Cistanches Herba enhances learning and memory by inducing nerve growth factor

Behav Brain Res. 2011 Jan 20;216(2):652-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2010.09.008. Epub 2010 Sep 16.


Nerve growth factor (NGF) has potent biological activities such as preventing neuronal death, promoting neurite outgrowth, supporting synapse formation, and enhancing memory function. NGF and NGF-like molecules can potentially be used to treat neurodegenerative disorders, such as dementia. This study investigated the effects of Cistanches Herba, a widely used medicinal herb, on NGF regulation and its neuronal actions, including neurite outgrowth, synapse formation, and learning and memory enhancement. Cistanches Herba extract (CHE; 250 μg/ml) increased NGF induction in C6 cells and led to neurite extension in PC12 cells. It also stimulated NGF secretion in the cortex and hippocampus of the mouse brain at 5 and 20mg/kg/day (3 days, p.o.). Furthermore, CHE increased neuronal cell differentiation, neurite length, and synapse formation in the mouse hippocampus. CHE significantly enhanced learning and memory, as demonstrated by passive avoidance test and novel object recognition test. These results suggest that CHE is useful for improving memory function via its action in upregulating NGF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Avoidance Learning / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects
  • Cistanche*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Nerve Growth Factor / drug effects
  • Nerve Growth Factor / metabolism*
  • Neurites / drug effects
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology*
  • PC12 Cells
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Recognition, Psychology / drug effects
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Nootropic Agents
  • Plant Extracts
  • Nerve Growth Factor