Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis)
Shankhpushpi is a common plant in India, where the whole plant is used in various formulae as a nervine tonic for improvement of memory and cognitive function. A wide range of secondary metabolites, including triterpenoids, flavonol glycosides, anthocyanins, and steroids, has been isolated and may be responsible for Shankhpushpi's nootropic and memory-enhancing properties in addition to other pharmacological activities . It is believed that Shankhpushpi calms the nerves by regulating the body's production of the stress hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol. It is also recommended for nervous disorders such as stress, anxiety, mental fatigue, and insomnia .
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)
Gotu kola is one of the important rejuvenating herbs for nerve and brain cells in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. It is believed to be capable of increasing intelligence, longevity, and memory. Asiaticoside derivatives, including asiatic acid and asiaticoside, were shown to reduce the stress response.
Jyotishmati (Celastrus paniculatus)
Jyotishmati is a treasured medicinal herb that is revered for its effects on the brain and has been used for centuries in Ayurveda for sharpening the memory and improving concentration and cognitive function. Aqueous extracts of Jyotishmati seeds have cognition-enhancing properties and antioxidant properties. Aqueous extracts of Jyotishmati seed have dose-dependent cholinergic activity, thereby improving memory performance.
Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi)
Jatamamsi is safe and balancing in its effects similar to its Western relative valerian. The plant has a rich history of medicinal use and is highly regarded in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. The rhizomes and roots of the plant have medicinal value and contain a variety of sesquiterpenes and coumarins.
Studies on its role in the CNS revealed that extracts of Jatamansi alleviated all of the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in rats.Similarly, an alcoholic extract of this plant administered to both young and aged mice significantly improved learning and memory and also reversed the amnesia induced by diazepam and scopolamine. Furthermore, it reversed aging-induced amnesia due to the natural aging of mice, suggesting that the compounds in this plant may prove to be useful in restoring memory in older individuals as well as in patients with age-associated dementia.
Guggulu is an oleogum resin exuding from the cracks and fissures in the bark or from incisions from several different plant species, including Commiphora mukul. Guggulu contains ferulic acids, phenols, and other non-phenolic aromatic acids that are potent scavengers of superoxide radicals and could potentially be of importance for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and other oxidative stress-related disease. The gum resin has been used for thousands of years in the treatment of arthritis, inflammation, obesity, and disorders of lipid metabolism.
A recent study demonstrated that gugulipid has a significant protective effect against the streptozotocin-induced memory deficit model of dementia; the effect can be attributed to its cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, and anti-acetylcholine esterase activity. These observations suggest gugulipid as a potential anti-dementia drug.
Administration of Ayurvedic herbs
The biggest challenge to drug delivery into the CNS is bypassing the blood-brain barrier (BBB) as it limits access to the CNS. Ayurveda relies on some novel methods of administering herbs or their preparations (or both) to treat CNS disorders.
One novel method of herbal delivery, called 'NASYA', involves intranasal delivery of dry herbal powders or medicated oils and is a practical, non-invasive, rapid, and simple method to deliver the therapeutic agents into the CNS. Intranasal administration offers numerous benefits for drug delivery into the CNS, and interest in this non-invasive route of administration has increased. The delivery is rapid, bypasses the BBB, and directly targets the CNS, thereby reducing systemic exposure and side effects.
A second, simple method of administration involves application of the medicated oil on the body and Massage the areas with gentle or deep hand strokes. It is not clear whether this technique facilitates the transport and movement of the herbal components through the BBB. Indirect evidence from recent studies points to such an exciting possibility. Significant brain functional activation changes together with increased cerebral blood flow were observed in participants who received a massage. Massage reduced the levels of stress-related serum cortisol, arginine vasopressin, and salivary stress protein chromogranin A with concomitant increases in circulating lymphocytes and regional cerebral blood flow . It is tempting to speculate that, in addition to the above-mentioned hormonal changes, application of medicated oil followed by a gentle massage could relax the tight junctions between endothelial cells in the CNS vessels and facilitate the entry of solutes and other components into the CNS.
Ayurvedic procedures like Shirodhara (gentle dripping of the medicated oil on the forehead), Shirobasti (a special leather cap is placed over the shaved head of a patient and medicated oil is poured and retained over the head for 30 to 45 minutes), ShiroAbhyanga (medicated oil is smeared on the head followed by a gentle massage), and ShiroSeka (medicated oil is poured over the head in a continuous stream) may also influence hormonal and cerebral blood flow levels to a degree similar to that of Ayurvedic massage as mentioned above.
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