Aloysia (Aloysia polystachya): The Antidepressant, Anti-Anxiety Herb

nutrition diet healthAloysia (Aloysia polystachya) is a flowering plant that belongs to the Verbenaceae family. Aloysia as a group of plants are commonly known as beebrushes and are native to subtropical South America. Aloysia grows to about 15 meters in height and is widely used and known about in Paraguayan traditional medicine, where it is referred to a burrito. The main use for aloysia is in digestive and respiratory complaints, but it is also used as a sedative and mood elevating compound. Interestingly, the Verbenaceae family of which Aloysia is a member, also includes vervain, another plant that is useful in the treatment of mood disorders. Many species of aloysia are aromatic, and Aloysia polystachya leaves contains a volatile oil, extracts of which have been shown to contain the monoterpenes carvone, carvacrol, carvone, eucarvone, limonene, α-pinene, sabinene, a-thujone, β-thujone and isothujone. These volatile oils may be partly responsible for the mood elevating effects of aloysia, although other compounds may contribute.

aloysia anxiety depression

Aloysia (Aloysia polystachya) (pictured) has been demonstrated to have mood elevating effects in animals. These effects include antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. Aloysia contains a number of chemicals that could explain its mood elevating effects and these include a number of monoterpenes present in the volatile oils of the leaves. Both thujone and carvone have been speculated to confer some of the mood elevating effects of the herb. The main component of extracts of aloysia are terpenes and phenolic compounds. Some researchers have not detected high levels of flavonoids in aloysia extracts. Therefore components other than flavonoids may be responsible for the mood elevating effects of the herb.

The anxiolytic effects of aloysia have been demonstrated in mice. For example, extracts of aloysia were administered to mice in both a single dose and over a period of time and both protocols caused a significant reduction in the anxiety of the mice when exposed to stressful conditions. It was also noted by the researchers that the anxiolytic effects were higher in the mice when they were repeatedly administered the aloysia extracts. In another study, the mood elevating effects of aloysia were investigated in rats. The results of the study showed that the extracts of aloysia had significant antidepressant, anxiolytic and sedative effects in the rats. This occurred at a number of different doses but the effect was more pronounced at the higher doses. In this regard aloysia was comparable to the antidepressant drugs imipramine and fluoxetine, as well as the anxiolytic drug diazepam in its effects. Therefore animals studies confirm the traditional use of aloysia as a mood elevating herb, which may also have sedative effects.

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Hellion-Ibarrola, M. C., Ibarrola, D. A., Montalbetti, Y., Kennedy, M. L., Heinichen, O., Campuzano, M., Ferro, E. A., Alvarenga, N., Tortoriello, J., De Lima, T. C. M. and Mora, S. 2008. The antidepressant-like effects of Aloysia polystachya (Griseb.) Moldenke (Verbenaceae) in mice. Phytomedicine. 15: 478-483
Mora, S., Dıaz-Veliz, G., Millan, R., Lungenstrass, H., Quiros, S., Coto-Morales, T. and Hellion-Ibarrola, M.C. 2005. Anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects of the hydroalcoholic extract from Aloysia polystachya in rats. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behaviour. 82: 373–378

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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