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      Medicinal plants for the treatment of “nervios”, anxiety, and depression in Mexican Traditional Medicine


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          The term “nervios” is referred as a folk illness recognized by Mexican Traditional Medicine, and also widely reported across many countries in Latin America. “Nervios” are characterized by a “state of bodily and mental unrest”, which decreases the ability to achieve daily goals. The causes are varied; in fact, any situation that alters the emotional state or mood is interpreted as a possible triggering agent. Depression and anxiety are psychiatric disorders, which share symptoms, or can be included in the same group of disorders with “nervios”. The therapies are designed to reassure health, i.e. “calm the nerves”. For this propose, the oral administration of plants infusions is common. In this review we compile information regarding the plants used for the treatment of “nervios” in México, along with those for which reports of anxiolytic or/and antidepressive activity exist. We found 92 plant species used in folk medicine for the treatment of “nervios”, among these, sixteen have been studied experimentally. The most studied plant is Galphimia glauca Cav., Malpighiaceae, which current clinical studies have validated its efficacy in patients, and their active components, the triterpenes galphimine A, B, and C, identified. Interestingly only nine plants were found to be reported in folk medicine for the treatment of sadness or/and depression, but their antidepressant activity has not been investigated. However, among the plants used in folk medicine for treatment of “nervios”, several, as Litsea glaucescens Kunth, Lauraceae, have been proven to show antidepressant activity in experimental models, and some of their active compounds have been determined. These species could be a potential source of compounds with activity in the central nervous system.

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          Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM

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            The scientific basis for the reputed activity of Valerian.

            P Houghton (1999)
            The underground organs of members of the genus Valeriana (Valerianaceae), as well as related genera such as Nardostachys, are used in the traditional medicine of many cultures as mild sedatives and tranquillizers and to aid the induction of sleep. V. officinalis is the species most commonly used in northern Europe and still retains its official pharmacopoeial status although it is most commonly encountered as an ingredient of herbal medicines. This plant is still the subject of considerable research aimed at establishing the chemical and pharmacological basis of the activity which has been clearly shown in a number of animal and clinical studies. The constituents of the volatile oil are very variable due to population differences in genetics and to environmental factors. The major constituents include the monoterpene bornyl acetate and the sesquiterpene valerenic acid, which is characteristic of the species, in addition to other types of sesquiterpene. Some of these have been shown to have a direct action on the amygdaloid body of the brain and valerenic acid has been shown to inhibit enzyme-induced breakdown of GABA in the brain resulting in sedation. The non-volatile monoterpenes known as valepotriates were first isolated in 1966 and contribute to the overall activity by possessing sedative activity based on the CNS although the mode of action is not clearly known. The valepotriates themselves act as prodrugs which are transformed into homobaldrinal which has been shown to reduce the spontaneous motility of mice. More recent studies have shown that aqueous extracts of the roots contain appreciable amounts of GABA which could directly cause sedation but there is some controversy surrounding the bioavailability of this compound. Another recent finding is the presence of a lignan, hydroxypinoresinol, and its ability to bind to benzodiazepine receptors. Valerian is a good example of both the negative and positive aspects of herbal drugs. The considerable variation in its composition and content as well as the instability of some of its constituents pose serious problems for standardization but the range of components which contribute to its overall activity suggest that it may correct a variety of underlying causes of conditions which necessitate a general sedative or tranquilizing effect.
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                Author and article information

                Role: ND
                Role: ND
                Role: ND
                Revista Brasileira de Farmacognosia
                Rev. bras. farmacogn.
                Sociedade Brasileira de Farmacognosia (Curitiba )
                October 2014
                : 24
                : 5
                : 591-608
                [1 ] Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Iztapalapa Mexico
                [2 ] Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México Mexico



                SciELO Brazil

                Self URI (journal page): http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_serial&pid=0102-695X&lng=en

                Pharmacology & Pharmaceutical medicine
                Mexican medicinal plants,Nervios,Anxiety,Depression,Mexican traditional medicine


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