An exploration of the potential mechanisms and translational potential of five medicinal plants for applications in Alzheimer's disease

Taner Shakir, Ahmed Y Coulibaly, Patrick G Kehoe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review


Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia, and represents a vast worldwide socio-economic burden, and in the absence of a current cure, effective therapeutic strategies are still needed. Cholinergic and cerebral blood flow deficits, excessive levels of oxidative stress, neuroinflammation and glutamate excitatory mechanisms are all believed to contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scoparia dulcis, Catharanthus roseus, Sesamum indicum, Erythrina senegalensis and Vigna unguiculata represent five plants that have been used as traditional medicines for the treatment of AD in certain cultures. Review of the scientific literature was conducted to explore the properties of these plants that might be beneficial and explain what would be perceived by many to be largely anecdotal evidence of their benefit. All plants were found to possess varying levels of anti-oxidant capability. Scoparia dulcis was also found to potentiate nerve growth factor-like effects upon cell lines. Catharanthus roseus appears to inhibit acetylcholinesterase with relatively high potency, while Sesamum indicum demonstrated the strongest antioxidant ability. Comparisons with currently used plant derived therapeutics illustrate how these plants may be likely to have some therapeutic benefits in AD. The evidence presented also highlights how appropriate dietary supplementation with some of these plants in various cultural settings might have effects analogous or complementary to the so-called protective Mediterranean diet. However, prior to embarking on making any formal recommendations to this end, further rigorous evaluation is needed to better elucidate the breadth and potential toxicological aspects of medicinal properties harboured by these plants. This would be vital to ensuring a more informed and safe delivery of preparations of these plants if they were to be considered as a form of dietary supplementation and where appropriate, how these might interact with more formally established therapies in relation to AD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-88
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Journal of Neurodegenerative Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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