Essential oil extract from the leaves of a Brazilian plant can protect nerve cells from damage and prevent progressive physical impairment in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease, a study shows.
The study, “Eplingiella fruticosa leaf essential oil complexed with β-cyclodextrin produces a superior neuroprotective and behavioral profile in a mice model of Parkinson’s disease,” was published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.
Oxidative stress — an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of cells to detoxify them — can promote cellular damage. These free radicals, or reactive oxygen species, are harmful to the cells and are associated with a number of diseases, including Parkinson’s. Consequently, the use of antioxidant agents is seen as a potential therapeutic strategy.
Eplingiella fruticosa, popularly known as alecrim de tabuleiro (or board rosemary), is a native Brazilian plant that has been used as both an aromatic herb as well as as a medicinal plant in traditional medicine.
Previous studies have shown that its essential oils have analgesic, vasorelaxant, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Given the broad spectrum of therapeutic activities it holds, the researchers here explored the potential of the essential oil derived from the Eplingiella’s leaves to treat Parkinson’s disease.
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Mice with induced Parkinson’s disease were treated with the leaves’ herbal extract alone (EPL) or mixed with β-cyclodextrin (EPL-βCD) — a compound known to enhance the pharmacological profile of essential oils.
Treatment with the essential oil extract alone was found to delay the onset of motor impairment, as determined by onset and duration of catalepsy (behavior immobility) episodes. The addition of β-cyclodextrin enhanced this positive effect, shortening the duration of these episodes throughout treatment.
When researchers looked at the frequency of oral dyskinesia (involuntary repetitive movements of the mouth), the essential oil alone did not have any effect. However, when combined with β-cyclodextrin, it reduced oral dyskinesia.
Animals treated with EPL-βCD were also able to walk longer distances and spent more time exploring new objects than untreated mice. Importantly, EPL-βCD protected against the depletion of dopaminergic neurons in the brain.
The team believes that the beneficial neuroprotective effect of the treatment is probably mediated by the extract’s antioxidant proprieties.
“Our results suggest that [the essential oil-β-cyclodextrin mixture] might present an important draft of drug to the study of new compounds for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease,” they wrote.