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Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011; 8(5 Suppl): 130–139.
Published online Jul 3, 2011. doi:  10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.19
PMCID: PMC3252713
Anxiolytic Activity Evaluation of Four Medicinal Plants from Cameroon
E Ngo Bum,corresponding author1 S Soudi,2 E R Ayissi,2 C Dong,2 N H Lakoulo,2 F Maidawa,2 P F E Seke,2 L D Nanga,2 G S Taiwe,2 T Dimo,2 Njifutie Njikam,3 A Rakotonirina,2 S V Rakotonirina,2 and A Kamanyi2
1Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, University of Ngaoundéré, P.O. Box 454 Ngaoundéré, Cameroon
2Department of Animal Biology and Physiology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Yaoundé I, P.O. Box 812 Yaoundé, Cameroon
3Department of Animal Biology and Physiology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Dschang, Cameroon
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
* Email:eli_bum/at/yahoo.fr
Afrormosia laxiflora (A. laxiflora), Chenopodium ambrosioides (C. ambrosioides), Microglossa pyrifolia (M. pyrifolia) and Mimosa pudica (M. pudica) are plants used in traditional medicine in Cameroon to treat insomnia, epilepsy, anxiety, and agitation. They were evaluated for their anxiolytic like activity in mice. Animal models (elevated plus maze and stress-induced hyperthermia tests) were used. The four plants showed anxiolytic activity. In stress-induced hyperthermia test, A. laxiflora, C. ambrosioides, M. pyrifolia and M. pudica significantly antagonised the increase of temperature. ΔT° decreased from 0.75°C in the control group to 0.36°C at the dose of 110 mg/kg for A. laxiflora; from 1°C in the control group to −1.1°C at the dose of 120 mg/kg for C. ambrosioides; from 1.7°C in the control group to 0.2°C at the dose of 128 mg/kg for M. pyrifolia and from 1.3°C in the control group to 0.5°C at the dose of 180 mg/kg for M. pudica. In the elevated plus maze test, the four plants increased the number of entries into, percentage of entries into, and percentage of time in open arms. A. laxiflora, C. ambrosioides and M. pudica also reduced the percentage of entries and time in closed arms. In addition, C. ambrosioides, M. pyrifolia and M. pudica showed antipyretic activity by reducing the body temperature. The results suggested that C. ambrosioides, M. pyrifolia and M. pudica posses anxiolytic-like and antipyretic activities while A. laxiflora possesses only anxiolytic-like properties. These plants could be helpful in the treatment of anxiety and fever in traditional medicine in Cameroon.
Keywords: Anxiety, Agitation, Medicinal plants, Traditional medicine
Afrormosia laxiflora (Benth) Harms (Fabaceae), Chenopodium ambrosioides Linn (Chenopodiaceae), Microglossa pyrifolia Kuntze (Lam) (Asteraceae) and Mimosa pudica Linn (Mimosaceae), are plants that are being used empirically in traditional medicine in Cameroon and Africa to treat various diseases: agitation, anxiety, insomnia, convulsions, epilepsy, headaches, rheumatism, pains, cold, infectious diseases, diphtheria, worms, malaria, jaundice, yellow fever, diarrhea, dysenteries, amoeba, ulcer, wounds, gonorrhea, constipation, asthma and edema according to the literature and our Traditional Healers (Adjanohoun et al., 1996; Arbonnier, 2000; Dalziel, 1937; Ngo Bum et al., 2009a; Pousset, 1989). The literature also showed a lot of pharmacological studies done with these plants (Amalraj and Ignacimuthu, 2002; Benie and Thieulant, 2004; Ganguly et al., 2007; Gilliy et al., 2008; Haruna, 2000; Jardin et al., 2008; Kumar et al., 2007; Monzote et al., 2007; Ngo Bum et al., 2004; Ngo Bum et al., 2009a; Valsala and Karpagaganapathy 2002). Some of these plants are shown to possess anticonvulsant and sedative properties (Ngo Bum et al., 2004; Ngo Bum et al., 2009a). As it appeared, nothing is done to study their anxiolytic properties though anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorders with very high co-morbidity and severe impact on quality of life (Craske and Waters, 2005; Grant et al., 2005; Kessler, 2007; Kessler et al., 2005). This study was undertaken to evaluate the anxiolytic activity of these plants used also in the treatment of agitations and anxiety in traditional medicine in Africa, particularly in Cameroon.
