Arabic Name: حوذان اسطنبولي
Ranunculus is a large genus of about 400 species of plants in the Ranunculaceae family. It includes the buttercups, spearworts, water crowfoots and the lesser celandine. They are widely spread, ranging from North and South America, to New Zealand and the Mediterranean. The Latin name Ranunculus means 'little frog', which probably refers to many species being found near water. All the types of Ranunculus plants are toxic when consumed raw. The symptoms are salivating excessively, bloody diarrhea and colic. The majority of Ranunculus species are herbaceous perennials that produce vibrant white or yellow flowers used in many cultures for ornamental purposes.
Ranunculus constantinopolitanus (Arabic common name: Hawdhan Istanbuli), a species of the genus Ranunculus, is a wild plant commonly used in Lebanese folk-medicine and has been reported to possess anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiviral, antibacterial and antiparasitic and antifungal activities. It grows in Yanta, a village in the Anti-Lebanon, and can be found in the area that extends from Hasbayya to Jezzine. It is 30 to 70cm tall. Its leaves are deeply lobed, medium green and grow up to 10cm in length. Flowers are brilliant yellow, shiny, bowl-shaped and up to 7cm wide. Sepals are light yellow and reflexed. Its flowering season falls between April and June.
In 2002, the first student member of the AUB Nature Conservation Center (NCC), Wassim El-Juni, came back with 29 indigenous plants of Lebanon identified thanks to a survey in local herbal medicine shops and of folk-medicine practitioners. Dr. Rabih Talhouk, member of the Graduate Council of AUB and faculty in the Department of Biology specialized in inflammation diseases, worked with Nassim to publish the first report of their research in 2007. Their research aimed to test the claimed bioactivities of each of the 29 species. They kept eight species in NCC laboratories that they considered the most promising for medicinal purposes.
Among these eight species, three plants retained Dr. Talhouk's attention for their anti-inflammatory potential: Ranunculus constantinopolitanus, Centaurea ainetensis and Cota palestina. The anti-inflammatory powers of Ranunculus constantinopolitanus have only been proved in-vitro until now, and were attributed to a fatty-acid mix found in the plant. Interestingly enough, this mix was even more potent than fish oil, which is commercially used as an anti-inflammatory agent. Furthermore its effectiveness was not due to any of its individual constituents but due to the combination itself. Unfortunately, this research was temporary put on hold three years ago, because the researchers have had difficulty extracting large quantity of the bioactive components of Ranunculus constantinopolitanus.
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