Posted on Nov 12, 2020, 3 p.m.
Himalayan juniper/Juniperus recurva is a small ornamental tree belonging to the cypress family that is known for aromatic wood and leaves and it is commonly used to make incense and coffins. This hardy single seed fruit-bearing plant has plenty of traditional uses for food and medicine.
The Himalayan juniper is suggested to have a wide range of medicinal properties including astringent, antiseptic, carminative, digestive, antispasmodic and antirheumatic. Extracts have also been reported to have some anticancer properties. In traditional medicines, parts of this plant have been used to treat coughs, fevers, colds, headaches, and kidney issues.
Recently a study published in the International Journal of Green Pharmacy reported that an extract derived from the leaves can enhance memory in mice with chemically induced impairment which was noted to possibly be attributed to the ability to reduce the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase that is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
Turning attention to screening natural sources to investigate memory-enhancing agents the team of researchers chose Himalayan juniper due to its reported abundance of phenolic compounds known for their antioxidant activities such as scavenging free radical and inhibiting lipid peroxidation. Excessive free radical production causes oxidative stress that damage cells and lipid peroxidation caused by free radicals is linked to the development and progression of neurological disorders.
Several genus Juniperus species have been shown to have antioxidant AChE-inhibiting and neuroprotective properties. The researchers prepared an extract from the Himalayan juniper leaves using methanol for this study, then the team characterized the extract using liquid chromatography and subjected it to various assays to measure the antioxidant activity.
The team induced memory impairment in mice for the in vivo experiment by treating the animals with scopolamine then assessed memory acquisition and retention using several different maze tests. The team also quantified serum AChE activity and evaluated motor coordination as well as depression both before and after treatment with the experimental Himalayan juniper extract.
The methanol extract was revealed to contain large amounts of gallic acid using phytochemical analysis, and it showed excellent antioxidant activity in all assays used. The Himalayan juniper extract was found to enhance the memory of scopolamine-treated mice as well as improve motor coordination and reduce serum AChE activity in vivo experiments according to the researchers.
The team concluded based on their findings that Himalayan juniper could boost memory by preventing AChE from breaking down acetylcholine neurotransmitters that are involved in memory and cognitive function.
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