Chinese herbs employed in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have been used for centuries in the practice of medicated diet and dietetic therapy. The seed of Cuscuta chinensis Lam. (Convolvulaceae), a commonly used traditional Chinese herb, is frequently added in Chinese cooking and preparation of refreshments, including porridge and alcoholic beverages, to nourish the human body. In the present study, we compared the antioxidant activities of water and ethanol extracts from the seeds C. chinensis and also of its different organic fractions, including n-hexane, ethyl acetate, n-butanol and organic water, by assessing their DPPH (1,1-diphenyl-2-picryl hydrazine) free radical-scavenging, superoxide anion scavenging, anti-superoxide anion formation and anti-lipid peroxidation abilities. The flavonol contents of all test samples were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography with an ultraviolet (HPLC-UV) detector. The results showed that there is a direct correlation of the flavonol content with the antioxidant activities from the extracts and fractions of C. chinensis. Moreover, the ethyl acetate fraction demonstrated significantly better and higher antioxidant effects, and also had a higher flavonol content than had the remaining samples (P < 0.05). The water fractions, however, exhibited the weakest antioxidant activity, and had low concentrations of flavonols. Thus, we suggest that the ethanol extract of C. chinensis, but not its water extract, could be used as a dietary nutritional supplement to promote human health and prevent oxidation-related diseases, due to its antioxidant properties.
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