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Nutrients. 2013 Jan 11;5(1):149-61. doi: 10.3390/nu5010149.

Evaluation of antioxidant potential of “maltese mushroom” (Cynomorium coccineum) by means of multiple chemical and biological assays.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari, Monserrato 09042, Italy.


Cynomorium coccineum is an edible, non-photosynthetic plant widespread along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. The medicinal properties of Maltese mushroom - one of the oldest vernacular names used to identify this species - have been kept in high regard since ancient times to the present day. We evaluated the antioxidant potential of fresh specimens of C. coccineum picked in Sardinia, Italy. Both aqueous and methanolic extracts were tested by using multiple assay systems (DPPH, FRAP, TEAC, ORAC-PYR). Total phenolics and flavonoids were also determined. Gallic acid and cyanidin 3-O-glucoside were identified as the main constituents and measured. Both extracts showed antioxidant capacities; ORAC-PYR assay gave the highest antioxidant value in both cases. The methanolic extract was further investigated with in vitro biological models of lipid oxidation; it showed a significant activity in preventing cholesterol degradation and exerted protection against Cu2+-mediated degradation of the liposomal unsaturated fatty acids. Results of the present study demonstrate that the extracts of C. coccineum show a significant total antioxidant power and also exert an in vitro protective effect in different bio-assays of oxidative stress. Therefore, Maltese mushroom can be considered a valuable source of antioxidants and phytochemicals useful in the preparation of nutraceuticals and functional foods.

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