Bhutkar M.A* and Bhise S.B
Govt. College of Pharmacy, Karad. (M.S) 415 124.
*Corresponding Author E-mail: email@example.com
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic incurable condition due to insulin deficiency that has affected several million individuals worldwide. Over the last century changes in human behavior and lifestyle have resulted in a dramatic increase in the incidence of diabetes. The number of diabetic people is expected to rise from present estimate of 150 million to 230 million in 2025. Nowadays herbal medicines are highly recommended for the treatment of diabetes in spite of other therapeutic options due to their toxic side effects and sometimes diminution of response after prolonged use. In Indian traditional system of medicine, more than 800 medicinal plants have been mentioned for the management of diabetes, which are effective either singly or in combinations. India is known worldwide for its spices and condiments which add characteristic flavor and aroma to the various dishes in which they are used. Apart from enhancing the taste and flavor of food many plants used as spices and condiments have also been recognized to possess several medicinal properties including anti-diabetic potential and their use in traditional systems of medicine has been on record for a long time. This review critically highlights the commonly consumed Indian spices and condiments that have been reported to possess a varying degree of hypoglycemic and anti-hyperglycemic activity. It may be concluded that these spices and condiments exhibit blood glucose lowering activity and may also prove to be beneficial to reduce the risk of diabetic complications.
Diabetes mellitus is a complex chronic metabolic disorder that is a major source of ill health worldwide. It is characterized by hyperglycemia and disturbances of carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolisms secondary to an absolute or relative lack of hormone insulin. The number of people in the world with diabetes has increased dramatically over recent years. The global prevalence of diabetes is estimated to increase, from 4% in 1995 to 5.4% by the year 20251. WHO has predicted that the major burden will occur in developing countries? Studies conducted in India in the last decade have highlighted that not only is the prevalence of diabetes high but also that it is increasing rapidly in the urban population2. It is estimated that there are approximately 33 million adults with diabetes in India. This number is likely to increase to 57.2 million by the year 2025. It is also predicted that by 2030, India, China and the United States will have the largest number of people with diabetes1. In recent years, there has been renewed interest in plant medicine for the management and treatment of diabetes due to toxic side effects of current drug regimen and sometimes diminution of response after prolonged use.
In Indian traditional system of medicine a variety of herbal remedies are prescribed for the treatment of diabetes which includes commonly consumed food materials such as legumes, fruits, vegetables, spices and condiments. The present review primarily focuses on the utility of commonly consumed spices and condiments in the management of diabetes.
The knowledge and use of plants as spices and condiments is as old as the history of mankind2. India with its wide climatic conditions and topographical features naturally possesses a variety of medicinal flora. The climate of the country is suitable for almost all spices and therefore India is popularly known as ‘The home of spices’ as it is the place of origin, production, consumption and export of most spices3. Spices and condiments are heterogeneous collections of a wide variety of volatile and non-volatile staple dietary additives which are mostly used for seasoning, flavoring and thus enhancing the taste of foods, beverages and drugs4. They have also been recognized to possess medicinal properties and their use in traditional systems of medicine has been on record for a long time. Plants used as spices and condiments are usually aromatic, pungent and possess a diverse array of natural phytochemicals that have complementary and overlapping actions, including digestive stimulant action, hypolipidemic effect, antidiabetic influence, antilithogenic property, antioxidant potential, anti-inflammatory property, antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic potential, modulation of detoxification enzymes, stimulation of immune system, modulation of steroid metabolism, antibacterial and antiviral effects5. Dietary spices and condiments thus influence various systems in the body such as gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems resulting in diverse metabolic and physiologic actions6. The present review deals with some commonly used spices and condiments exhibiting anti-diabetic activity for effective management of diabetes and its complications.
