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Pharmacopsychiatry. 2001 Mar;34(2):45-9.

Serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine involvement in the antidepressant action of hypericum perforatum.

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Institute of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Messina, Torre Biologica Policlinico Universitario, Italy.


Hypericum perforatum is considered an effective alternative to the synthetic antidepressants in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression. Recently, we showed that the effects on neurotransmitter contents in different brain regions of laboratory animals are more evident after administration of hypericum extracts containing a higher concentration of flavonoids, thus suggesting that these compounds are important in the antidepressant action of hypericum perforatum. We studied the effects of Ph-50, a hypericum extract standardized to flavonoids (50%) and containing 0.3% hypericin and 4.5% hyperforin on brain serotonin content, norepinephrine and dopamine by a high-performance liquid chromatography method in discrete brain areas (cortex, diencephalon and brainstem) in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Moreover, we evaluated the effects of Ph-50 alone or in association with sulpiride (a dopamine receptor antagonist), metergoline (a serotonin receptor antagonist) and 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OH-DA, destroying norepinephrine-containing neurons) using a forced-swimming test in the rat. Hypericum extract (Ph-50; 250-500 mg/kg) with acute oral administration enhanced serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine content in the brain and reduced the immobility time of rats in the forced-swimming test. Sulpiride, metergoline and 6-OH-DA significantly increased the period of immobility in the forced-swimming test for the rats receiving hypericum extract (Ph-50). The results indicate that the neurotransmitters studied could be involved in the anti-immobility effects of hypericum, and suggest that its antidepressant action is probably mediated by serotonergic, noradrenergic and dopaminergic system activation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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