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Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 1999 Dec;9(6):461-8.

Comparison of hypericum extracts with imipramine and fluoxetine in animal models of depression and alcoholism.

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  • 1CNS Research, Bayer AG, Wuppertal, Germany.


Clinical evidence suggests that hypericum extracts (Hypericum perforatum L., St. John's wort) have antidepressive properties and may offer an interesting alternative for the treatment of mood disorders. In addition, hypericum extracts, as well as standard antidepressants such as the tricyclic, impramine, and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, fluoxetine, have been reported to be of therapeutic benefit in the treatment of alcoholism, as these compounds may reduce alcohol craving and/or intake in particular subgroups of patients. It was the aim of the present study to compare the effects of hypericum extracts with those of imipramine and fluoxetine in the rat forced swimming test (RFST), a model of depression, as well as in cAA rats, a genetic model of alcoholism. In the RFST, triple i.p. administration of imipramine (3-30 mg/kg) and fluoxetine (3-30 mg/kg) induced a dose-dependent reduction in immobility: the minimal effective dose (MED) being 30 and 10 mg/kg, and the maximal effect being 50% and 57% immobility reduction, for imipramine and fluoxetine, respectively. In this test, the hypericum extracts Ze 117 (Remotiv) and LI 160 (Jarsin) also induced a statistically significant reduction of immobility when administered under the same application schedule (5-40 mg/kg, i.p., triple application). In the case of the hypericum extracts the dose-response relationship was inverted U-shaped with a MED value of 20 mg/kg and a maximal effect of 41% and 32% immobility reduction, for Ze 117 and LI 160, respectively. Interestingly, the anti-immobility effects tended to be more pronounced after subacute (1 week, B.I.D.) treatment with 10 mg/kg of imipramine, fluoxetine, or Ze 117, as compared with acute treatment. This phenomenon is in accordance with clinical experience and suggests that repeated treatment is required for full development of antidepressive effects. In the alcohol-preferring cAA rats, acute i.p. administration of imipramine (3-30 mg/kg), fluoxetine (1-10 mg/kg) and Ze 117 (10-40 mg/kg) dose-dependently reduced alcohol intake in a 12-h limited access two-bottle [ethanol 10% (v/v) versus water] choice procedure: with MED values of 30, 5 and 20 mg/kg, respectively. The anti-alcohol effects of fluoxetine and Ze 1-17 appeared to be specific, as reductions in alcohol intake coincided with reductions in alcohol preference. The present study suggests that hypericum extracts have antidepressant-like properties which resemble those of clinically established antidepressants, and that Remotiv may be an interesting adjunct for the treatment of alcoholism.

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