Research into ancient cultures has yielded a large body of evidence on the use of medicinal plants for preventive and/or therapeutic purposes. Such plants may have many metabolic activities and functions in the body-antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, platelet aggregation inhibitory and immunological and they can act at different molecular levels. This work offers a comprehensive review of research into the phenolic profile and antioxidant capacity of a plant used since the pre-Columbian era, native to southeast Mexico, commonly known as "chaya". The most prevalent phytochemicals in this plant are its phenolic compounds, and their antioxidant capacity is responsible for many of its health benefits, specifically in controlling chronic diseases. In the chaya leaf, there is a general trend toward the presence of different phenolic groups, such as coumarin, flavonoids, phenols, tannins, anthraquinones and flobotanins in aqueous and alcoholic extracts. Aside from environmental factors, there are differences in the ways samples are treated before the extraction process, such as the treatment type and the drying conditions. There are also differences in the solvents used and in the methods of extraction and concentration of compounds. Finally, a diversity of techniques is used, and even the data are quantified and expressed differently. Chaya has great potential for production as food and as a medicinal plant, but much more research is needed on the composition of its leaf and the biological effects of its components.
Key words: Chaya, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, Cnidoscolus chayamansa, phenolic compounds, antioxidant capacity.
GAE, Gallic acid equivalents; CAE, chlorogenic acid equivalents; CE, catequin equivalents; TE, tannin equivalents; FM, fresh matter; DM, dry matter.
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