Biphasic effects of baicalin, an active constituent of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi, in the spontaneous sleep-wake regulation

J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 May 17;135(2):359-68. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.03.023. Epub 2011 Mar 16.


Aim of the study: Baicalin is an active compound originating from the root of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi, which has been used for anti-inflammation, anti-bacteria, anti-hypertension, anti-allergy and sedation since ancient China, though the neuronal mechanisms involved in the sedative effect is still unclear. Baicalin possesses the ability to decrease the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and nuclear factor (NF)-κB activity. Furthermore, baicalin has demonstrated an anxiolytic-like effect via activation of γ-aminobutyric acid-A (GABA(A)) receptors. Pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g. interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α) and the GABAergic system promote sleep. This study was designed to determine whether the GABA(A) receptor activation and/or the suppression of pro-inflammatory cytokines mediate(s) baicalin-induced sleep alterations.

Materials and methods: Baicalin was intracerebroventricularly (ICV) administered 20 min either prior to the beginning of the light period or before the onset of the dark period. Electroencephalogram (EEG) and gross body movement were acquired for sleep analysis. Pharmacological blockade of IL-1 and GABA(A) receptors were employed to elucidate the involvements of IL-1 and GABA(A) receptors in baicalin-induced sleep alterations. IL-1β concentrations obtained after baicalin administration in several distinct brain regions were determined by ELISA.

Results: ICV administration of baicalin decreased slow wave sleep (SWS) during the first 2h of the light period. Rapid eye movement sleep (REMS) was not altered. The blockade of IL-1β-induced SWS enhancement by baicalin suggests that the antagonism of IL-1 receptors is involved in baicalin-induced SWS decrement during the light period. However, IL-1β concentrations during the light period were not altered after baicalin administration. In contrast, baicalin increased both SWS and REMS during hours 8-10 of the dark (active) period when baicalin was administered at the beginning of the dark period, and its effects were blocked by the GABA(A) receptor antagonist bicuculline.

Conclusion: Baicalin exhibits biphasic effects on sleep-wake regulation; the decrease of SWS during the light period and increases of SWS and REMS during the dark period. Inhibition of IL-1 action and enhancement of GABA(A) receptor activity may mediate baicalin's effects during the light and dark period, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electroencephalography
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flavonoids / isolation & purification
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Interleukin-1beta / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Scutellaria baicalensis / chemistry*
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Wakefulness / drug effects*


  • Flavonoids
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • baicalin