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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1993 Jul; 45(3): 719-23.

Peony and its major constituent, paeoniflorin, improve radial maze performance impaired by scopolamine in rats.

Ohta H, Ni JW, Matsumoto K, Watanabe H, Shimizu M.

Section of Pharmacology, Research Institute for Wakan-Yaku (Oriental Medicines), Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University, Japan.

A traditional Chinese medicine, Shimotsu-to has been shown to improve spatial working memory in rats. Shimotsu-to consists of four herbs, Japanese angelica root, cnidium rhizome, peony root, and rehmannia root. In the present study, the effects of aqueous extracts of each component herb on scopolamine (0.3 mg/kg)-induced spatial working memory disruption were examined using an eight-arm radical maze task in rats. Among the four component herbs, peony root extract (0.25 and 1 g dried herb/kg, PO) exhibited the most potent antagonizing effect on the scopolamine disruption of the choice accuracy. Japanese angelica root extract (1 g dried herb/kg, PO) also significantly attenuated the scopolamine disruption, whereas neither cnidium rhizome nor rehmannia root affected it. Paeoniflorin (0.01-1 mg/kg, PO), a major constituent of peony root, dose-dependently attenuated the scopolamine-induced impairment in the choice accuracy. Scopolamine (0.3 mg/kg, IP) significantly decreased the acetylcholine contents in the hippocampus, cortex, and striatum. Although paeoniflorin alone did not affect the acetylcholine contents, pretreatment with paeoniflorin significantly prevented the scopolamine-induced decrease in the acetylcholine content in the striatum, but not in the hippocampus or cortex. These data suggest that peony root mainly contributes to the cognitive enhancing effect of Shimotsu-to and that paeoniflorin may be one of the active constituents of peony root.

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