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Scientists from MU-Varna Investigate the Healing Properties of Bulgarian Medicinal Herbs

According to the World Health Organization, today 80% of the world population relies on traditional herbal medicine treatment (Gurib-Fakim, 2006). About 40% of all pharmaceuticals and forms are Phytopreparations and the medicinal herbal plants, necessary for their preparation are more than 20 000 species. A quarter of the pharmaceuticals prescribed in the USA, Canada and Europe contain active ingredients derived from plants, according to a report (2003) of BCC (American Agency for Market Research). A research in Great Britain indicates that 60% of the population uses herbal preparations. But despite their widespread use, only 5 to 15% of the world's known 250 000 higher plants have been studied for the presence of bioactive compounds.

Assoc. Prof. Diana Ivanova from Medical University - Varna has launched an investigation precisely on medicinal herbs and particularly – on our Bulgarian herbs. Last week she presented her dissertation thesis, entitled "Antioxidant activity of Bulgarian medicinal plants and biological effects related to it". For the first time in Bulgaria, her scientific investigation, containing approximately 400 pages, has proposed an Algorithm for studying medicinal plants by combining two approaches and the use of modern molecular biological methods: (1) In vitro-for determination of the antioxidant activity and phytochemical composition; 2) In vivo-investigation on experimental animals and humans, and on cell cultures.

Within the study the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and hypolipidemic and anti-diabetic effects of some of the investigated plants have been proved, and out of all the 60 investigated plants the ones having the best properties have been selected: Agrimonia eupatoria L. - flagellum, Sambucus ebulus L. - elder and Cotinus coggygria Scop. - Sumach. In her scientific research Assoc. Prof. Ivanova has proved that these Bulgarian medicinal herbs exceed, for instance, some of the most recommended teas recently, such as hanibush, mate, rooibos, green and black tea, in their total polyphenol content and the corresponding antioxidant activity. The potential of A. eupatoria and C.coggygria to affect the mechanisms, related to the expression of insulin resistance in two ways: a direct effect on gene expression and indirectly by inhibition of the factors supporting the low-grade inflammation, has been established.

It has been found that A. eupatoria and S. ebulus improve the lipid profile in humans and C. coggygria - in animals, evidence of the potential of the herbs in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

The acquired scientific findings reveal the potential of Bulgarian medicinal herbs as a health resource in confirmation of the data from the traditional herbal medicine, and prove that they can be used for prevention and reduction in the general morbidity rate of the population.

The scientific work of Assoc. Prof. Diana Ivanova is available for reading at the Library of Medical University in Varna.


Biographical card:

Assoc. Prof. Diana Georgieva Ivanova graduated from the First Language School (English language) in Varna with a medal of honour. In 1979 she became a student at the Faculty of Biology, at Sofia University St. Kl. Ohridski and graduated the specialty Molecular and Functional Biology, with a specialization Biochemistry. In 1985 she became a PhD student in Cell Biology at M. V. Lomonosov Moscow State University and in 1990 she defended her doctoral thesis successfully.
She worked as a research assistant at the Laboratory of Physiology and Ecology at Sofia University St. Kl. Ohridski, and since 1995 she has been an Assistant Professor at MU – Varna, at the Department of Biochemistry. She has specialized in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the Genetic Centre Uppsala (Sweden) and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (the USA).
She has acquired the specialty Biochemistry at the Ministry of Health.
In June 2013 she graduated her Master’s Degree in Health Management with a diploma thesis "Management of Scientific Research in MU - Varna - problems and approaches to
their solution”.

She has been an Associate Professor in Biochemistry and the Head of the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Medicine and Nutrigenomics since 2007, and the Dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy since March, 2013. She is the Project Manager of NutriTech project, investigating the health–nutrition relation. She has over 160 scientific papers and she is а supervisor of 5 PhD students and 3 postgraduates in Biochemistry.