Friday, October 24, 2008

A Chinese herb with antidepressant activity

I love Chinese medicine and think there is a lot of potential with its options to treat conditions Western medicine simply doesn't manage very well. It's challenging to share this specialty in an evidence-based blog like this one, because much of the research that is reported, uses terminology that is not meaningful to a Western-trained practitioner like myself. So I was grateful that this group of Chinese researchers took the time to study an aspect of their practice, as well as report on it, in a way that is meaningful and potentially useful to their Western colleagues and friends.

These researchers investigated the activity of xiaobuxin-tang (XBXT), which is a traditional Chinese herb that has been used as an antidepressant in China for centuries. Previously, these researchers discovered that XBXT improves the serotonin balance as well as the behavior of chronically stressed rats with depression. In this particular study, the researchers demonstrated that XBXT stimulates neuron development in the hippocampus, the brain's memory center. (Hippocampal neurons tend to degenerate and die in the throes of depression.) Levels of compounds associated with neuron formation, such as brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), were also increased in the presence of XBXT.

The overall activity of XBXT was compared to that of the antidepressant imipramine.

This little guy here felt so good on XBXT he's still celebrating eight months into the year of the rat!

An L, Zhang YZ, Yu NJ, Liu XM, Zhao N, Yuan L, Chen HX, Li YF. The total flavonoids extracted from Xiaobuxin-Tang up-regulate the decreased hippocampal neurogenesis and neurotrophic molecules expression in chronically stressed rats. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Aug 1;32(6):1484-90.

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