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J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Jun 14;141(3):860-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.03.020. Epub 2012 Mar 23.

Ethnobotanical survey and antibacterial activity of plants used in the Altiplane region of Mexico for the treatment of oral cavity infections.

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Departamento de Farmacia, Facultad de Química, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, 04510 México, DF, Mexico.



The ethnobotanical survey conducted in this study showed 47 plant species used in the Altiplane region of Mexico for the treatment of dental diseases such as toothache, dental caries, periodontal disease and gingivitis.


Information was collected by performing interviews. The following data were recorded: name of the patients or herbalists with their age, sex; date and place of gathering information; pathology of persons interviewed; name of the drug (vernacular name); parts used (leaves, bark, fruits, seeds, aerial parts), mode of preparation and administration, and possible combinations. The inhibitory effects of the aqueous and ethanolic extracts of the medicinal plants detected during the survey the on the growth of Streptococcus mutans and Phrophyromonas gingivalis were determined using microdilution method. The minimum bactericidal concentrations (MBC) were determined from the wells of microplate with no visible bacterial growth.


In total, tree places of the Altiplane region of Mexico were visited and five healers and 100 patients were questioned. 47 wild and cultivated species were recorded. The most frequent uses were to treat tooth pain, gum diseases, bad breath and cavities. Infusions were the most frequently prepared formulation. Other applied preparations mentioned with decreasing frequency were decocts, syrups, tinctures, direct application of the plant material without prior preparation and finally macerations. The ethanolic extracts of Haematoxylon brasiletto, Punica granatum, Iostephane heterophyla, Bursera simaruba, Cedrela odorata and Rhus standleyi (12.5-65.0 μg/mL) as well as water extracts of Haematoxylon brasiletto, Punica granatum, Iostephane heterophyla, Amphipterygium adstringens, Argemone mexicana, Cedrela odorata, Eysenhardtia polystachya, Persea americana, Syzygium aromaticum, Cinnamomun zeylanicum, Cnidoscolus multilobus and Rhus standleyi (10.5-78.0 μg/mL) showed the highest inhibitory effect against Streptococcus mutans and Porphyromonas gingivalis.


Many plants are used in the Mexican traditional medicine to treat oral bacterial diseases by the healers or patients. Our study demonstrated that most of the medicinal plants showed an antibacterial effect in vitro, and justified at least in part their use in traditional medicine. These results encourage further investigations to extract and identify the active chemical compounds responsible for the antibacterial effect observed.

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