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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:731385. doi: 10.1155/2013/731385. Epub 2013 Oct 3.

Kai-xin-san, a chinese herbal decoction containing ginseng radix et rhizoma, polygalae radix, acori tatarinowii rhizoma, and poria, stimulates the expression and secretion of neurotrophic factors in cultured astrocytes.

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  • 1Division of Life Science, Center for Chinese Medicine and State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay Road, Hong Kong ; Jiangsu Key Laboratory for High Technology Research of TCM Formulae and Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center of Chinese Medicinal Resources Industrialization, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, China.


Kai-xin-san (KXS), a Chinese herbal decoction prescribed by Sun Simiao in Beiji Qianjin Yaofang about 1400 years ago, contains Ginseng Radix et Rhizoma, Polygalae Radix, Acori Tatarinowii Rhizoma, and Poria. In China, KXS has been used to treat stress-related psychiatric diseases with the symptoms of depression and forgetfulness. Although animal study has supported the antidepression function of KXS, the mechanism in cellular level is still unknown. Here, a chemically standardized water extract of KXS was applied onto cultured astrocytes in exploring the action mechanisms of KXS treatment, which significantly stimulated the expression and secretion of neurotrophic factors, including NGF, BDNF, and GDNF, in a dose-dependent manner: the stimulation was both in mRNA and protein levels. In addition, the water extracts of four individual herbs did not significantly stimulate the expression of neurotrophic factors, which could explain the optimized effect of KXS in a herbal decoction. The KXS-induced expression of neurotrophic factors did not depend on signaling mediated by estrogen receptor or protein kinase. The results suggested that the antidepressant-like action of KXS might be mediated by an increase of expression of neurotrophic factors in astrocytes, which fully supported the clinical usage of this decoction.

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