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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 Jun;75(3):501-12.

Plants and the central nervous system.

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Department of Psychobiology, Paulista School of Medicine, Federal University of São Paulo, Rua: Botucatu, 862 Ed. Ciências Biomédicas, 1o andar, CEP 04023-062, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


This review article draws the attention to the many species of plants possessing activity on the central nervous system (CNS). In fact, they cover the whole spectrum of central activity such as psychoanaleptic, psycholeptic and psychodysleptic effects, and several of these plants are currently used in therapeutics to treat human ailments. Among the psychoanaleptic (stimulant) plants, those utilized by human beings to reduce body weight [Ephedra spp. (Ma Huang), Paullinia spp. (guaraná), Catha edulis Forssk. (khat)] and plants used to improve general health conditions (plant adaptogens) were scrutinized. Many species of hallucinogenic (psychodysleptic) plants are used by humans throughout the world to achieve states of mind distortions; among those, a few have been used for therapeutic purposes, such as Cannabis sativa L., Tabernanthe iboga Baill. and the mixture of Psychotria viridis Ruiz and Pav. and Banisteriopsis caapi (Spruce ex Griseb.) C.V. Morton. Plants showing central psycholeptic activities, such as analgesic or anxiolytic actions (Passiflora incarnata L., Valeriana spp. and Piper methysticum G. Forst.), were also analysed.Finally, the use of crude or semipurified extracts of such plants instead of the active substances seemingly responsible for their therapeutic effect is discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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