Plant material
A voucher specimen of each of these plants - A. laxiflora (92020/HNC), C. ambrosioides (85040/HNC), M. pyrifolia (4872/HNC) and M. pudica (54102/HNC) - was authenticated and deposited at the National Herbarium of Cameroon in Yaoundé. For each plan, an amount of plant powder was macerated for 1 h in 50 ml distilled water. The mixture was boiled for 20 min. After cooling, the supernatant (decoction) was collected and filtered using Watman filter paper N° 1. A stock solution of each plant was diluted in distilled water to prepare less concentrated solutions. The decoctions were prepared daily according to the instructions of Traditional Healers. In another experiment, the decoction of each plant was evaporated to dryness and the yield of extraction was calculated (Table 1).
Table 1
Table 1
Details of preparation of plant for intraperitoneal administration.
Animals
Naíve adult male mice, Mus musculus Swiss, 22 ± 2 g and two months old obtained from the animal laboratory of our university were used. Animals were housed in standard cages at 25°C, on a 12/12 hour-light-dark cycle. They were supplied with food and water ad libitum. For each test, mice were divided into 6 groups. One negative control group received distilled water as vehicle, one positive control group received an appropriate well known anxiolytic substance as a reference, and four test groups received different doses of plant extracts. Treatments were administered in a volume of 10 ml/kg of mice body weight. Specific substances were used as positive control according to the methods. Trials were conducted randomly with respect to treatment condition. Blinded animal experiments were carried out in accordance with the nationally (N° FWA-IRB00001954) accepted principles for laboratory animal use and care and the USNRC (1996) Guide for the care and use of Laboratory Animals, US National Research Council, Washington, D.C., United States of America.
Elevated Plus Maze (EPM) test
The apparatus comprise two open arms (16 cm × 5 cm) and two closed arms (16 cm × 5 cm × 10 cm) that extended from a common central platform (5 cm × 5 cm). The entire maze was elevated to a height of 50 cm above floor level. Group I (negative control) was treated with vehicle. Groups II to V (test groups) were treated with 4 doses of the plants extracts. Group VI treated with diazepam, 3 mg/kg ip was used as positive control. One hour after treatment, the mice were individually placed on the EPM centre platform facing an open arm and observed for 5 min (Bourin et al., 2001; Lister, 1987, Ngo Bum et al., 2009b). The number of entries by each animal into open or closed arms and the time spent by each animal in either open or closed arms (conventional parameters) were recorded with stopwatches. The inner faces of closed arms and the platform were cleaned with alcohol after each mouse recording.
Stress-Induced Hyperthermia (SIH) test
Naíve animals were marked and housed 10 per treatment or cage. Mice were removed from the cage one after the other in a precise order and treated with vehicle for the negative control group, phenobarbital (20 mg/kg, i.p.) for the positive control group, and one of the four doses of plant extracts for the test groups. Animals within a given cage were consecutively treated at 1 min intervals. After 60 min, mice were again consecutively removed from the cage (1-minute interval) and their body (rectal) temperature was recorded. This experiment is based on the fact that among animals in the same cage, mice removed later have a higher body temperature than those removed earlier (Borsini et al., 1989; Lecci et al., 1990). SIH (ΔT°) was defined as the difference between the mean temperature of the first three mice and the mean temperature of the last three mice.
Statistical analysis
The values of the negative control group were compared to the values of the tested groups and positive control group in each test. The analyses of variance (ANOVAs) followed by Dunnett's (HSD) test were used. A p value <0.05 was considered significant.
Chemicals
Diazépam: (Valium®, was from Roche, Neuilly, France); Phénobarbital (Sigma Aldrich Inc., St Louis, MO, USA)
Effect of A. laxiflora
In EPM, A. laxiflora increased significantly the number of entries into open arms from 0.0 in the control group to 1.9 at the dose of 220 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 4.8; p < 0.003] (Table 2). The percentage of entries into open arms was dose dependently increased from 0.0% in the control group to 30.6% at the dose of 220 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 6.1; p < 0.002], as well as the percentage of time spent in open arms from 0.0% in the control group to 15.7% at the dose of 220 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 113; p < 0.0001] (Fig 1). As expected for a positive control group, diazepam induced an increase in the percentage of entries and time in open arms. A. laxiflora also induced a light reduction in the percentage of entries and time in closed arms [F(6,29) = 4.4; p < 0.002] and [F(6,29) = 6.1; p < 0.001], respectively (Fig 2). In addition, the ratio of open entries/total entries versus closed entries/total entries strongly and significantly increased with the doses of the decoction [F(6,29) = 4; p < 0.001] (Table 2).
