Dopamine deficiency is characteristic of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and treatments aim at elevating levels by administration of its precursor l-dihydroxyphenylalanine (l-DOPA), or inhibiting monoamine oxidases (MAOs), thus preventing its breakdown. Reports of improvements in PD patients treated with Banisteriopsis caapi extracts stimulated investigation of B. caapi stem extract and its two ingredients, harmine and harmaline for these activities.
Tests for MAO inhibition using liver homogenate showed that extract and harmaline showed a concentration-dependent inhibition of MAO A (IC50 1.24 μg/ml and IC50 4.54 nM, respectively) but had little effect on MAO B activity.
The extract at 2.5 mg/ml caused a highly significant increase in release of [3H]dopamine from rat striatal slices, as did 200 μM harmine and 6 μM harmaline. In both these experiments, the amount of harmine present could not account for the total activity of the extract.
The ability of harmine and harmaline to stimulate dopamine release is a novel finding. These results give some basis to the reputed usefulness of B. caapi stem extract in the treatment of PD.
Schwarz, M. J., Houghton, P. J., Rose, S., Jenner, P., & Lees, A. D. (2003). Activities of extract and constituents of Banisteriopsis caapi relevant to parkinsonism. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 75(3), 627-633. 10.1016/S0091-3057(03)00129-1
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