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Brazilian Journal of Poultry Science

Print version ISSN 1516-635XOn-line version ISSN 1806-9061

Rev. Bras. Cienc. Avic. vol.5 no.2 Campinas May/Aug. 2003 

Preliminary studies of alternative feed additives for broilers: Alternanthera brasiliana extract, propolis extract and linseed oil



Biavatti MWI; Bellaver MHI; Volpato LI; Costa CII; Bellaver CII

ICentre for Chemical-Pharmaceutical Research, Pharmacy Course
IIEmbrapa Suínos e Aves, Caixa Postal 21, Concórdia, SC 89700-000, Brazil





The influence of alternative treatments using fluidextracts of Alternanthera brasiliana, propolis resin and linseed oil on the performance and blood biochemistry of broilers was evaluated. The study was done with five treatments: basal diet (negative control); basal diet + 40 ppm avylamicin and 120 ppm monensin (positive control); basal diet + A. brasiliana extract (180 mL/200 kg of feed); basal diet + propolis extract (200 mL/200 kg of feed) and basal diet + linseed oil (2.5% replacing soybean oil). Propolis and A. brasiliana extracts improved broiler performance from 14 to 21 days, whereas linseed oil had no effect. The findings of this experiment revealed that A. brasiliana and propolis extracts can be used as antimicrobials, but further studies are necessary to find the best concentration in broiler diets.

Keywords: Alternanthera brasiliana, animal performance, broilers, linseed oil, propolis.




Antimicrobial resistance have become concern to public health nowadays due to the effectiveness and cost of antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance is supposed to be related to antibiotics in animal feeding in general (Mathew et al., 2001). Thus, the search for alternative substances that are economically feasible to control microorganism growth has an important role in the production of organic foods.

Alternanthera brasiliana and propolis fluidextract are non-conventional alternatives to control infectious processes and were tested in the present study. Alternanthera brasiliana, commonly known in Brazil as "Penicillin", is a neotropical native species, which grows easily on poor and deforested soil. Leaves have been widely used as antimicrobial in traditional medicine, although the antibacterial effects have not been proved yet.

Propolis resin is a multifunctional material used by bees to build and maintain hives. Humans have long been using propolis, which generated substantial database (Park et al., 2002) and reviews (Burdock, 1998; Banskota et al., 2001a) about its biological activity and toxicity. Many different characteristics have been shown, such as antimicrobial (Keskin et al., 2001; Santos et al., 2002), antifungal (Ota et al., 2001), antiviral (Ito et al., 2001), antioxidant (Isla et al., 2001) and hepatoprotective properties (Banskota et al., 2001b). Nevertheless, studies on the nutritional benefits of propolis are still scarce. Although propolis is relatively non-toxic, reports of allergic reactions are not so uncommon. A positive effect on the weight gain of rats and improvement in mineral digestive utilisation were observed (Haro et al., 2000), and good preservative properties on meat products have been reported (Han et al., 2001).

Commercial linseed oil contains about 50% of alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and the dietary use of such substance has been related to immunity improvement in humans. It has also been known that high dietary levels of linolenic acid (w3) result in an increase of 3-series prostaglandins, which have anti-inflammatory activity (Bjerve et al., 1989).

Theoretically, the supplementation of broiler diets with a suitable natural antimicrobial substance could improve the immunity of broilers as an alternative to the antibiotics. Broilers are also exposed to coccidian infections that could result in secondary bacterial infections, and decreased overall health and performance. Antimicrobial drugs are expected to reduce these problems as shown by Costa & Schonhorst (1995). New economic resources in animal feeding are considerable; for instance, in Brazil, over 37 million tons of animal feed are produced per year (Sindirações, 2001). In the present study, extracts of the plant A. brasiliana and propolis, and commercial linseed oil were added to broiler diets to evaluate effects on performance and on serum components that provide toxicological data.



Leaves of Alternanthera brasiliana were collected from specimens cultivated from vegetative propagation of an authentic specimen of A. brasiliana in Ilhota, Santa Catarina, Brazil. Voucher specimens [M. Biavatti 28 (15/03/01)] were deposited at the Herbário Barbosa Rodrigues (HBR), Itajaí, Santa Catarina, Brazil. The A. brasiliana extract was obtained from dried and ground leaves (600 g) using bidistilled ethanol (2:1 in water, v/v) and concentrated to 600 mL. Crude propolis resin obtained from an apiary located in the Atlantic Forest area, at Quatro Barras, PR, Brazil. Propolis extract was obtained from ground propolis (440 g) using bidistilled ethanol (2:1 in water, v/v) and concentrated to 440 mL. Commercially available linseed oil was used (Pindorama Óleos Vegetais Ltda, Panambi, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil).