Allium cepa L. [Family: Liliaceae]:
Allium cepa L. commonly known as onion is an essential dietary constituent, cultivated throughout India. It lowers blood glucose level and exhibits potent antioxidant activity, which may be responsible for its hypoglycemic potential7. Ethyl ether extract as a single oral dose (0.25mg/kg) exhibited significant hypoglycemic effect in normal fasted rabbits8. Oral dose of 50gm of juice in diabetic patients significantly controlled post-prandial glucose levels9. Petroleum ether and chloroform extracts of onion bulb lowered blood sugar in OGTT (2gm/kg) in rabbits10. Oral administration of 25, 50, 100 and 200 gm of aqueous onion extract to overnight fasted healthy volunteers 30 min before, after or simultaneously with oral glucose (50 gm) significantly and in a dose-dependent manner increased glucose tolerance and the effect was comparable to tolbutamide. Adrenaline (0.5 ml of 1:1000, sc) induced hyperglycemia was also inhibited in these patients11.As a dietary constituent fresh onion decreased or maintained blood sugar levels12. Oral administration of S-methyl cysteine sulfoxide (SMCS) a sulphur containing amino acid isolated from onion to alloxanized rats in a dose of 200mg/kg controlled blood glucose and lipids in serum and tissues and normalized the activities of liver hexokinase, glucose 6-phosphatase and HMG CoA reductase13. Also it markedly decreased hyperglycemic peak and area under the glucose tolerance curve in subcutaneous glucose tolerance tests in rabbits14. S-methyl cysteine sulfoxide (SMCS) and S-allyl cysteine sulfoxide (SACS) exhibited its beneficial effect alloxanized diabetic rats on glucose intolerance, weight loss and liver glycogen15. Feeding a diet containing 3% freeze-dried onion powder for 8 weeks caused hypoglycemia with partial reversion of abnormal plasma albumin, urea, creatinine and inorganic phosphorus in STZ diabetic rats16. As compared to SMCS the standard drugs glibenclamide and insulin proved to be more effective in alloxan diabetic rats however SMCS proved to be a better antioxidant17. 0.4 g onion fed to STZ diabetic rats demonstrated hypoglycemic and hypolipidaemic activity which is attributed to its antioxidant effect18.
Allium sativum [Family: Liliaceae]:
Garlic is also an essential dietary component cultivated throughout India, and familiar worldwide. The hypoglycemic activity of garlic has been extensively studied and reported by many researchers. Allicin, a sulphur compound isolated from garlic on long term feeding to normal rats exhibited hypolipidemic effect19. It also resulted in marked hypoglycemia in mildly diabetic rabbits upon oral administration (0.25mg/kg)20. Oral administration of 0.25 gm/kg of ethanol, petroleum ether and ethyl ether extract of garlic exhibited 18.9, 17.9 and 26.2% reduction in blood sugar in alloxan-diabetic rabbits (150 mg/kg IV)21. Aqueous homogenate of garlic (10 ml/kg/day in water for 2 months) administered orally to sucrose fed rabbit’s markedly increased hepatic glycogen and free amino acid contents, decreased fasting blood sugar, triglyceride levels in serum, liver and aorta and protein levels in serum and liver22. Freeze-dried garlic powder incorporated at 2% level in an atherogenic diet fed to rats partly reversed the increased levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL) and LDL cholesterol and enhanced the percentage of HDL whereas the levels of HDL cholesterol were unchanged23. S-allyl cysteine, a sulphur containing amino acid from garlic significantly lowered blood glucose in experimental diabetic animals24. Standardised garlic 900 mg/d reduced total serum cholesterol while the low density lipoprotein cholesterol was reduced by 11% after 12 weeks of garlic treatment in 42 healthy adults with TC greater than or equal to 220 mg/dl25. Hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic effect exhibited by garlic are due to decreased activities of serum enzymes- Alkaline phosphatase, acid phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase and liver glucose-6-phosphatase. Increased liver and intestinal HMG CoA reductase activity and liver hexokinase activity26. SACS controlled lipid peroxidation better than that compared to glibenclamide and insulin and ameliorated diabetic condition almost to the same extent as they did. Furthermore, SACS significantly stimulated in vitro insulin secretion from beta cells isolated from normal rats27. Pretreatment with aged garlic extract (AGE) (5 and 10 ml/kg, PO) in stress-induced hyperglycemia model of mice (immobilization stress for 16 h/day for 2 consecutive days) significantly prevented adrenal hypertrophy, hyperglycemia and elevation of cortisone without altering serum insulin levels28. Ethanolic extract of garlic on administration at a dose of (45 mg/kg body weight/day for 28 days) to alloxanized diabetic mice resulted in significant lowering of serum glucose levels with simultaneous anti-nociceptive effects in tail-flick, hotplate, allodynia and formalin tests29. Feeding of garlic extract (100 