Medicinal plant Yerba santa may hold promise for treating Alzheimer's
Native California tribes, which dubbed the plant holy herb in Spanish, have long used Yerba santa for its medicinal properties. Devotees brew its leaves to treat respiratory ailments, fever and headaches; and mash it into a poultice for wounds, sore muscles and rheumatism.
The researchers applied a screening technique used in drug discovery to a commercial library of 400 plant extracts with known pharmacological properties.
Through the screen, the lab identified a molecule called sterubin. The researchers tested sterubin and other plant extracts for their impact on energy depletion in mouse nerve cells, as well as other age-associated neurotoxicity and survival pathways directly related to the reduced energy metabolism, accumulation of misfolded, aggregated proteins and inflammation seen in Alzheimer's.
They found that Sterubin had a potent anti-inflammatory impact on brain cells known as microglia. It was also an effective iron remover--potentially beneficial because iron can contribute to nerve cell damage in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Overall, the compound was effective against multiple inducers of cell death in the nerve cells, according to Maher.
Speaking about it, Maher said, This is a compound that was known but ignored, adding, Not only did sterubin turn out to be much more active than the other flavonoids in Yerba santa in our assays, it appears as good as, if not better than, other flavonoids we have studied.
Next, the lab plans to test sterubin in an animal model of Alzheimer's, then determine its drug-like characteristics and toxicity levels in animals.