Also known as du zhong in traditional Chinese medicine, eucommia possesses antioxidative and neuroprotective properties. Aucubin is the main component of eucommia.
For the study, the researchers used a rat model to investigate the protective effects of aucubin on neurons against epilepsy. They first treated the rats with either 5 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) or 10 mg/kg of aucubin for two weeks. Then, they administered lithium-pilocarpine to induce status epilepticus in the rats.
The results revealed that pretreatment with both doses of aucubin substantially decreased the number of dead neurons and increased the number of surviving neurons in the hippocampus of rats after status epilepticus induction. At the same time, aucubin inhibited necroptosis proteins and increased the prevalence of autophagy proteins in the hippocampus. These results indicated that aucubin can reduce the damage caused by status epilepticus by inducing autophagy and inhibiting inflammatory cell death. With these findings, the Chinese researchers concluded that aucubin can be used in the treatment or prevention of nerve cell damage brought about by epilepsy.
Epilepsy is a chronic disease of the brain characterized by unpredictable seizures – brief episodes of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body or the whole body. Sometimes, seizures are accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function. Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders in the world, affecting over 50 million people globally. (Related: Mindfulness, meditation and other stress-relieving exercises may reduce risk of seizures.)
Eucommia offers many other health benefits. One of these is protection against Parkinson's disease. In a study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that the herb can be used as an alternative and complementary treatment for Parkinson's disease because of its ability to improve the ubiquitin-proteasome system – a crucial protein degradation system that can contribute to the prevention of neurodegeneration. A study in the journal Korean Society of Applied Pharmacology also showed that eucommia could be useful in alleviating learning and memory deficits and help in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, studies have shown that the medicinal plant is beneficial for bone health. A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research demonstrated that eucommia can help promote bone growth in children who suffer from growth retardation. It can also help slow down joint degeneration in people with osteoarthritis. Another study published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine reported that treatment with eucommia can prevent disuse-induced osteoporosis by regulating bone metabolism. This suggests that the plant can be used as an alternative treatment for preventing the said condition.
Eucommia also offers the heart some health benefits. A clinical trial published in the journal Alternative Medicine Review found that eucommia bark extract is a safe and effective alternative treatment for high blood pressure. The medicinal plant also prevented and treated nonalcoholic fatty liver disease caused by obesity or Type 2 diabetes, reported a study published in the journal PLOS One. Its extract and its active compounds – aucubin and geniposide – improved lysosomal activity and regulated lysosomal BAX translocation, which led to increased resistance against liver lipotoxicity.
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