AJND Copyright © Since 2012-All rights reserved. Published by e-Century Publishing Corporation, Madison, WI 53711, USA
Am J Neurodegener Dis 2013;2(2):70-88

Review Article
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

School of Medical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK; Laboratoire de Biochimie and Chimie Appliquées
(LABIOCA), UFR/SVT, University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Africa; Dementia Research Group, School of Clinical
Sciences, University of Bristol, Frenchay Day Hospital, Bristol, UK

Received May 8, 2013; Accepted May 29, 2013; Epub June 21, 2013; Published July 1, 2013

Abstract: 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. (AJND1305003).

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, oxidative stress, hypertension, diabetes, neuroprotective, cholinergic, scoparia dulcis,
catharanthus roseus, sesamum indicum, erythrina senegalensis, vigna unguiculata

Address correspondence to: Dr. Patrick Kehoe, Dementia Research Group, John James Laboratories, Frenchay
Hospital, School of Clinical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS16 1LE, UK. E-mail: Patrick.Kehoe@bristol.ac.uk