Convolvulus pleuricaulis

Modern Ayurveda

Ayurveda the Science of Life

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Convolvulus pleuricaulis is used in traditional systems of medicine in the treatment of anxiety, neurosis, insanity, and epilepsy, and also as a brain tonic. The whole plant is one of the most important medhya rasayana drugs in Ayurveda. It improves balance and vitiation in kapha-vata-pitta doshas (physiological functions), and the herb is astringent and bitter. C. pleuricaulis is used traditionally to treat nervous debility, insomnia, fatigue, low energy levels, and as a brain tonic, alterative, and febrifuge. The whole herb is used medicinally in the form of a decoction along with cumin and milk in fever, nervous debility, and memory loss. The plant is reported to be a prominent memory improving drug, psychostimulant, and tranquilizer, and it reduces mental tension. The methanolic extract of C. microphyllus Sieb. Ex Spreng (C. pleuricaulis Choisy) showed enhanced release of nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF prevents experimentally induced or age related degeneration of basal fore-brain cholinergic cell bodies in adult rats and can also restore lesion-induced loss of cognitive functions [49, 50].

14.5.7 Crocus sativus

Also called a kunkumam or keshara in Ayurveda. It is a small perennial cultivated in certain parts of the Jammu, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand states of India. The medicinally useful part is the stigma, which is dried and marketed as saffron. The important constituents of saffron are its pigments (crocin-1,2,3,4) and essential oils. Four crocetins (F, G, H, I) have also been isolated [51]. The alcoholic extract of saffron ameliorates the impairment effect on learning and memory processes. It has been also shown that crocin inhibits neuronal death induced by both internal and external apoptotic stimuli [52], thus it is considered as neuroprotector. Crocin prevents the activation of c-jun kinase phosphorylation, which is involved in the signaling cascade for neuronal death [53].

14.5.8 Curculigo orchioides

Curculigo is locally called kalimusli and is found all over India. Pharmacological investigations revealed that the 70% ethanol extract of the rhizomes are a sedative and anticonvulsant. The plant is known to contain steroids and triterpenoids and several phenolic compounds [54, 55].

14.5.9 Curcuma longa

Curcuma longa is a perennial rhizomatous plant growing all over India. Curcumin or C. longa extract shows strong antioxidant activity. ß-amyloid-induced oxida-tive stress appears to be an important pathway of neuronal cell death in AD. The methanolic extract of turmeric led to the isolation of Calebin-A and the curcum-ins, which effectively protects neuronal cells against ß-amyloid deposition. In another study, curcumin, on oral administration to alcohol-fed rats, caused a significant reversal of brain lipid peroxidation, thus indicating a neuroprotective role [56]. In vivo experiments showed that oral intake of curcumin significantly reduces the duration and clinical severity of demylenation in experimental allergic encephalitis [57].

14.5.10 Cyprus rotundus

Known as mustaka in Ayurveda, Cyprus rotundus is a perennial grass growing almost everywhere in India. Its tubers contain medicinally useful essential oils (sesquiterpenoids, monoterpenes, aliphatic alcohols, acetates). A receptor binding assay demonstrated that isocurcuminol, a constituent of C. rotundus, modulates GABAergic neurotransmission via enhancement of endogenous receptor ligand binding, and thus having a bearing in epilepsy [58].

14.5.11 Ficus religiosa

In Ayurveda, it is claimed that the leaves of Ficus religiosa possesses anticonvulsant activity. The leaf extract was evaluated for its activity against pentylenetetrazole (PTZ, 60mg/kg i.p.) induced convulsions in albino rats. The study revealed 80 to 100% protection against PTZ induced convulsions when given 30 to 60 min prior to the induced convulsions [59].

14.5.12 Ginkgo biloba

An extract prepared from green leaves (EGB761) was identified as therapeutically useful for the treatment of peripheral circulatory disturbances, as it is a vasodilator. Results showed that EGB761 is not a vasodilator in the classical sense, but it is a CNS function modulating and neuroprotective agent, sustainable for the therapy of patients with cerebrovascular disorders or cerebral insufficiencies. Ginkgo is widely used in Europe for treating dementia. It improves blood flow in the brain and contains flavonoids that act as antioxidants. It is presumed that ginkgo may improve thinking, learning, and memory, and results are very encouraging in people with AD [60].

