MEDICINAL PLANTS USEFUL IN FISH DISEASES
Govind Pandey1*, Madhuri Sharma2 and A. K. Mandloi3
1Officer-In-Charge, Rinder Pest (Animal Husbandry Deptt., Govt. of MP), Jabalpur Division, Jabalpur (M.P.), India.
2Department of Zoology and Biotechnology, Govt. Model Science College, Jabalpur (M.P.), India.
3Department of Fisheries, College of Veterinary Science & A.H., Jabalpur (M.P.), India.
In fish, the parasitic outbreak acts as an important limiting factor for aquaculture. The heavy infection of Trichodina parasites
has caused gigantic financial losses. Diseases caused by Aeromonas hydrophila bacterium are some of the most widespread
in freshwater fish culture. Nowadays, a large portion of the world population, especially in developing countries depends on
the traditional system of medicine for a variety of diseases. The medicinal plants (herbal drugs) can be used not only against
diseases but even more so, as growth promoters, stress resistance boosters and preventatives of infections. Additionally,
phytomedicines provide a cheaper source for treatment and greater accuracy than chemotherapeutic agents without causing
toxicity. The phytochemicals, e.g., tannins, alkaloids and flavonoids present in medicinal plants may have antimicrobial
activity. The herbs can also act as immunostimulants, conferring the non-specific defense mechanisms of fish and elevating
the specific immune response. In the present article, some herbs acting against fish diseases, especially parasites, bacteria
and immuno-suppression have been discussed.
Key words : Fish pathogens, herbs, medicinal plants (herbal drugs), treatment of fish diseases.
Plant Archives Vol. 12 No. 1, 2012 pp. 1-4 ISSN 0972-5210
Although herbal remedies have been with us for
human therapy for millennia, there has been relatively
little research on the medicinal plants to be used against
fish diseases. Herbal drugs can be used not only as
remedies but even more so, as growth promoters, stress
resistance boosters and preventatives of infections.
Hence, herbal drugs in disease management are gaining
success, because they are cost effective, eco-friendly
and have minimal side effects. A large portion of the
world population, especially in developing countries
depends on the traditional system of medicine for a variety
of diseases. Several hundred genera are used medicinally
and plants are vital sources for potent and powerful drugs.
Plants are rich in a wide variety of secondary metabolites
of phytochemical constituents such as tannins, alkaloids
and flavonoids, which act against different diseases
(Pandey and Madhuri, 2010; Ravikumar et al., 2010).
Unfortunately, the parasitic outbreak acts as an
important limiting factor for aquaculture businesses.
Pinkate et al. (2003) reported that every tilapia fish
(Oreochromis niloticus) raised by farmers in Chiang
Mai, Thailand has a Trichodina parasite infection.
Chitmanat et al. (2005) pointed out that the heavy
infection of Trichodina sp. in small fish has caused
gigantic financial losses. Infected fish are lethargic,
generate excessive mucus and become off-feed
eventually, resulting into considerable deaths. There is
now a fast growing interest in screening antiparasitic
substances from plants to replace chemical and antibiotic
Diseases caused by A. hydrophila bacterium are
some of the most widespread in freshwater fish culture.
Septicaemia caused by motile aeromonads is a ubiquitous
problem that affects fishes found in warm, cool and cold
fresh water around the world. A. hydrophila has been
associated with diseases in fishes like carp, eels, milkfish,
channel catfish, tilapia and ayu. This microorganism can
also be an opportunist in stress-related diseases in
salmonids. Antibiotics are frequently used to control
disease caused by this bacterium, but there is an
increasing risk of developing antibiotic resistant (Yin et
al., 2008). A. hydrophila is also responsible for skin
infections, septicemia and gastroenteritis in human,
besides the fish (Castro et al., 2008). The continuous
use of antimicrobial agents in aquaculture has resulted in
more resistant bacterial strains. Since ancient times,
medicinal plants have been used for the treatment of
*Author for correspondence : email@example.com
common infectious diseases and treatments with plants
having antibacterial activity are a potentially beneficial
alternative in aquaculture. Additionally, phytomedicines
provide a cheaper source for treatment and greater
accuracy than chemotherapeutic agents in fish (Abdul
Kader Mydeen and Haniffa, 2011; Turker et al., 2009).
A. hydrophila, the most common bacterial pathogen in
freshwater fish, has been recognized to be the aetiological
agent of several distinct pathological conditions, including
tail rot, motile Aeromonas septicemia (MAS) and
epizootic ulcerative syndrome (EUS) as a primary
pathogen. EUS is a globally distributed disease and has
become an epidemic affecting a wide variety of wild and
cultured fish species in South-east Asia, including India.
