Objectives: Asparagus racemosus (AR) is classified as an adaptogen, an important medicinal plant and food. Even though AR is widely used as food and nutraceutical, it has only been evaluated in the context of experimental disorders. Hence, the present study was designed to evaluate the effect of standardized methanolic extract of AR (MAR) on experimentally un-manipulated animals to observe the per se effects on stress pathways.
Methods: MAR (50, 100, and 200 mg/kg, per oral) was administered for 7 days. Lorazepam (0.5 mg/kg, intraperitoneal) was used as a positive control. On the seventh day, plasma was collected for the estimation of corticosterone (CORT) and norepinephrine (NE), and brain was microdissected into hippocampus, hypothalamus (HYP), pre-frontal cortex, amygdala, and nucleus accumbens to estimate tissue level of monoamines (serotonin, dopamine, and NE), their metabolites, and turnover.
Results: MAR dose-dependently decreased the plasma CORT and NE levels, indicating its effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal cortex axis and the sympathetic-noradrenergic system, respectively. MAR increased the levels of all monoamines in the HYP. However, MAR showed region-specific changes in monoamines and their metabolites, and turnover in other brain regions.
Discussion: MAR showed a physiological modulation of the stress pathways. Interestingly, in most brain regions the change in monoaminergic systems was limited by a ceiling effect at a dose of 100 mg/kg. These observations could explain the traditional use of AR as an adaptogen and a functional food.