Depression herb researched for other indications

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Medicinal plants, Botany, Actaea racemosa

St John's wort – best known for its ability to combat mild to medium depression – is being studied by the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) for non-mental health benefits.

The ARS’s Center for Research on Botanical Dietary Supplements (CRBDS) is screening 180 “germplasm accessions”​ from St John's wort (Hypericum) for biologically active compounds.

If they are detected they may form the basis of trials with viral infections, reduction in inflammation and improved digestive health highlighted as areas of potential by the ARS.

The CRBDS is working in collaboration with the horticulturalist, Mark Widrlechner, from the ARS crop genebank at the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa.

The ARS Ames crop genebank has more than 50,000 accessions of ornamental plants, maize, oilseeds, vegetables and other crops. It commonly supplies them to researchers.

Other accessions with “medicinal or nutraceutical value”​ include Echinacea (purple coneflower), Prunella (self-healing) and Actaea racemosa (black cohosh), ARS said.

The Ames collection is used by CRBDS, along with five other Botanical Research Centers funded by the National Institutes of Health. The five year project is due to end this year.

The Hypericum collection begin in the 1990s and includes about 60 species.

“This diversity has enabled investigations of genetic, environmental and developmental factors affecting the quantity and quality of bioactive compounds, as well as their modes of action,”​ ARS said.

“Of particular interest is how these compounds interact, and whether those interactions are critical to human health benefits.”

The ARS noted that a recent study published in Pharmaceutical Biology​ showed combinations of four compounds from St John's wort (amentoflavone, chlorogenic acid, pseudohypericin and quercetin) were more effective at reducing inflammation in mouse macrophage assays than when each was used alone.

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