Friday, April 06, 2007

Could Mother Nature offer some of her gifts to control seizures?

EPILEPSY has been known for ages. Most people associated it with someone who falls down on the ground, shakes, jerks, perhaps even foams at the month, and then comes round feeling quite dazed and tired.

There is also a host of misperceptions about the condition, including the belief that it is a “mental illness,” that it is contagious, that people having seizures can become violent and dangerous, and even that it is a “curse” inflicted on the evil.

None of these ideas is in any way true, but the stigma attached to epilepsy is curiously resistant to change, possibly because the sight of someone having a seizure can be frightening to those who do not understand that is happening.

Epilepsy is a complex condition and manifests in a variety of ways. Simply, it is caused by an imbalance between different electrical signals (called neurotransmitters) in the brain, and this creates an abnormal discharge of electrochemical activity in the brain.

Though the causes may include brain infection, stroke, and even birth trauma and rarely, genetic disorders, the good news is that even in traditional medicine, several herbs can be used to reduce the frequency of seizures associated to epilepsy, even if the situation cannot be cure.

Many of these herbs, scientists have also worked on to ascertain if there is any iota of truth in their effectiveness the treatment of epilepsy as it is the practice with traditional doctors. The water decoction of the secondary root of Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil’s claw) is one of such that researchers had tried out in mice. Reporting in March 2006 issue of the journal , Brain Research Bull., Drs. Mohamed I.M and Oyewole J.A, they said it did not only suppress the seizures, but that in general, the average onset of convulsion was delayed.

Because the plant’s extract also depressed the central nervous system, they concluded that given its ability to prevent convulsion, their study lends pharmacological support to the suggested folkloric, ethnomedical uses of the plant in the treatment, management and/or control of epilepsy and childhood convulsions in some rural communities of South Africa.

Similarly, the team from Department of Animal Biology, University of Dschang Cameroun that worked on the leaves of Kalanchoe Crenata (Andrews), an herbaceous plant used in the African against otitis, headache, convulsions and general debility, found that the extract of the plant protected 20 per cent of the experimental animals against death in seizures-induced conditions in these animals.

Avocado leaf is no exception either according to finds of Dr. J.A. Ojewole of the Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, University of KwaZulu – Natal Durban, South Africa. Data obtained when the water extract of the avocado leaf was administered to mice indicated it possesses an anticonvulsant property, and thus lending credence to the suggested ethnomedical uses of the plant in the management of childhood convulsions and epilepsy.
The researchers suggested that avocado leaf water extract produced its anticonvulsant effects by enhancing neurotransmission and/or action in the brain.

Tetrapleura tetraptera fruit (locally known as Aridan) is widely used in African traditional medicines for the management and/or control of an array of human ailments, including schistosomiasis, asthma, hypertension, epilepsy and so on.

Investigating its effectiveness in mice, Dr. Ojewole, found the water extract of this fruit possesses pain relieving and anticonvulsant properties, so lending support to the suggested folkloric uses of the plant’s fruit in the management and/or control of pain due to arthritis as well as for the management and/or control of epilepsy and childhood convulsions in some tropical African countries.

A trial on Cyperus articulatus (Guinea Rush) in the Journal of Ethnopharmcology also found that the rhizome possesses anticonvulsant properties in animals, so given some credibility to its use as a traditional medicine for epilepsy in Africa similar to the decoction of Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant or touch- me -not leaves).

When the water extract of Leonotis Leonurus (Lion’s tail or Wild Dagga) was tested for anticonvulsant activity against seizures, in the journal Phytomedicine, the data the researchers came up with suggested it has anticonvulsant activity, explaining that it may be helping to reduce incidences of seizure by acting through non-specific mechanisms.

Another group of researchers at Department of Pharmacology, Lagos State University College of Medicine also confirmed that water extract of Bryoplyllum punatum (miracle plant or tree of life) may be helpful with controlling seizures that are related to epilepsy.

Extracting the leaves with salt and water to ascertain claims of its local use in epilepsy, Drs. Kayode Yemitan and his co-researchers tested it in mice and found it produced a dose dependent prolongation of the onset and duration of hypnosis, reduction of exploratory activities in the mice as well as confer a minimal protection against seizure.

Fruits like apples, figs and grapes have proved beneficial in the treatment of epilepsy too. Taking about 500ml of the juice thrice a day for three months can be helpful.


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