Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells (and consequently their oxygen-carrying capacity) is insufficient to meet the body’s physiologic needs 1–3. The cut off points for diagnosis of anemia have remained largely unchanged since 1968 with the exception that the original age group of children 5–14 years of age was split, and a cut-off of 0.5 g/dL lower was applied to children 5–11 years of age to reflect findings among non-iron deficient children in the USA4. The cut offs range from children 6–59 months (10-10.9 g/dL), children 5–11 years (11-11.4 g/dL), children 12–14 years (11-11.9 g/dL), non-pregnant women 15 years and above (11-11.9 g/dL), pregnant women (10-10.9 g/dL) and men 15 years and above (11-12.9 g/dL)1, 5 It is a common blood disorder that affects people of all ethnicity and ages; although the elderly, young women of child bearing age and infants at greater risk 6.The causes of anemia are patho-physiologically diverse and multifactorial. Thus, there are more than 400 types, some are mild while others are severe or even life threatening if not treated 7. In rodents, symptoms include; rapid or labored respiration, anorexia, immobility, abnormal appearance or posture periocular and nasal porphyrin discharge 8. Treatment varies depending on the type of Anemia. Anemia associated with a serious disease is treated by treating the underlying disorder. Additional medications that boost RBCs may be prescribed when symptoms persist or worsen. These include; iron tablets, supplements, fortifications, erythropoietin injections, blood transfusions, removal of the spleen, plant products such as groundnuts, tomatoes and spinach, animal products such as liver and red meat 5, 9, 10 etc. Interventions to prevent or treat anemia are insufficient in Zambia because of; inadequate qualified human resource, high disease burden, inadequate emergency facilities, the diet of majority Zambians is mainly composed of cereals (maize) and starchy roots with little micronutrient-dense foods such as animal products and fruits 11, 12. Further, the prevalence of anemia is 46 % which is a severe public health problem based on the World Health Organization (WHO) standards. This implies that there is a great loss of man hours of healthy adults who find themselves off work to nurse anemic patients. It is also among the top 10 causes of morbidity and mortality 3, 13–16. In Africa and most Asian countries, anemia is treated using herbs such as; - Khaya senegalensis, Justicia secunda, and Amaranthus spinosus 17.
The study investigated the effect of Phyllanthus muellerianus (Kuntze) Excell aqueous root extract on hematological indices of albino rats. P. muellerianus is one of the plants used to treat anemia by local people of the Northern part of Zambia. However, its efficacy had not been scientifically established. Local names for P. muellerianus in Zambia include: Chewa-Mkuzandola, Tumbuka-Kapikanduzi 18, Icibemba-Umupetwalupe, Kaonde-Mulembalemba, Mambwe-Mupetwandupe. It belongs to the family Phyllanthaceae consisting of approximately 1000 species which are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, Asia, America and Australia. It is an evergreen scandent shrub with numerous stems from the base or a small tree up to 12 meters tall. The branches are arched and pendulous almost to the ground. It naturally occurs in riverine forest and wooded grasslands on deep and well-drained soils. It is widely distributed and easy to access in Zambia. Additionally P. muellerianus grows easily from seed and hence has potential to contribute sustainably towards medical solutions coming from local flora 19.
P. muellerianus has many medicinal uses such as the treatment of wounds, menstrual disorders, fevers, inflammation, intestinal problems, kidney and urinary bladder problems, diabetes and hepatitis B, body pain and as an antiseptic 20.
Agyare et al 21 studied P. muellerianus leaf extracts for the stimulatory effect of ellagitannins on cellular activity, differentiation and collagen synthesis of human skin keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts. Earlier studies on the leaf extract by Boakye et al 22 have shown that P. muellerianus has anti-inflammatory activity. The review by Calixto and friends 23 showed that the phyllanthus species have a number of metabolites with pharmacological potential isolated and characterised from all the parts of the plant, leaves, roots, stem and bark. Other studies investigated the antimicrobial properties of the stem and bark parts of 24, 25. This study investigates the ethnobotany and ethnopharmacological effect of P. muellerianus roots on hematological indices of albino rats.