More than 40 components of ginkgo have been identified and isolated. Two of the most important groups of active chemicals are flavonoids (quercetin, kaempferol, isorhemnetin) and terpenes (lactones or terpenoids, which include bilobalide and several ginkgolides A, B, C, J and M). Individual constituents have been studied in hundreds of in vitro, animal and human experimental systems [61, 62]. Recently, efforts have been made to understand the effects of ginkgo on dementia of the Alzheimer's type and in the closely related multi-infarct dementia. These doubleblind randomized trials in patients have shown that EGB761 is efficacious in delaying the clinical deterioration with dementia, or in bringing about symptomatic improvement [63-65]. The mechanism of ginkgo's therapeutic effects are not fully understood, but they are attributed to the synergistic effects of its constituents [66, 67]. These act to varying degrees as scavengers of free radicals and chemicals, implicated in the pathophysiology of AD. The dose is 40 mg, three times a day, of an extract standardized to 24% flavonoid, glycoside, and 6% terpenoid.

14.5.13 Mucuna pruriens

In Ayurveda Mucuna pruriens is called atmagupta or kapikacchu. It is a herbaceous creeper growing in several parts of India. Its seeds, roots and pod bristles are medicinally useful parts. An important chemical constituent of the plant is the nonprotein amino acid L-dopa, which is present in seeds. In addition, p-sitosterol, lecithin, glutathione, and gallic acid are other important constituents [45, 68-70]. Beans of this plant are used as nutritive food in some parts of India. It is also used as a therapeutic agent in various reproductive and nervous diseases [71-73]. An Ayurvedic formulation containing M. pruriens beans is used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

14.5.14 Nardostachys jatamanasi

The plant of Nardostachys jatamanasi is used by Santhal tribals in the treatment of madness, epilepsy, loss of unconsciousness, convulsions, etc., [74]. The decoction of the root is also reported to be useful in mental disorders, insomnia, etc. N. jatamanasi is reported to yield 2% volatile oil containing an ester, an alcohol and two alkaloids [75,76]. The rhizome of jatamanasi yields jatamanashic acid [77, 78]. Various extracts of jatamanasi root showed sedative effects in rats. The ethanolic extract of N. jatamanasi reduced rat brain serotonin, and though it showed no effect on the CNS, but oil from the rhizome showed depressant action on the CNS [79]. A preparation comprising N. jatamanasi, Centella asiatica, Acorus calamus, Rau-wolfia serpentina, Saussurea lappa, and Valeriana wallichii showed significant improvement in case of schizophrenic patients [80]. The ethanol extract showed potent inhibition of acetylcholinesterase reaction rate [45].

14.5.15 Plumbago zeylanica

This plant is called chitraka in Ayurveda. It is a perennial shrub growing wild in the hotter parts of India. Its roots and root bark are medicinally useful. The chief constituent is plumbagin. The ehanol extract of the root has shown spontaneous motility in rats with a concomitant increase in dopamine and a metabolite ho-movanillic acid level in striatum, indicating a dopaminergic pathway for stimulatory action on the CNS [81]. The plant has also been useful in the treatment of schizophrenia.

14.5.16 Semecarpus anacardium

In Ayurveda Semecarpus anacardium is commonly known as bhallataka. The tree commonly grows in the hotter areas of India and the foothills of the Himalayas. The fully developed nut is valued medicinally. A phenolic glycoside, anacardoside, has been isolated. Besides the phenol, several biflavonoids have been obtained from the defatted nuts of the plant. A cytological and ultrastructural study on Swiss rats from the author's laboratory has shown neuroprotective effects of the ethanol extract [82-84].

14.5.17 Swertia chirayita

The Swertia chirayita is known as kiraatatikta in Ayurveda and chiraytta is its Indian trade name. It grows in the temperate Himalayas from Kashmir to Bhutan. Though the root is considered more potent, the whole herb is used medicinally. More than 20 n-polyhydroxylated xanthones, such as swertianin, swerchirin, and mangiferin, identified. Mangiferin has been shown to be free radical scavenger [85] and a superoxide scavenger. It is an inhibitor of the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthatase and TNF genes, thus revealing its potential for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders [86].

