Plants to cure epilepsy?

Plants to cure epilepsy?

A  research scholar at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences claims to discovered a better ways to treat epilepsy, supplementing existing drugs with extracts from a set of plants found in India.

The new proposed treatment protocol will make treatment  more tolerable for epilepsy patients, according to Dr Monika Pahuja, research scholar at the AIIMS pharmacology department.

Chemicals extracted from these plants would reduce the required dosage of existing drugs and also make them less toxic, leading to fewer side effects.

The anti-epileptic drugs in current use have high levels of toxicity and several possible side effects, including drowsiness, weight gain, skin rashes, colitis, and movement and behavioural disorders.

“Existing drugs lead to cognitive impairment in the patient. I have tried to find a way to reduce this,” Dr Pahuja said.

She shortlisted 10 plants at the initial stage of her research, and later pared the list down to four plants - anacyclus pyrethrum, zizyphus jujuba, benincasa hispida and orchis mascula. They are called akarkara, unnar, petha and orchid in layman’s parlance.

“Akarkara’s root is the most effective one. It reduces toxic effects of the existing drugs,” said Pahuja. The root reduces side effects by up to 25 per cent compared to the existing anti-epileptics.

Her paper on the research findings was published in the February 2012 edition of Epilepsy Research, an international journal. Animal trials of the new chemicals have been conducted. The next stage is human trials.

If the plant extracts are turned into drugs, they can supplement the present medicines for epilepsy, she said.  “As the amount of old drugs is reduced, it will decrease toxicity and side effects. This will help epileptic patients a great deal,” said Pahuja.

According to World Health Organisation estimates, out of 50 million cases of epilepsy worldwide, five million are found in India. Their treatment costs nearly 0.5 per cent  of the gross national product of the country.

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