Plant Power


– By Hafsa Zafar, Atta-ur-Rahman School of Applied Biosciences

– Pictures by Hafsa Zafar

The aim of my study (to whom it may concern :p) was to investigate the antibacterial potential of Artemisia scoparia Waldst. & Kit., an ethnobotanically identified herb in Islamabad. Confused? Don’t worry, it simplifies ahead…

Artemisia scoparia Waldst. & Kit. is a herb that is called redstem wormwood in common language. It is widespread throughout the world and is a traditionally important medicinal plant, which has been in use for as long as past two millennia. In Pakistan, the herb is used to treat burns, for the treatment of jaundice and hepatitis, as a cure for ear-ache, and its fumes are inhaled for chest illnesses.

In my final year project, I focused on the anti-bacterial properties of the plant extracts of redstem wormwood. For this purpose, we, biologists, use a test called the disc diffusion test.

We simply get small, circular plates called petri dishes, solidify our nutritional preparations in them (much similar to the way you make wiggly jellies in your home :p) and grow actual bacteria. After we “plate” bacteria on the “agar”, we use small filter paper discs and drench them with any compound that might inhibit microbes. In my case, I went for plant extracts of redstem wormwood to see its effects. On the gel, the plant extracts, being in solution form, diffused out of the discs and on the gel.

At first, there is really no difference and you cannot see any bacteria growing or dying. It’s only after the plates have spent a particular time at a temperature that favors the growth of bacteria, that you will be able to see visible spots that we call “colonies”. But in the regions where our anti-microbial compounds have diffused, the growth of bacteria will not occur and a “zone of inhibition” is bound to form. Well, the demonstration is pretty clear and I got my zones of inhibition. See the difference?

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Showing this one aspect proved that there is something to the use of this plant in traditional medicine. I feel that there is a need to search out other potential therapeutic activities of this plant, and chemical characterization of its active components, so that a potential anti-microbial drug may be produced – and since it comes from plants, so it’s natural :).


5 thoughts on “Plant Power

  1. fayeza

    That is interesting to see Hafsa, thanks for sharing!

    I’m not a botanist or microbiologist, so bear with my ignorance: would not most (if not all) plant extracts have antimicrobial activity?
    I assume it may be a question of how good this activity is, and not that whether it is present or not.
    I am wondering if you did any ‘control’ plates as well, where you used extracts from some randomly chosen plants to compare how well this particular plant performed in inhibiting growth…

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