Echinacea preparations are traditionally used to treat upper respiratory infections and inflammations. No psychotropic effects of Echinacea have been reported so far, although some recently reported active constituents are behaviorally active. Prompted by these findings, the anxiolytic potential of five different Echinacea preparations was evaluated. Three of these decreased anxiety but two of them had a very narrow effective dose range. Only one extract decreased anxiety within a wide dose-range (3-8 mg/kg). Anxiolytic effects were consistently seen in three different tests of anxiety, the elevated plus-maze, social interaction and shock-induced social avoidance tests. No locomotor suppressant effects were seen at any dose. Noteworthy, the doses that showed anxiolytic effects in the present study were much lower than those used in the laboratory models of the traditional indications. Chlordiazepoxide robustly decreased anxiety-like behavior in all tests but suppressed locomotion at higher doses. Perceived and real risks of conventional medications increase the demand for alternative therapies, provided that these are safe and efficient. Earlier evidence shows that Echinacea preparations have an excellent safety profile, while our findings suggest for the first time that certain preparations have a considerable anxiolytic potential. Further research is required to identify factors that differentiate efficient and inefficient preparations.
- Elevated plus-maze
- Social interaction
- Stress-induced social avoidance
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