Astragalus Membranaceus (AM) is a useful Korean herb that has been clinically prescribed for stress-related illness. The objective of the present study was to examine the anti-stress effects of AM on repeated stress-induced alterations of anxiety, learning and memory in rats. Restraint stress was administered for 14 days (2h/day) and AM (400mg/kg) given by oral administration, in the AM group, for the same period. Starting on the eighth day, the rats were tested for spatial memory on the Morris water maze test (MW) and for anxiety on the elevated plus maze (EPM). Changes of expression on immunohistochemistry were studied for cholineacetyl transferase (ChAT) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in the brain. The results showed that the rats treated with AM had significantly reduced stress-induced deficits on learning and memory on the spatial memory tasks. In addition, the ChAT immunoreactivities were increased. In the EPM, treatment with AM increased the time spent in the open arms (p<0.001) compared to the control group. In addition, AM treatment also normalized increases of TH expression in the LC (p<0.001). In conclusion, administration of AM improved spatial learning and memory and reduced stress-induced anxiety. Thus, the present results suggest that AM is able to recover behavioral and neurochemical impairments induced by stress.
Keywords: Astragalus Membranaceus; Elevated plus maze; Morris water maze.