mg/kg) orally increased cardiovascular functions in STZ rats, prevented abnormality in lipid profile and increased fibrinolytic activities with decreased platelet aggregation. Plasma insulin level increased with concomitant decrease in plasma glucose levels30. A synthetic preparation of allicin lowered the BP and exhibited hyperlipidemic and hyperinsulinemic effect in hypertensive rats31. Garlic oil in a dose of (10 mg/kg i.p.) for 15 days in diabetic rats significantly decreased the lipid peroxides, blood glucose, total lipid, triglyceride and cholesterol32. Garlic juice (equivalent to 0.4 g/100 g bw) administered orally to alloxan-diabetic rats daily for 4 weeks exerted antioxidant and antihyperglycemic effects and restores the liver and renal damage caused by alloxan-induced diabetes33. Ethanolic extract of garlic on oral administration at a dose of (0.1, 0.25 and 0.5 g/kg body weight) for 14 days to STZ-diabetic rats significantly decreased the serum glucose, total cholesterol and triglycerides while the serum insulin levels were increased. The antidiabetic effect of the extract was more effective than that of glibenclamide34.
Brassica juncea [Family: Cruciferae]:
This is a small herb cultivated throughout India and commonly used as a spice in food and has been reported to exert significant hypoglycemic activity. Feeding of mustard diet (10% w/w) to normal rats for 60 days showed significant hypoglycemic effect. Hypoglycemic action was accounted by stimulation of glycogen synthetase and suppression of glycogen phosphorylase and other gluconeogenic enzymes35. Supplementation with 10% mustard seeds at a level of 10% body weight to standard laboratory diet of rats for 90 days resulted in a reduction in total serum cholesterol and LDL + VLDL, an increase in the HDL, lower release of lipoproteins into the circulation36. Mustard diet exhibited significant antihyperglycemic effect in alloxan induced diabetic rats37. Feeding of a fructose diet containing 10% mustard seeds powder for 30 days to rats significantly decreased fasting serum glucose, insulin and cholesterol levels38.
Carum carvi Linn. [Family: Umbelliferae]:
It is a commonly used spice with great medicinal properties. It has been found to possess antihyperglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activity. Aqueous extracts of Carum carvi at a dose of (20 mg/kg) produced a significant decrease on blood glucose levels in STZ diabetic rats. Also no changes were observed in basal plasma insulin concentrations after treatment in either normal or STZ diabetic rats indicating that the underlying mechanism of this pharmacological activity seems to be independent of insulin secretion39. Aqueous extract of Caraway administered at dose levels of 300 mg/ kg body weight orally to STZ induced diabetic rats exhibited significant hypoglycaemic action40. Oral administration of aqueous extract of Carum carvi L. fruits at a dose of (20 mg/kg) produced a significant decrease on triglycerides levels in normal rats. In STZ diabetic rats, cholesterol levels were decreased significantly 6 h after Carum carvi treatment. Repeated oral administration of the extract for 15 days exhibited a significant hypotriglyceridemic and hypocholesterolemic activities in both normal and STZ diabetic rats41.
Cinnamomum cassia [Family: Lauraceae]:
The evaluation of long term effects of cinnamon bark on toxicity induced by streptozotocin administration to rats indicated that long-term use of cinnamon bark may provide benefit against diabetic conditions42. Cinnamon potentiated insulin effect through upregulation of the glucose uptake in cultured adipocytes and improved insulin action via increasing glucose uptake in vivo, by enhancing the insulin-signaling pathway in skeletal muscle43. Cinnamon extract administration to high fructose diet-fed rats prevented the development of insulin resistance by enhancing insulin signaling and possibly via the NO pathway in skeletal muscle44. STZ induced diabetic rats were given Cinnamomum cassia bark fed, a decrease in blood glucose levels was observed in a glucose tolerance test (GTT), The elevation in plasma insulin was direct since a stimulatory in vitro effect of insulin release from INS-1 cells (an insulin secreting cell line) was observed45. Cinnamon extract administered at different dosages (50, 100, 150 and 200 mg/kg) for 6 weeks lowered blood glucose concentration in a dose-dependent manner with the most in the 200 mg/kg group compared with the control. In addition, serum insulin levels and HDL-cholesterol levels were significantly higher and the concentration of triglyceride, total cholesterol and intestinal alpha-glycosidase activity were significantly lower after 6 weeks of the administration46. Aqueous cinnamon extract 3 g administered to patients for 4 months with diagnosed diabetes mellitus type 2 not on insulin therapy but treated with oral antidiabetics or diet revealed that cinnamon extract exhibits a moderate effect in reducing fasting plasma glucose concentrations in diabetic patients47.
