A plant extract used for centuries in traditional medicine in Nigeria could form the basis of a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at The University of Nottingham, United Kingdom (U.K.), have found.
Their study, published in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology, has shown that the extract taken from the leaves, stem and roots of Carpolobia lutea, could help to protect chemical messengers in the brain which play a vital role in functions including memory and learning.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. A neurodegenerative type of dementia, the disease starts mild and gets progressively worse.
Carpolobia lutea, commonly called cattle stick or poor man’s candle belongs to the plant family polygalaceae. The common names, which the plant is known include cattle stick (English), Abekpok Ibuhu (Eket), Ikpafum, Ndiyan, Nyayanga (Ibibio), Agba or Angalagala (Igbo) and Egbo oshunshun (Yoruba).
Herbalists in Nigerian tribes use the essence of the root as an aphrodisiac and the treatment of genitourinary infections, gingivitis, and waist pains.The tree extract could pave the way for new drugs to tackle patient symptoms but without the unwanted side effects associated with some current treatments.
Dr. Wayne Carter in the University’s Division of Medical Sciences and Graduate Entry Medicine, based at Royal Derby Hospital, led the study. He said: “As a population we are living longer, and the number of people with dementia is growing at an alarming rate. Our findings suggest that traditional medicines will provide new chemicals able to temper Alzheimer’s disease progression.”
Neurodegenerative diseases represent a huge health burden globally, placing pressure on health services and having a negative impact on the lives of patients and their families.
Researchers and drug companies are racing to discover new treatments for these disorders and have begun looking to plant extracts as a potential source of novel drugs. In patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and myasthenia gravis, the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, is reduced, leading to problems with memory and attention.
Current drugs — called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors — reduce the normal breakdown of acetylcholine. Extensive research is underway to find new versions of these drugs but with additional beneficial properties.
Also, new research suggests that extra-virgin olive oil – a key component of the Mediterranean diet – may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Mouse experiments revealed changes in both cognitive performance and the appearance of nerve cells. The new research moves closer to a prevention – and potentially reversing – strategy, by studying the effects of extra-virgin olive oil on the cognitive performance and brain health of mice.
Extra-virgin olive oil is a key component of the Mediterranean diet, which is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and nuts.The new study – published in the journal Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology – was carried out by a team of researchers from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) in Philadelphia, PA.
Lead investigator Dr. Domenico Praticò – a professor in the departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM – explains why several studies have singled out olive oil and hailed it as the main reason why the Mediterranean diet is linked to so many health benefits.
“The thinking is that extra-virgin olive oil is better than fruits and vegetables alone, and as a monounsaturated vegetable fat it is healthier than saturated animal fats,” he says.
According to a study published in Pharmacognosy Review, It is an accepted and commonly utilized herbal booster of libido. It is used to cure male infertility and to boosts libido thereby augmenting male sexual functions or it is used to induce penile erection, and enhance male virility. The chewing stick prepared from the stem and root of either Carpolobia alba (CA) or Carpolobia lutea (CL) is patronized because it boosts male sexual performance. The genus Carpolobia has over 14 species.
The leaf essential oil contains a variety of terpenoids, while polyphenols and triterpenoid saponins have been isolated from the root and leaf extracts respectively. Other ethnomedicinal uses include curing of stomach ailments, rheumatism, fever, pains, insanity, dermal infection, venereal diseases; to promote childbirth; and as a taeniafuge and vermifuge.
It has also been reported to possess other anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, antimicrobial, antimalarial, and analgesic properties. This could be particularly important in Alzheimer’s disease as there is more evidence emerging that Alzheimer’s patients have inflammation in the brain.
The Nottingham study found that the plant was highly effective in preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine but had other beneficial antioxidant properties in fighting free radicals — unstable atoms that can cause damage to cells and contribute to ageing and disease — damage that may be exacerbated in Alzheimer’s disease.
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