Table 2
Table 2
The effect of A. laxiflora, Open arms entries, closed arms entries, total arm entries and ratio open arms entries/total arms entries (OE/TE) versus closed arms entries/total arms entries (CE/TE) in EPM test; and body temperature in SIH test.
Figure 1
Figure 1
Effect of A. laxiflora in mice placed on EPM; Open arms entries and time
Figure 2
Figure 2
Effect of A. laxiflora in mice placed on EPM; Closed arms entries and time
In SIH test, like phenobarbital, A. laxiflora reduced ΔT° the difference of temperature between the first three mice and the last three mice in a dose dependent manner from 0.75°C in the control group to 0.36°C at the dose of 110 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 18.5; p < 0.0001] (Fig 3). But A. laxiflora did not affect the body temperature (Table 2).
Figure 3
Figure 3
Effect of A. laxiflora in SIH
Effect of C. ambrosioides
In EPM, C. ambrosioides induced a significant increase in the number of open arms entries from 2.0 in the control group to 3.4 at the dose of 120 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 28; p < 0.0001] (Table 3). The percentage of entries into open arms was dose dependently increased from 26.4% in the control group to 51% at the dose of 120 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 65; p < 0.0001], as well as the percentage of time spent in open arms from 7.9 % in the control group to 31.8% at the dose of 120 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 78; p < 0.0001] (Fig 4). Diazepam also induced an increase in the percentage of entries and time in open arms. Like diazepam, C. ambrosioides induced a significant reduction in the percentage of entries and time in closed arms from 73.5% and 62.5% in the control group to 48.9% and 24.7% at the dose of 120 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 9.2; p < 0.001] and [F(6,29) = 102; p < 0.0001], respectively (Fig 5). Here also, the ratio of open entries/total entries versus closed entries/total entries strongly and significantly increased with the doses of the decoction [F(6,29) = 14; p < 0.001] (Table 3). In SIH, like phenobarbital, C. ambrosioides strongly reduced ΔT° from 1.1°C in the control group to −1.1°C at the dose of 120 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 88; p < 0.0001] (Fig 6). In addition, C. ambrosioides strongly decreased the body temperature from 36.3°C in the control group to 31.0°C at the dose of 40 mg/kg [F(6,53) = 92; p < 0.0001] (Table 3).
Table 3
Table 3
The effect of C. ambrosioides, Open arms entries, closed arms entries, total arm entries and ratio open arms entries/total arms entries (OE/TE) versus closed arms entries/total arms entries (CE/TE) in EPM test; and body temperature in SIH test.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Effect of C. ambrosioides in mice placed on EPM; Open arms entries and time.
Figure 5
Figure 5
Effect of C. ambrosioides in mice placed on EPM; Closed arms entries and time.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Effect of C. ambrosioides In SIH
Effect of M. pyrifolia
In EPM M. pyrifolia increased the number of open arms entries from 0.0 in the control group to 1.2 at the dose of 64 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 89; p < 0.0001] (Table 4). The percentage of entries into open arms was increased from 0.0% in the control group to 50.0% at the dose of 64 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 15; p < 0.0001], as well as the percentage of time in open arms from 0.0% in the control group to 6.3% [F(6,29) = 108; p < 0.0001] (Fig 7). Diazepam also induced an increase in the percentage of entries and time in open arms. The percentage of time in closed arms was not affected by M. pyrifolia (Fig 8).
Table 4
Table 4
The effect of M. pyrifolia, Open arms entries, closed arms entries, total arm entries and ratio open arms entries/total arms entries (OE/TE) versus closed arms entries/total arms entries (CE/TE) in EPM test; and body temperature in SIH test.
Figure 7
Figure 7
Effect of M. pyrifolia in mice placed on EPM; Open arms entries and time.
Figure 8
Figure 8
Effect of M. pyrifolia in mice placed on EPM; Closed arms entries and time.
In SIH, M. pyrifolia produced in a dose dependent manner a very strong reduction of ΔT° from 1.7°C in the control group to 0.2°C at the dose of 128 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 52; p < 0.0001] (Fig 9). In addition, M. pyrifolia decreased the body temperature from 29.4°C in the control group to 22.6°C at the dose of 128 mg/kg [F(6,53) = 42; p < 0.0001] (Table 4).
