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Open Access Research article

Reversal by aqueous extracts of Cistanche tubulosa from behavioral deficits in Alzheimer’s disease-like rat model: relevance for amyloid deposition and central neurotransmitter function

Chi-Rei Wu1*, Hang-Ching Lin23 and Muh-Hwan Su23

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chinese Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chinese Medicine Resources, College of Pharmacy, China Medical University, No. 91, Hsieh Shih Road, Taichung, 40402, Taiwan

2 School of Pharmacy, National Defense Medical Center, No. 161, Sec. 6, Minquan E. Rd., Neihu Dist., Taipei 11490, Taiwan

3 Sinphar Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Sinphar Group (Taiwan), Research & Development Center, No. 84, Chung Shan Rd., Chung Shan Village, Tung-Shan Shine, I-Lan 26944, Taiwan

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:202  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-202

Published: 26 June 2014



Cistanche tubulosa (Schenk) R. Wight (CT) is commonly used to treat forgetfulness by traditional Chinese physicians. This study presents the ameliorating effects of CT extract which was quantified with three phenylpropanoid glycosides in Alzheimer’s disease (AD)-like rat model.


Amyloid β peptide 1-42 (Aβ 1-42) intracisternally infused to rats by osmotic pump (Alzet 2002) was used as an AD-like rat model. The major pathological makers were measured including Aβ 1-42 immunohistochemical stain, behavioral tests (inhibitory avoidance task and Morris water maze) and central neurotransmitter functions.


Aβ 1-42 caused the cognitive deficits, the increase in the amyloid deposition and acetylcholinesterase activities, and the decrease in the levels of brain’s acetylcholine and dopamine. Daily administration of CT extract throughout Aβ 1-42 infusion periods ameliorated the cognitive deficits, decreased amyloid deposition and reversed cholinergic and hippocampal dopaminergic dysfunction caused by Aβ 1-42. Donepezil also ameliorated the cognitive dysfunction, but only blocked the amyloid deposition and cholinergic dysfunction caused by Aβ 1-42.


We suggest that CT extract, containing enough echinacoside and acteoside, ameliorated the cognitive dysfunction caused by Aβ 1-42 via blocking amyloid deposition, reversing cholinergic and hippocampal dopaminergic neuronal function.

Cistanche tubulosa; Amyloid β peptide 1-42; Morris water maze; Acetylcholine; Dopamine