Ability of herbs to inhibit activity of bacteria having
potential interest as fish pathogens has been documented.
Heavy antibiotics in aquaculture should be reduced and
replaced with alternative processes in fish diseases to
avoid the emergence of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic
and environmental bacteria (Abdul Kader Mydeen and
Haniffa, 2011). The phytochemicals, e.g., tannins, alkaloids
and flavonoids present in the medicinal plants have been
found in vitro to have antimicrobial properties. Many of
the spices and herbs have been valued for their
antimicrobial effects and medicinal powers in addition to
their flavour and fragrance qualities. Recently, research
has been initiated to evaluate the feasibility of using herbal
medicines in fish disease management. Moreover, the
bacterial infections are considered the major cause of
mortality in aquaculture and in the recent years, medicinal
plants and their products play significant role in fish culture
(Ravikumar et al., 2010).
Herbs can act as immunostimulants, conferring early
activation to the non-specific defense mechanisms of fish
and elevating the specific immune response. Chinese herbs
have been used an medicine to treat different fish diseases
in China for many years. Herbs have also been used in
other countries for control of shrimp and fish diseases,
and successful results have been reported in Mexico,
India, Thailand and Japan (Yin et al., 2008). Traditional
herbal medicines seem to be the potential
immunostimulator. Thus, the use of medicinal plants is an
alternative to antibiotics in fish health management. The
herbs are not only safe for consumers, but they also have
a significant role in aquaculture. Many studies have proved
that herbal additives enhanced the growth of fishes and
protected from diseases. The non-specific immune system
of fish is considered to be the first line of defense against
invading pathogens (Ahilan et al., 2010). Many plant-
compounds have been found to have non-specific immuno-
stimulating effects in humans and animals (Pandey and
2Govind Pandey et al.
Madhuri, 2010; Kolkovski and Kolkovski, 2011) of which
more than a dozen have been evaluated in fish and
shrimp. Several plant products seemed to be potent
antiviral agents against fish and shrimp viruses (Kolkovski
and Kolkovski, 2011).
Therefore, the herbal plants may be used as potential
and promising source of pharmaceutical agents against
fish pathogens in organic aquaculture (Abdul Kader
Mydeen and Haniffa, 2011; Ravikumar et al., 2010). In
view of the above context, the usefulness of some
medicinal plants (herbal drugs) against fish diseases has
been elucidated in the present article.
Some on medicinal plants acting against fish
To preserve and protect the environment as well as
human health as a best alternative, different parts of
Azadirachta indica (Neem) tree have been studied by
Chitmanat et al. (2005). Neem leaves containing nimbin,
azadirachtin and meliantroil have been reported to possess
a variety of properties, including insecticidal and antiviral
from ancient times. Indian almond (Terminalia catappa)
and garlic (Allium sativum) have been said as an
alternative to chemicals to treat fish ectoparasites,
Trichodina sp. infections in tilapia (O. niloticus)
fingerlings. Both Indian almond and garlic had low acute
toxicity to tilapia fingerlings, treating the trichodiniasis
caused by Trichodina. The authors further cited that the
Indian almond, commonly used as herb in Taiwan,
prevents the fish diseases. It is claimed to be a wound
healing substance for Siamese fighting fish hurt after
matches in Thailand as well. The immunostimulant effects
of the dietary intake of 3 plants (viz., Viscum album,
Urtica dioica and Zingiber officinale)-extracts on
rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) have also been
narrated by the authors. Christybapita et al. (2007)
observed the immunostimulatory effect of aqueous extract
(AqE) of Eclipta alba (Bhangra) leaf (oral administration
as feed supplement) in tilapia fish, Oreochromis
mossambicus. It was noted that the E. alba extract
enhances non-specific immune responses and disease
resistance of O. mossambicus against A. hydrophila
infection. According to Winkaler et al. (2007), A. indica
extract can be used successfully in aquaculture to control
Castro et al. (2008) screened the methanolic extracts
of 46 Brazilian plants and found only 31 to have the
antibacterial activities against fish pathogenic bacteria,
viz., Streptococcus agalactiae, Flavobacterium
columnare and A. hydrophila. Yin et al. (2008) added
the extracts of 2 Chinese herbs (viz., Lonicera japonica
and Ganoderma lucidum) in diets of tilapia fish (O.
niloticus) and found that these herbs act as
immunostimulants and appear to improve the immune
status and disease resistance. Both herbs when used alone
or in combination increased the survival of fish after
challenge with A. hydrophila. On the basis of several
studies, Yin et al. (2008) reported that oral administration
of ginger (Z. officinale) extract increases the phagocytic
capability of cells in rainbow trout (fish), while the extracts
of 4 Chinese herbs (Rheum officinale, Andrographis
paniculata, Isatis indigotica and Lonicera japonica)
increased the phagocytosis of white blood cells of carp.
