Gotu Kola Extract and Compound Soothe Stress-Induced Depression in Rats

Greg Howard
6th May, 2024

Gotu Kola Extract and Compound Soothe Stress-Induced Depression in Rats

Image Source: Vincent M.A. Janssen (photographer)

Key Findings

  • Study in young rats shows Centella asiatica may reduce depression-like behaviors caused by early-life stress
  • The plant extract and its component, madecassic acid, lowered brain inflammation and oxidative stress
  • These findings suggest Centella asiatica could be a new natural treatment option for depression
Understanding the intricacies of major depressive disorder (MDD) is crucial as it remains a leading cause of disability worldwide. Stress, particularly maternal deprivation (MD) in early life, has been identified as a significant factor contributing to the development of MDD. Traditional medications for depression often come with a range of side effects, highlighting the need for alternative treatments. A recent study from the Federal University of Fronteira Sul[1] sheds light on the potential therapeutic effects of Centella asiatica, a plant with neuroprotective properties, in addressing depressive-like behavior and associated biological changes in young rats subjected to MD. The study focused on the impact of MD, a stressor where young rats were separated from their mother for three hours daily over ten days. This model is relevant as early-life stress has been shown to influence the genetic programming of brain circuits involved in emotional and cognitive responses to stress later in life[2]. The researchers then examined whether treatment with Centella asiatica extract and its active component, madecassic acid, could mitigate depressive-like behaviors and biological markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in these animals when they reached adulthood. To assess the potential antidepressant effects of Centella asiatica, the animals underwent behavioral tests, including the open field test for locomotor activity and the forced swimming test for behavioral despair, which is a common method for evaluating depressive-like states in animals[3]. Following these tests, the animals were euthanized, and their hippocampus and serum were analyzed for inflammatory cytokines and oxidative markers. The findings were promising: both Centella asiatica extract and madecassic acid appeared to reverse or reduce the depressive-like behaviors observed in the MD rats. Furthermore, they also decreased inflammation in the hippocampus and oxidative stress in both the hippocampus and serum. These results are consistent with earlier research indicating that inflammation and oxidative stress are key biological pathways involved in the development of depression[4]. Interestingly, the study aligns with previous findings that chronic antidepressant treatment can prevent anhedonia, another core symptom of depression, in stressed animals[3]. It also supports the notion that targeting inflammation may offer new opportunities for preventing and treating depression[4]. The study expands our understanding of the role of BDNF, a molecule implicated in depression and the mechanism of antidepressants[3],[5], by suggesting that plants like Centella asiatica might exert their effects through pathways involving anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. The research also resonates with the concept that early-life stress can lead to epigenetic changes influencing the risk of developing MDD later in life[5]. The study's design reflects the three-hit concept of vulnerability and resilience, considering genetic predisposition, early-life environment, and later-life environment as factors that interact to influence mental health outcomes[2]. In conclusion, the study by the Federal University of Fronteira Sul offers compelling evidence that Centella asiatica and madecassic acid have potential antidepressant properties. By reducing depressive-like behaviors and addressing biological markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, these natural compounds could represent a valuable addition to the current treatment options for MDD. This research not only underscores the importance of early-life experiences in shaping mental health but also points to the potential of plant-based therapies in mitigating the long-term effects of early stressors.

MedicineMental HealthPlant Science


Main Study

1) Hydroalcoholic Extract of Centella asiatica and Madecassic Acid Reverse Depressive-Like Behaviors, Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Adult Rats Submitted to Stress in Early Life.

Published 4th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) The three-hit concept of vulnerability and resilience: toward understanding adaptation to early-life adversity outcome.

3) Regulation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the chronic unpredictable stress rat model and the effects of chronic antidepressant treatment.

4) From stress to inflammation and major depressive disorder: a social signal transduction theory of depression.

5) Epigenetic and epistatic interactions between serotonin transporter and brain-derived neurotrophic factor genetic polymorphism: insights in depression.

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