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Antidepressant effects of Panax notoginseng.

Xiang H, Liu Y, Zhang B, Huang B, Li Y, Yang B et al. 2011. The antidepressant effects and mechanism of action of total saponins from the caudexes and leaves of Panax notoginseng in animal models of depression. Phytomed 18;731-8.

The root of Panax notoginseng (PN), also known as tienchi, sangi or tianqi, is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine for hemoptysis, hemostatic conditions and hematoma. The main active constituents are similar to those in Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium), being the saponins ginsenosides and notoginsenosides.

Modern research has demonstrated a multiplicity of actions attributable to these compounds in tienchi ginseng including hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, immunostimulatory, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, hemostatic, antithrombotic, antiatherosclerotic, fibrinolytic, antiarrhythmic, hypotensive, estrogen like and even sperm motility enhancing effects.

In this present study researchers in China evaluated the efficacy of tienchi in murine models of depression. They used an extract of saponins from the caudexes and leaves of PN (SCLPN) containing high amounts of the ginsenosides Rb3, Rb1, Rc and the notoginsenoside Fc which are highly bioactive and usually found in lower amounts in extracts of the roots alone.

The scientists put the rats under chronic stress for three weeks. Those animals that exhibited signs of depression/ anhedonia (tested via the sucrose preference test) were divided into three groups. These groups received either vehicle (n = 10), fluoxetine (1.8 mg/kg, n = 10) or SCLPN (70 mg/kg n = 12) once a day and remained under chronic stress for 4 weeks. Control groups received distilled water.

Following administration of the medications the rats were put through various tests and their responses examined. SCLPN seemed to exert antidepressant activities on the animals. Those receiving this extract demonstrated reduced immobility time in the forced swim test, reduced sucrose preference and reversed decreases in locomotor activity. Researchers attribute the effect to the particular mix of saponins in the extract.

Whilst the exact mechanism of action is uncertain, a number of experiments in the current study suggest that SCLPN exerted its antidepressant like effect by increasing the levels of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. The animals treated with this extract showed increased head twitches similar to the positive control drug, indicating an increase in serotonergic activity in vivo. However this only held true at lower doses whilst higher doses resulted in fewer head twitches suggesting that the effects on the serotonergic system are more complex than previously thought. Other parts of the study showed that other mechanisms of action may include enhanced locomotor activity (via the dopaminergic system), inhibition of [Ca2+] elevations and increased expression of BDNF which plays a critical role in hippocampal neurogenesis.

This saponin containing extract of tienchi ginseng exerted antidepressant effects in murine models via a number of mechanisms including neurotransmitter modulation and neuroprotective effects.

Tessa Finney-Brown MNHAA

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Author:Finney-Brown, Tessa
Publication:Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism
Article Type:Report
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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