Turker et al. (2009) reported that the alcoholic and
aqueous extracts of Nuphar lutea, Nymphaea alba,
Stachys annua, Genista lydia, Vinca minor, Fragaria
vesca, Filipendula ulmaria and Helichrysum plicatum
herbs of Bold (Turkey) have antibacterial activity against
A. hydrophila, Yersinia ruckeri, Lactococcus
garvieae, Str. agalactae and Enterococcus faecalis
bacteria isolated from fish. This observation provides the
aquaculturists with a promising management tool for
control or treatment of fish diseases. Nya and Austin
(2009) observed the control of A. hydrophila infection
after feeding with A. sativum (0.5 and 1 g/100 g of feed
for 14 days) to rainbow trout (fish), O. mykiss (Walbaum).
Ahilan et al. (2010) observed that the addition of
Phyllanthus niruri and Aloe vera (Aloe) as herbal
additives can positively enhance the growth performance
of goldfish, Carassius auratus as well as its resistance
to A. hydrophila infections. The authors further reported
that the herbal additives in diets often provide cooperative
action to various physiological functions. The synergistic
effect of herbs has been reported in other fishes, including
Japanese flounder and Clarias gariepinus. The growth
increase in Labeo rohita fish fed with herbal
supplemented diet was due to improved food utilization
and high protein synthesis. The benefit of herbal growth
promoters as an additive in the carp feed has also been
found. Furthermore, the medicinal plants, viz., ginger, nettle
and mistletoe as an adjuvant therapy in rainbow trout
through feed enhanced phagocytosis and cellular and
humoral defense mechanisms against pathogens. The
traditional Chinese medicines in yellow croaker elevated
the non specific defense mechanism and increased the
disease resistance of fish against bacterial pathogens.
The disease resistant of Catla catla fish was produced
through immersion treatment of 3 herbs, viz., A. sativum,
A. indica and Curcuma longa (Haldi rhizome, turmeric)
in spawn. A. vera has been found to a disease suppressing
agent and showed antibacterial effect in juvenile rock
fish. Harikrishnan et al. (2010) reported that mixed herbal
Medicinal Plants Useful in Fish Diseases 3
extracts supplementation diets restored the altered
haematological parameters and triggered the innate
immune system of goldfish (C. auratus) against A.
Ravikumar et al. (2010) observed that the chloroform
extract of Datura metal plant has wide range of
antimicrobial activity against many fish pathogens. D.
metel which collected from the Kanyakumari coast can
be used as a putative antimicrobial drug in the aquaculture
maintenance. The chloroform extract of D. metel can be
effectively used as a potential antimicrobial agent to
overcome the problem of mass mortality of ornamental
fish in aquarium so as to enable to enhance the market
revenue throughout the world. These authors also told
the antimicrobial activity of 5 Chinese herb extracts
against 13 bacterial and 2 viral fish pathogens. Sharma
et al. (2010) observed the stimulatory effect of dietary
doses of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) root on
immunity and disease resistance against A. hydrophila
infection in Indian major carp, L. rohita fingerlings. Abdul
Kader Mydeen and Haniffa (2011) cited that A. indica
leaf AqE could effectively control the A. hydrophila
infection in common carp (a fresh-water fish usually bred
in ponds), Cyprinus carpio. Further, Enterobacter sp.
and Escherichia coli bacteria, isolated from marine fish
(Amphiprion sebae) showed 15 mm zone of inhibition
against neem extract. The antimicrobial activity of AqE
of 3 medicinal plants, viz., A indica (leaf), Solanum
torvum (Sundakai fruit coat) and C. longa (rhizome)
against the in vitro growth of A. hydrophila, isolated
from infected fresh-water fish, Channa striatus was
noticed by Abdul Kader Mydeen and Haniffa (2011).
Kolkovski and Kolkovski (2011) reported that some herbal
extracts are very effective against gills and skin flukes
like Benedenia seriolae. Nargis et al. (2011) seen the
immunostimulant effects of the dietary intake of A.
sativum and Vitex negundo extracts on fingerlings of L.
rohita fish. Ravikumar et al. (2011) studied that among
15 coastal medicinal plants/ parts of plants, A. indica,
Cinnamomum verum and Eupatorium odoratum
exhibited excellent antibacterial activity against 10
bacterial pathogens from diseased ornamental fishes.
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