Cumminum cyminum [Family: Umbelliferae]:
Dietary regimen containing cumin powder (1.25%) exerted beneficial effects such as reduction of hyperglycemia and glycosuria. Other metabolic alterations associated with dietary cumin include lowered urea level and reduced excretions of urea and creatnine by diabetic animals48. Oral administration of 0.25 g/kg body weight of C. cyminum for 6 weeks to diabetic rats resulted in significant reduction in blood glucose and an increase in total haemoglobin and glycosylated haemoglobin. It also prevented a decrease in body weight and the treatment also resulted in a significant reduction in plasma and tissue cholesterol, phospholipids, free fatty acids and triglycerides. Moreover supplementation with C. cyminum was found to be more effective than glibenclamide in the treatment of diabetes mellitus49.
Curcuma longa [Family: Zingiberaceae]:
Curcumin inhibited superoxide anion generation in xanthine-xanthine oxidase system by 40% at the concentration of 75 mM and the generation of hydroxyl radicals (OH) to 76% as measured by deoxyribose degradation. It also prevented the oxidation of Fe2+ in Fentons reaction which generates OH radicals50. Curcumin at the concentration of 5-50 mM inhibited ascorbate/ Fe2+ induced lipid peroxidation in a dose-dependent manner in rat liver microsomes51. The underlying mechanism involved was thought to be on account of its hypocholesterolemic influence, antioxidant nature and free radical scavenging property52. Ethanolic extract of turmeric significantly suppressed an increase in blood glucose level in type 2 diabetic mice. The main constituents of the extract were identified as curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and ar-turmerone, which had also PPAR-gamma ligand-binding activity53. STZ induced diabetic rats were fed orally a diet containing 0.002% and 0.01% curcumin and 0.5% turmeric for a period of 8 weeks. Cataract progression due to hyperglycemia was monitored by slit lamp biomicroscope. It was indicated that these supplements delayed the progression and maturation of cataract54. Curcumin in a dose of (15 and 30 mg/kg, p.o.) for 2 weeks in STZ induced diabetic rats significantly attenuated both renal dysfunction and oxidative stress in diabetic rats55.
Table 1 Commonly consumed spices and condiments with antidiabetic activity
Name of the Spice/ Condiment
Activity with route of administration and dosage
Allium cepa L.
