Casearia sylvestris (Flacourtiaceae) is a plant popularly known as "guaçatonga" and it is used by indigenous population from South America (Brazil, Peru and Bolivia) in the treatment of several diseases, including cancer. Cytotoxic studies showed that it presents an interesting antitumoral potential due to the presence of casearins and the essential oil showed a high percentage of potent cytotoxic sesquiterpenes (β-caryophyllene and α-humulene). In this work, we verified that the essential oil of C. sylvestris presents a good selective cytotoxicity against HeLa, A-549 and HT-29 tumor cells (CD50 63.3, 60.7 and 90.6 µg.ml-1, respectively) when compared to non-tumoral cells Vero (CD50 210.1 µg.ml-1) and mice macrophages (CD50 234.0 µg.ml-1). The oil causes hemolysis in seven different kinds of erythrocytes, indicating that C. sylvestris must be used carefully. Besides, standard of β-caryophyllene and α-humulene were also tested and they showed similar cytotoxicity to the cytotoxicity presented in the oil, indicating that they might be responsible for the toxic effects that were observed in this study.
Cytotoxicity; Casearia sylvestris; Erythrocytes; Essential oil; MTT; Sesquiterpenes