A novel herbal treatment reduces depressive-like behaviors and increases BDNF levels in the brain of stressed mice

Ravid Doron, Dafna Lotan, Nili Einat, Roni Yaffe, Avigail Winer, Inbal Marom, Gili Meron, Nadav Kately, Moshe Rehavi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims Depression is a chronic, recurring and potentially life-threatening illness. Current treatments for depression are characterized by a low success rate and associated with a wide variety of side effects. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the behavioral and biological anti-depressant effects of a novel herbal treatment (NHT), as well as to assess its potential side effects, in comparison to treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor escitalopram. Main methods Depressive-like behavior was evaluated using the forced swim test (FST) and the tail suspension test (TST). Sexual behavior was evaluated following treatment by measuring latency before first mount and number of total mounts. Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels were evaluated using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Serotonin transporter (SERT) levels in the pre-frontal cortex (PFC) and hypothalamus were evaluated using high affinity binding assay. Key findings (1) The NHT reduced depressive-like behavior in the FST and TST; (2) BDNF levels in the PFC of mice treated both with the NHT and escitalopram were increased; (3) SERT levels in the hypothalamus were significantly higher in the NHT group, in comparison to escitalopram and the control groups, and significantly lower in the PFC of the NHT group in comparison to the escitalopram group; and (4) the NHT led to less sexual dysfunction, compared to treatment with escitalopram. Significance Our NHT has the potential of being highly efficacious in treating depression in humans, while causing minimal to no influence on sexual function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-157
Number of pages7
JournalLife Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 17 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the Israel Science Foundation ( ISF 738/11 ), by the National Institute for Psychobiology in Israel ( NIPI-7-2011-12 ), and by the Open University Foundation . All authors assert that none has any commercial or financial involvements that might present an appearance of a conflict of interest in connection with the submitted manuscript.


  • BDNF
  • Depression
  • Herbal treatment
  • Mice
  • SSRI
  • Serotonin transporter
  • Sexual dysfunction


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