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Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2011 Nov;66(4):328-34. doi: 10.1007/s11130-011-0256-y.

Anti-proliferative effect of Melissa officinalis on human colon cancer cell line.

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Department of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Technology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Navarra, C/Irunlarrea s/n, Pamplona, Spain.


Melissa officinalis L. (Lamiaceae) is consumed as a traditional herbal tea in the Mediterranean region. The cytotoxic effect of the 50% ethanolic and aqueous extract, determined by the MTT and NR assays, was evaluated in vitro on Human Colon Cancer Cell Line (HCT-116), using Triton 10% as positive control. The 50% ethanolic extract showed significant differences after 72 h of treatment, reducing cell proliferation to values close to 40%, even the lowest dose tested (5 μg/ml). In the MTT assay, the same extract caused the lowest cell viability with 13% at a concentration of 1,000 μg/ml after 72 h of treatment, being a value lower than Triton 10%. The antioxidant activity was also confirmed evaluating the capacity of the extracts to scavenge ABTS and DPPH radicals, and IC(50) values were highly correlated with the total phenolic and flavonoid content. Bioassay guided fractionation led to the isolation of an anti-proliferative compound, rosmarinic acid. Its structural elucidation was performed by HPLC/DAD/ESI/MS analysis. High dose of rosmarinic acid (1,000 μg/ml) was clearly cytotoxic against HCT-116 cells, with a significant decrease in cell number since the earliest time point (24 h).

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