Six hundred one-day old male broiler chicks (Ross) were obtained from Embrapa Suínos e Aves (Concórdia, SC). The repetitions of the 5 treatments were distributed in 10 randomized blocks according to the initial weight, with 12 chicks per experimental unit. Water and feed were given ad libitum. Birds were kept in a thermoneutral environment and received 18h of light per day. A basal diet (Table 1) was produced using corn, soybean meal, soybean oil, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, antioxidant and mycotoxin adsorbent, according to the requirements described by Rostagno et al. (2000). Experimental diets were: a negative control (basal diet without growth promoters); positive control (basal diet with 40 ppm avilamycin and 120 ppm monensin); basal diet with A. brasiliana extract (180 mL/200 kg of feed); basal diet with propolis extract (220 mL/200 kg of feed) (Dierckx et al., 1999); basal diet with 2.5% of linseed oil (weight basis) instead of soybean oil.



At 7 days old, chicks were inoculated directly in the oesophagus with Eimeria acervulina (0.23 mL per bird), containing 400,000 oocysts per dose. It was evaluated weight gain and feed intake (at 7, 14, 21 and 28 days), intestinal lesion index and skin pigmentation at 14 days, and mortality until 28 days of age.

At the end of the experiment, blood samples were taken from the carotid artery and centrifuged. Sera were analysed for glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides, urea, creatinine, alkaline phosphatase e transaminases (TGO and TGP). Positive sera Proin, Biosystems and Cobas Mira-Roche equipment were used.

Scores of Eimeria acervulina lesions were evaluated according to Johnson & Reid (1970). Analysis of variance was carried out using SAS (2000) and means were compared using the level of significance of 5%.



Chicks showed no clinical signs indicative of harmful effects of the extracts or linseed oil throughout the experimental period, and performance data are shown in Table 2. Initial weight was not different among treatments and from 7 to 14 days chick weight was higher (p < 0.05) in the positive control treatment when compared to other groups. Nevertheless, it is important to note that such difference was not seen from 14 to 21 days. During this period, weight gain was similar (p > 0.05) among the positive control and extract (A. brasiliana and propolis) groups, which was higher (p < 0.05) than the weight gain of the negative control and the linseed oil group treatment. Average weights were similar (p > 0.05) among treatments at 28 days of age. The results clearly indicate a compensatory gain in A. brasiliana and propolis groups after the challenge with Eimeria acervulina oocysts on the 7th day. We can speculate that these findings are due to the antimicrobial activity of the components of the extracts, resulting in better intestinal health and improving digestion and absorption.



An expected effect on performance was observed up to 21 days when comparing the positive control to the negative control, as described elsewhere (Janssen et al., 1998). The improved performance of A. brasiliana and propolis treatments seen from 14 to 21 days could possibly be even better if more concentrated extracts were used. However, this is an encouraging result in the search for new alternative antimicrobials, as demanded by consumers nowadays.

No statistical differences were observed (p > 0.05) in feed intake between groups, and feed intake:weight gain ratio of the positive control was better at two weeks of age (p < 0.05); at three weeks of age the ratio was similar to the propolis group, although it was still different from the other groups. At the end of the experimental period (28 days), no difference (p > 0.05) was seen among treatments in the feed conversion rate.

Intestinal lesion scores were not different (p > 0.05) at 14 days after the inoculation of Eimeria acervulina. However, an improvement of 19.4% in the A. brasiliana group was seen when compared to the positive control. No differences in skin pigmentation were also found among treatments (p > 0.05).

Serum biochemical data at 28 days of age is shown in Table 3. The treatments had little influence on biochemical parameters: urea excretion was increased in the group receiving A. brasiliana extract; GOT and alkaline phosphatase levels in the linseed oil treatment were high when compared to the control groups, suggesting hepatic toxicity in this treatment.




The authors thank EMBRAPA Suínos e Aves in Concórdia, SC and The University of Itajaí Valley, at Itajaí, SC for providing facilities to conduct this experiment.



The findings of this study suggest that A. brasiliana and propolis extracts can be used as antimicrobials, since they improved broiler performance after Eimeria inoculation, but further studies are necessary to find the better concentration to be added to diets.



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Correspondence to
Marque Webe Biavatti
University of Vale do Itajaí
Núcleo de Investigações Químico-Farmacêuticas (Niqfar)
Curso de Farmácia
Caixa Postal 360
Itajaí - SC
Phone/Fax: +55 47 341 7600

Arrived: january 2003
Approved: july 2003

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