Thuja occidentalis is evergreen and slow-growing tree found abundantly in North America and Asia. It is a well-known medicinal plant used in Ayurveda for treatment of acute and chronic respiratory problems. Because of its immense fragrance, it is used as flavoring agent in food industries, cosmetics and soap manufacturing industries. Studies have revealed that the plant has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-insecticidal and anti-oxidant activity.
It is known as “Tree of Life” because of the alleged restorative properties of different parts of plant and presence of bioactive compounds which show different pharmacological activities. The secondary metabolites present in leaves are tannins, rhodoxanthin, entoflavone, hinokiflavone, quercetion, flavonoids, polysaccharides and ethereal oil.
Diterpenes, monoterpenes α-thujone, β-thujone, fenchone, and sesquiterpene are the primary factors that give the plant its numerous pharmacological and remedial impacts, including cell reinforcement, antitumor, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antiulcer, antipsychotic, emmenagogic, diuretic, expectorant, emollient, and hepatoprotective impacts.
The leaves have anti-bacterial effects which can be a potential source for production of antibacterial drugs. Researchers have revealed that the extract of seed coat and leaves contain essential oils like thuone, sio-thuone, fenchone, sabines and α-pinene showing anti-bacterial activity against Streptococcus pneumonia, Bacillus subtilis, Corynebacterium diphthirae, Salmonella typhi, Escherichia coli and anti-fungal activity agaisnt Asperillus niger, A. fumigatus, and Rhyziopus oryzae.
The bio chemical composition of the essential oil also shows inhibitory activity against corona virus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) replication invitro by visually scoring of the virus-induced cytophythogenic effect post-infection.
New Delhi-based Hahnemann Pharmaceuticals has developed Thuja ointment which is valuable for the removal of warts, skin growths and corns. Thuja is clinically known to increase the production of interleukin that is essential for antiviral activity in wart removal.
On the other hand, another Delhi-based firm Bo International offers a complete range of essential oils made from Thuja that can used for respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis, cold sores, bacterial skin infections and more. It is also effective in treating osteoarthritis and nerve disorders. It is also used for loosening phlegm due to its expectorant qualities. It assists in boosting immunity levels and has diuretic properties which increase urinal flow. Rxhomeo in Hyderabad and SVA Organics in New Delhi are some of the other companies dealing with Thuja related products for their medicinal benefits.
Thujone-rich fraction has also shown major anti-cancer potential evidence from in vitro studies. Some studies showed that Thuja successfully induced apoptosis in functional p53 expressing memory epithelial carcinoma cells. The probable anti-cancer potential has been found in the malignant melanoma cell line, A375 revealing that a polysaccharide or long-chain sugar molecule, derived from Thuja leaves extract, decreases the soreness caused by cancer. It also decreased the rate of spreading cancer throughout the body.
Thuja is most commonly present in Esberitox N which is a herbal product prescribed widely by doctors in Germany for over 50 years for the treatment and prevention of cold. It works by enhancing one’s immune system. Esberitox N has been shown to be most effective when taken at the first sign of cold.
The facts present in different studies support the health benefits of the Thuja plant extensively. Thus, a detailed research work on the plant can be beneficial to humans and animals in numerous ways.
Naveen Kumar, Young Professional –II, Central Institute For Cotton Research, Sirsa