Shankhpushpi, commonly known as the “brain tonic,” is highly appreciated for its beneficial effects on the central nervous system (CNS). People often take Shankhpushpi to enhance memory and improve intellect. Four herbs are commonly identified as sources of Shankhpushpi. In a new study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, researchers from India evaluated the neuropharmacological effects of these herbs. They found that among the four, Evolvulus alsinoides, or dwarf morning glory, is the most promising as a candidate drug as it is rich in phytonutrients that can protect nerve cells from B-amyloid.
Ayurveda practitioners use either one of these four medicinal herbs to make Shankhpushpi: Canscora decussata (CD), Clitorea ternatea (CT), Convolvulus pluricaulis (CP) and Evolvulus alsinoides (EA). However, these herbs were only identified based on the morphological descriptions given in ancient texts.
To determine which one is the best herb to use for Shankhpushpi, the researchers obtained extracts from each using methanol and evaluated their ability to protect against B-amyloid-induced neurotoxicity. B-amyloid is a peptide (protein fragment) found in the brain. In healthy brains, B-amyloid peptides are normally broken down and eliminated. However, in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease, these protein fragments manage to clump together between nerve cells and form plaques. Amyloid plaques are hard, insoluble and toxic to nerve cells.
Besides protecting against B-amyloid- induced neurotoxicity, the researchers also looked at the ability of extracts from each herb to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AchE) and lipoxygenase (5-LOX), and exhibit antioxidant potential in vitro. AchE inhibitors are used for the management of Alzheimer's. 5-LOX inhibitors, on the other hand, are used to prevent the production of lipid mediators of inflammation.
In addition to in vitro experiments, the researchers also conducted in vivo evaluations and performed scopolamine-induced memory retrieval tests using pole climbing apparatus and Morris water maze. (Related: Can green tea and carrots restore working memory in dementia patients?)
The researchers found that the neuroprotective effects of EA and CD against B-amyloid-induced neurotoxicity were significantly higher than those of CT and CP. In terms of antioxidant activity and AchE and LOX inhibitory activities, EA proved superior to the other herbs. In vivo, EA also showed higher neuroprotective activity than CD, CT and CP, as evidenced by the performance of rat models in tests. The researchers believe these results may be attributed to the presence of steroids (stigmasterol and betulinic acid), coumarins (scopoletin) and flavonoids (B-carotene and chlorogenic acid) in EA.
Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that EA is a promising candidate drug for the management of neuronal disorders such as Alzheimer's.
E. alsinoides is a spreading or ascending herb that's covered in silky hairs. It bears flowers and fruits and is used for various medicinal purposes, especially in the Goa territory in India. E. alsinoides is extensively used as a medicine to reduce fever (febrifuge) and as a tonic. Some traditional healers mix it with cumin and milk to address nervous debility, memory loss, syphilis and scrofula -- a form of tuberculosis. E. alsinoides is also considered an effective remedy for bowel-related complaints like dysentery.
To learn more about dwarf morning glory and other medicinal herbs, visit PlantMedicine.news.