A study of the antidepressant activity
of Hypericum perforatum on animal models

Gambarana C, Tolu PL, Masi F, Rinaldi M,
Giachetti D, Morazzoni P, De Montis MG.
Department of Neuroscience,
University of Siena, Italy.
Pharmacopsychiatry 2001 Jul; 34 Suppl 1:S42-4


Whe treatment of non-selected depressed patients with a hydro-alcoholic extract of Hypericum perforatum has been reported to have an efficacy similar to that of classical antidepressants. The effects of H. perforatum on three animal depression models have been studied: (a) an acute form of escape deficit (ED) induced by unavoidable stress; (b) a chronic model of ED, which can be maintained by the administration of mild stressors on alternate days; (c) a model of anhedonia based on the finding that repeated stressors prevent the development of appetitive behavior induced by vanilla sugar in satiated rats fed ad libitum. H. perforatum: (i) acutely protects animals from the sequelae of unavoidable stress; (ii) reverts the chronic escape deficit state maintained by repeated stressors and (iii) preserves the animal's capacity to acquire motivated appetitive behavior. Exposure to chronic stress not only induces escape deficit, but also decreases extraneuronal levels of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens shell; both behavioral and neurochemical effects are reverted by long-term treatment with antidepressants. Three-week treatment with H. perforatum reverted the chronic stress effect on extraneuronal dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. A consistent body of data in the literature suggests that, among the components of H. perforatum extract, hyperforin is the compound (or one of the compounds) responsible for the antidepressant activity. We compared the efficacy of the total extract with the efficacy of hyperforin after p.o. administration. In the acute-escape deficit model, hyperforin showed a potency of about ten times that of the total extract in protecting rats from the sequelae of unavoidable stress. Thus, hyperforin appears to be the most likely active component responsible for the antidepressant activity of H. perforatum.

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