Common name: Onion [Family: Liliaceae]
Hypoglycemic activity of ethyl ether extract in normal fasted rats (Augusti) 7
Hypoglycemic activity of organic solvent extracts of dried onion in alloxanized Diabetic Rabbits (Jain and Vyas)8
Hypoglycemic activity of juice in diabetic patients (Mathew and Augusti)9
Antihyperglycemic activity of petroleum ether insoluble fraction of ether extract of dried onion powder in Alloxanized Diabetic Rabbits (Mathew and Augusti)9
Hypoglycemic activity of the bulb in rabbits in an oral glucose tolerance test (Gupta et al.)10
Increased glucose tolerance comparable to tolbutamide of aqueous onion extract in fasted healthy volunteers (Sharma et al.)11
Decreased blood sugar levels in diabetic patients by fresh onion diet (Tjokroprawiro et al.)12
Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effect in alloxanized Rats (Kumari et al.) 13
Hypoglycemic activity and decreased area under glucose tolerance curve by bulb decoction in Rabbits (Roman-Ramos et al.)14
Beneficial effect on glucose intolerance due to SMCS and SACS in alloxanized diabetic rats (Sheela et al.)15
Antihyperglycemic, antioxidant and hypolipidemic activity of a diet containing 3% freeze dried dried onion powder upon prolonged administration in STZ diabetic rats (Babu and Srinivasan)16
Antidiabetic and antioxidant effects of S-methyl cysteine sulfoxide isolated from onions (Allium cepa Linn.) as compared to standard drugs in alloxan diabetic rats(Kumari et al.)17
Hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic and antioxidant activity by onion diet in STZ diabetic rats (Campos et al.)18
Common name: Garlic
Hypolipidemic activity of allicin in normal rats (Augusti and Mathew)19
Hypoglycemic activity of allicin in Diabetic Rabbits (Mathew and Augusti)20
Antihyperglycemic activity of ethanol, petroleum ether and ethyl acetate extract in Alloxanized DiabeticRabbits (Jain and Vyas)21
Glycogenesis, hypoglycemic and hypotriglyceridemic activity of aqueous homogenate in hyperglycemic rabbits (Zacharias et al.)22
Hypolipidemic activity of freeze dried garlic powder in hyperlipidemic rats (Kamanna and Chandrasekhara)23
Hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic activity of SACS in Alloxanized Diabetic Rats (Sheela and Augusti)24
Hypercholesterolemic activity of standardized garlic in healthy adults (Jain et al)25
Antihyperglycemic activity of SACS in Alloxanized Diabetic Rats (Sheela et al)26
Antidiabetic activity of SACS in Diabetic Rats (Augusti and Sheela)27
Prevention of adrenal hypertrophy and elevation of cortisone, antihyperglycemic activity of aged garlic extract in stress induced hyperglycemia model of mice (Kasuga et al.)28
Hypoglycemic activity of ethanolic extract in alloxanized diabetic mice (Kumar and Reddy)29
Improved lipid profile,enhancement of plasma insulin; hypoglycemic and anti-atherosclerotic of garlic extract in STZ diabetic rats (Patumraj et al.)30
Antihyperlipidemic, antihyperinsulinemic and antihypertensive effect of allicin in hyperlipidemic, hyperinsulinemic and hypertensive rats (Elkayam et al.)31
Antioxidant, antihyperglycemic and antihypertriglyceridemic activity of garlic oil in diabetic rats (Anwar and Meki)32
Antioxidant, antihyperglycemic,restoration of liver and renal damage by garlic juice in alloxanized diabetic rats (El-Demerdash et al.)33
Hypoglycemic, hypocholesterolemic,hypotriglyceridemic enhancement of serum insulin by ethanolic extract in STZ diabetic rats (Eidi et al.)34
Common name: Mustard
Hypoglycemic activity by diet of mustard in normal rats (Khan et al.)35
Hypocholesterolemic activity and increase in HDL due to seed supplementation to laboratory diet in rats (Khan et al.)36
Antihyperglycemic activity by seed diet in diabetic rats (Grover et al.)37
Prevents development of insulin resistance by seed diet in STZ diabetic rats (Yadav SP, et al.)38
Carum carvi Linn.
