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J Ethnopharmacol. 2018 Jul 15;221:126-136. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2018.04.035. Epub 2018 Apr 26.

Effects of water extract from epimedium on neuropeptide signaling in an ovariectomized osteoporosis rat model.

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Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, PR China.
Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, PR China. Electronic address:
First Affiliated Hospital of Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, PR China. Electronic address:



For the past millennium, water extract from Epimedium (dried leaves of Epimedium brevicornu Maxim.) has been widely used for bone disease therapy in traditional Chinese medicine and has been reported to exhibit salutary effects on osteoporosis in clinical trials. The therapeutic effect of Epimedium is associated with the function of the brain in traditional Chinese medicine theory.


To determine the potential relationship between treating osteoporosis with Epimedium and neuropeptide regulation.


Water extract from Epimedium was qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed with HPLC-TOF-MS. Ovariectomized rats were used as an osteoporosis model and were treated orally with water extract from Epimedium 16 weeks after surgery to mimic clinical therapy. After treatment, gene expression and protein levels of four neuropeptides, as well as their main receptors or receptor precursors including; neuropeptide Y (NPY) and its receptors NPY 1 (NPYR1) and 2; calcitonin gene-related peptide and its receptor precursor calcitonin receptor-like receptor (CRLR); vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and its receptor VIP 1 (VIP1R) and 2; and substance P (SP) and its receptor neurokinin 1 receptor (NK1R) were detected in samples taken from bone, brain and spinal cord.


Treatment with water extract from Epimedium prevented bone mineral loss and reduced femoral bone strength decline associated with osteoporosis. Detection of neuropeptides showed that treatment also affected neuropeptide in the brain/spinal cord/bone axis; specifically, treatment increased brain NPY, bone NPY1R, bone CRLR, bone and spinal cord VIP and VIP2R, bone SP, and brain and spinal cord NK1R.


The effects of osteoporosis can largely be reduced by treatment with Epimedium most likely through a mechanism associated with several neuropeptides involved in regulation of the brain/spinal cord/bone axis. These novel results contribute to existing literature regarding the possible mechanisms of habitual use of Epimedium in the treatment of osteoporosis.


Epimedium brevicornu Maxim.; Neuropeptide signals; Osteoporosis; Ovariectomized rat model

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