Figure 9
Figure 9
Effect of M. pyrifolia in SIH
Effect of M. pudica
In EPM, M. pudica significantly increased the number of open arms entries from 0.0 in the control group to 1.1 at the dose of 60 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 3.3; p < 0.05] (Table 5). The percentage of entries into open arms was dose dependently increased from 0% in the control group to 53.3% at the dose of 180 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 10; p < 0.0001], as well as the percentage of time in open arms from 0.0% in the control group to 38.3% at the dose of 60 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 10.2; p < 0.0001] (Fig 10). M. pudica at the dose of 180 mg/kg induced a significant reduction in the percentage of entries and time in closed arms from 100% and 95.6% in the control group to 46.6% and 5.8% at the dose of 180 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 9.2; p < 0.001] and [F(6,29) = 39.2; p < 0.0001], respectively (Fig 11). In addition, the ratio of open entries/total entries versus closed entries/total entries strongly and significantly increased with the doses of the decoction [F(6,29) = 4; p < 0.001] (Table 5).
Table 5
Table 5
The effect of M. pudica, Open arms entries, closed arms entries, total arm entries and ratio open arms entries/total arms entries (OE/TE) versus closed arms entries/total arms entries (CE/TE) in EPM test; and body temperature in SIH test.
Figure 10
Figure 10
Effect of M. pudica in mice placed on EPM; Open arms entries and time.
Figure 11
Figure 11
Effect of M. pudica in mice placed on EPM; Closed arms entries and time.
In SIH, M. pudica reduced ΔT° in a dose dependent manner from 1.3°C in the control group to 0.5°C at the dose of 180 mg/kg [F(6,29) = 39.2; p < 0.0001] (Fig 12). The extract also decreased the mice body temperature from 30.5°C in the control group to 28.4°C at the dose of 18 mg/kg (Table 5).
Figure 12
Figure 12
Effect of M. pudica in SIH
The extracts of A. laxiflora, C. ambrosioides, M. pyrifolia and M. pudica antagonized in a dose-dependent manner the hyperthermia induced by stress. This antagonism, close to the effect of phenobarbital, suggests the presence of anxiolytic-like activity in the four plants, since anxiolytic drugs induce inhibition of SIH (Bouwknecht et al., 2007; Ngo Bum et al., 2009b; Olivier et al., 2003; Vinkers et al., 2008). The anxiolytic-like activity was also found in the EPM test where the four plants increased the number of entries into, the percentage of entries and time in open arms, and A. laxiflora, C. ambrosioides and M. pudica reduced in addition the percentage of closed arms entries and time (Lister, 1987; Ngo Bum et al., 2009b; Rodgers et al., 1997). The correlation of the increase in time spent in open arms with the increase in the number of entries in open arms supported the anxiolytic-like activity of the four plants (Lister, 1987; Rodgers et al., 1997). With the four plants, the fact that the entries into open arms were increasing, while the total entries were decreasing or not changing suggested an increase of exploratory activity not related to the locomotion. The increase of the exploration activity, revealed also by the increase of the ratio OE/TE vs CE/TE suggested anxiolytic activity as anti-anxiety drugs decrease the stress-induced the inhibition of exploratory behaviour (File and Wardill 1975; Jenck et al., 1997; Ngo Bum et al., 2009b; Rodgers et al., 1997). The anxiolytic-like activity of these plants could be explained by the presence of some components in the plant extracts interacting with the benzodiazepine/GABAA receptors as agonists, or with the 5-HT1A receptors as agonists, or with the NMDA receptors as antagonists, or with any other mechanisms (Olivier et al., 2003; Tunnicliff, 1991; Vinkers et al., 2008).
In addition, C. ambrosioides, M. pyrifolia and M. pudica showed antipyretic properties which allowed the body temperature to fall in SIH test (Olivier et al., 2003; Sundgren-Andersson et al., 1998). Some studies are ongoing in our laboratory to determine the mechanism of action of these plants.
Conclusion
The purported anxiolytic and/or antipyretic activities of A. laxiflora, C. ambrosioides, M. pyrifolia and M. pudica used in traditional medicine in Cameroon to treat people were demonstrated scientifically. The extracts of C. ambrosioides, M. pyrifolia and M. pudica were shown to posses antipyretic and anxiolytic properties in mice; while the extract of A. laxiflora posses only anxiolytic properties. These properties supported the pertinence of the utilization of these plants in traditional medicine in Cameroon in the treatment of fever, agitations and anxiety.
Aknowledgement
Funding was provided by the University of Ngaoundéré, Cameroon
Abbreviations
CONNegative control
CEclosed arms entries
CTclosed arms time
DIAZdiazepam
EPMElevated plus maze
OEopen arms entries
OTopen arms time
Phenophenobarbital
SIHstress-induced hyperthermia
TEtotal arms entries

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