Common name: Caraway [Family: Umbelliferae]
Antihyperglycemic activity of aqueous extract in STZ diabetic rats (Eddouks M, et al.)39
Hypoglycemic activity of aqueous extract in STZ diabetic rats (Sushruta K, et al.)40
Antihyperlipidemic activity of aqueous extract of fruits in normal and STZ diabetic rats (Lemhadri A, et al.)41
Common name: Chinese Cinnamon
Decreased levels of aspartate aminotransferase, urea and cholesterol by administration of bark powder in STZ diabetic rats (Onderoglu S, et al)42
Hypoglycemic activity by aqueous extract in rats (Qin B, et al.)43
Improved glucose utilization by aqueous extract in rats (Qin B, et al.)44
Antihyperglycemic activity by aqueous extract in rats (Verspohl EJ, et al.)45
Antihyperlipidemic and hypoglycemic activity by aqueous extract in rats (Kim SH, et al.)46
Hypoglycemic activity of aqueous extract in fasted healthy volunteers (Mang B, et al.)47
Common name: Cumin
Antihyperglycemic and antiglycosuric activity in STZ diabetic rats by dietary regime containing powder (Willatgamuwa SA, et al.)48
Hypoglycemic and Hypolipidemic activity in alloxanized
diabetic rats by administration of seed powder (Dhandapani S, et al.)49
Common name: Turmeric
Inhibited lipid peroxidation of curcumin in rat liver microsomes (Reddy and Lokesh)50
Lowered Lipid peroxidation in STZ-diabetic rats on Curcumin diet (Babu and Srinivasan)51
Hypoglycemic activity of spent turmeric powder in STZ-diabetic rats (Suresh GK, et al.)52
Hypoglycemic activity of Ethanolic extract in mice (Kuroda M, et al.)53
Anticataractogenic activity of Curcumin in STZ-diabetic rats (Suryanarayana P, et al.)54
Hypoglycemic and nephroprotective activity of Curcumin in STZ-diabetic rats (Sharma S, et al)55
Inhibited lipid peroxidation and decreased oxidative stress of Curcumin in STZ-diabetic rats (Suryanarayana P, et al.)56
Hypoglycemic activity of tetrahydrocurcumin in STZ-diabetic rats (Pari L, et al.)57
Myristica fragrans H
Common name: Nutmeg [Family:Myristicaceae]
Hypoglycemic and antihyperlipidemic activity of hydroalcoholic extract of fruits in diabetic rats (Arulmozhi DK, et al)58
Hypoglycaemic and Hypolipidemic effect of ether extract of fruits in alloxanized diabetic rats (Somani RS and Singhai AK)59
Common name:Tamarind [Family: Leguminosae]
Hypoglycemic effect of aqueous extract of seeds in STZ-diabetic rats (Maiti, et al.)60
Hypoglycaemic and Hypolipidemic activity of aqueous extract of seeds in diabetic rats (Maiti, et al.)60
Feeding a diet containing 0.002% or 0.01% curcumin or 0.5% turmeric for a period of eight weeks to STZ induced diabetic rats significantly controlled oxidative stress by inhibiting the increase in TBARS and protein carbonyls and reversing altered antioxidant enzyme activities without altering the hyperglycemic state in most of the tissues56. Tetrahydrocurcumin (THC), a major colourless metabolite of curcumin on oral administration to diabetic rats showed a decrease in the level of blood glucose and plasma glycoproteins. The levels of plasma insulin and tissue sialic acid were increased where as the levels of tissue hexose, hexosamine and fructose were near normal in diabetic rats treated with THC57.
Myristica fragrans H [Family: Myristicaceae]:
Nutmeg is the dried seed kernel of Myristica fragrans and is widely used as spice and also to flavor many kinds of baked foods and vegetables. Nutmeg is popular as a spice and also possesses various therapeutic properties and is used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Nutmeg exhibits antidiabetic and antihyperlipidemic activity58. It has been found that, oral pre-treatment with petroleum ether extract of nutmeg at dose of 200 mg/kg in alloxan- induced diabetic rats showed a significant decrease in blood glucose level. After two weeks daily administration of the extract diabetic treated rats showed improvement in body weight, organ (liver and pancreas) weight, lipid profiles and haemoglobin content59.
Tamarindus indica [Family: Leguminosae]:
Tamarind is cultivated in many tropical and sub-tropical regions. It is an important food component and used extensively to make the recipes more delicious. Aqueous extract of seed of Tamarind administered to mild and severe diabetic rats at the dose of 80 mg and 120 mg/0.5 ml distilled water/100 g body weight/d respectively for 14 d showed significant attenuation of hyperglycemia. Moreover, correction of hyperlipidemia in diabetic rats after this extract supplementation was also confirmed60.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that continues to present a major worldwide health problem. Herbal treatments for diabetes have been used in patients with insulin-dependent and non-insulin dependent diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, etc. Several Indian plant species have proved their efficacy in reducing blood sugar level and hence, used in the management of diabetes since ancient times. Spices and condiments which are commonly consumed and popular in India are known to possess antidiabetic potential and may prove to be beneficial in effective management of diabetes and its complications. Continuing research is necessary to elucidate the pharmacological activities of these herbal remedies to explore development of drugs and nutraceuticals from such natural resources which may contribute to alleviate diabetic complications.
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Received on 13.05.2010 Modified on 02.06.2010
Accepted on 13.06.2010 © RJPT All right reserved