14.5.18 Withania somnifera

Withania somnifera is commonly known as ashwagandha in Ayurveda. It is an evergreen shrub growing throughout the drier and subtropical parts of India. The medicinally valuable part is its root, which is used in Ayurvedic preparations. It is used as a powder, decoction, medicated wine, etc. The main pharmacologically active constituents are alkaloids (withanine, cuscohygrine, tropane, anahygrine, somniferin, anaferine, withananine, withananinine) and steroid lactones (withanolides). The total alkaloid content of its roots varies between 0.1 and 0.3%, although in some cases a higher yield is also been reported. Karnic [87] suggested that W. somnifera should be considered the premier herb for all negative conditions associated with ageing. Evidences shows that the drug is useful in preventing senile dementia and AD [42]. The drug helps in slowing down the progression of AD [15]. Glycowithanolides were also found to reverse both cognitive deficits and perturbed central cholinergic markers induced as a result of neurodegeneration. Bhattacharya et al. [88], while studying foot shock induced changes in the rat brain, showed that W. somnifera also normalized SOD and LPO activity and enhanced CAT and GPX activity. Its inclusion as a rasayana drug is supported by several studies showing the neuropro-tective activity of W. somnifera roots. Damage to neuron circuits in the brain leads to several diseases, such as memory deficit, AD, and Parkinson's disease. In vitro investigation using the methanolic extract of its roots demonstrated the formation of dendrites. This resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of cells with neuritis in human neuroblastoma SK-N-SH cells [89]. A study in our laboratory showed that the root extract significantly protected the neurons in the hippocampal regions of rats under stress conditions [90]. Oral administration of the root extract improved memory acquisition and retention in experimental animals [90]. The effects of the methanolic extract on cholinergic, GABAergic, and glutamatergic receptors have also been demonstrated in wistar rats, as well as activation of cholinergic signal transduction cascade in the cortical and basal forebrain region [91].

14.6 Plants not Native to India 14.6.1 Galanthus wornorii

Galanthamine is a pure unaltered extract of Galanthus wornorii [92]. A recent study by Willcock and coworkers [93] has shown that galanthamine appears to slow the progression of neurodegenerative conditions. It also reversibly and competitively inhibits acetylcholinesterase and enhances the response of nicotinic receptors to acetylcholine. A study in 653 Alzheimer's patients showed that galanthamine slows down the decline of the functional abilities as well as cognition.

14.6.2 Huperzine serrata

Huperzine A was identified for the first time in a Chinese medicinal herb, H. serrata. In a well designed placebo-controlled trial using huperzine, 58% of the patients with AD showed significant improvement in memory and cognitive and behavioral functions after taking 200 mg of the drug, twice per day, for up to 8 weeks. Another double-blind experiment using injected huperzine A also confirmed positive effects in patients with dementia [94].

14.6.3 Lavandula stoechas

Another type of neurodegenerative disease is epilepsy. Lavandula has been used for a long time in traditional medicine as anticonvulsant. Gilani et al. [95] validated its anticonvulsant effects. The study revealed that an aqueous methanolic extract (600 mg/kg) significantly reduced the severity and increased the latency of onset of convulsions induced by PTZ. Moreover, in isolated rabbit jejunum preparations, it caused a dose dependent relaxation of spontaneous contraction and inhibited K+induced contractions, suggesting Ca+ channel blockade [95].

14.7 Conclusion

The use of medicinal plant products in the form of household formulations, or traditional Indian medicinal systems has been in practice for a long time. Efforts made during the past few decades by systematic experimental and clinical studies have confirmed that several of these products are indeed therapeutically potent, not only in treating cough and cold, but also diseases of the CNS, including neurodegener-ative diseases, for which only symptomatic treatment is available so far. Although all active principles and their mode of action are not yet precisely defined, available data on their neurophamacological activity indicate that they could be sources of better therapy for diseases for which treatment is not yet fully developed. Extracts prepared from many medicinal plants contain a variety of bioactive molecules. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to analyze them because of their complex syner-gistic activity.

Acknowledgements The author is grateful to Dr. S.D. Shukla and Mr. D. Sharma (TRF) for their help in prearing this manuscript.

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