical composition and bioactivities. The optimal experimental yield (8.281% ± 0.387%) was achieved under the following extraction conditions: the ratio of water to raw material at 21.49, the extraction time of 1.44 h and the extraction temperature at 80.69 °C. Under these optimum conditions, the experimental extraction yield agreed closely with the predicted yield of 8.354%. In view of the practicality of operation, the extraction process is better when the ratio of water to material is at 20, extraction time of 1.5 h and extraction temperature at 80 °C, respectively. MPP is mainly composed of glucuronic acid, galacturonic acid, glucose, galactose and arabinose, and the molecular weight of its major fraction was estimated to be about 23.37 kD. MPP showed appreciable antitumor activity in vitro. Its inhibitory activity against topo I might be an effective way to achieve antitumor activity. The results of our antioxidant activity assay show that MPP possesses appreciable antioxidant activity and free radical scavenging activity in vitro. This study may provide a theoretical basis for systematic research, rational development and utilization of peppermint resources.

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