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Herbal antiepileptics in earlier centuries.

Adams M, Schneider SV, Kluge M, Kessler M, Hamburger M. 2012. Epilepsy in the renaissance: A survey of remedies from 16th and 17th century German herbals. J Ethnopharmacol 143:1;1-13.

In the centuries prior to 1882 when the first synthetic anticonvulsant drug, paraldehyde, became available, the people of central Europe depended mainly on plants to treat epileptic seizures. The advent of phenobarbital in 1921 and diphenylhydantoin (dilantin, phenytoin) in 1938, has brought some relief to the 50 million sufferers worldwide but for over 30% of these, uncontrolled seizures continue even with the best available drugs.

Recently a survey was carried out on nine of the most important European herbals of the 16th and 17th century, including Bock (1577), Fuchs (1543), Mattioli (1590), Lonicerus (1660, 1770), Brunfels (1532), Zwinger (1696) and Tabernaemontanus (1591, 1678). The aim was to systematically explore antiepileptic remedies, identify the plant species, compile them and discuss what is known about their potential effectiveness.

An extensive search of the scientific data bank SciFinder[R] revealed recent results concerning the phytochemistry and possible anticonvulsive actions of the plants. Some of the plants showing possible antiepileptic potential follow.

Valeriana officinalis: aqueous and ethanolic/aqueous root extracts of valerian were both found to contain GABA and this intrinsic content is believed to be responsible for the ability of both extracts to increase GABA release in rat synaptosomes. An ethanolic extract containing no GABA showed no effects. Isovaleramide, albeit at high doses (100 mg/kg p.o), showed 90% protection against the maximal electroshock seizure in mice compared with sodium phenytoin (100% protection at 20 mg/kg p.o).

Matricaria chamomilla: at doses of 20-80 mg/kg i.p. apigenin significantly delayed the onset of seizures in a mouse model. Another study in rats showed that at 25 and 50 mg/kg i.p. apigenin significantly shortened the latency period of picrotoxin induced fits but did not reduce the incidence of seizures.

Hypericum perforatum: an aqueous fraction of 80% ethanolic extract (100 mg/kg [micro]m) had a clear antiepileptic effect in rabbits, a butanol fraction was weaker while an ether fraction was proepileptic. In electrophysiological tests, hypericin (10 [micro]M) lowered NMDA-activated ion currents by 30% and GABA-induced chloride currents by 43%. Pseudohypericin (10 [micro]M) reduced NMDAinduced ion currents by 20% and GABA-induced chloride currents by 57%.

Lavandula officinalis: an electrophysiological study in rat cortical cells showed that lavender oil at 0.1-1 mg/ mL reversibly inhibited the GABA-receptor. Inhibitory and excitatory impulses were suppressed suggesting inhibition of signal transmission between neurons.

Among the other herbal constituents studied, linalool from Thymus vulgaris and myoinositol from Aquilegia vulgaris showed some promise with regard to anticonvulsive activity. The majority of the plants listed have not been investigated pharmacologically with respect to potential antiepileptic activity. None of the plants have been studied in larger clinical trials. By presenting these herbs to the wider scientific community it is hoped that potentially useful molecules for the treatment of epilepsy will be discovered.

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Publication:Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Sep 1, 2012
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