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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Kihi-to, a herbal traditional medicine, improves Abeta(25–35)-induced memory impairment and losses of neurites and synapses

Chihiro Tohda*, Rie Naito and Eri Joyashiki

Author Affiliations

Division of Biofunctional Evaluation, Research Center for Ethnomedicine, Institute of Natural Medicine, University of Toyama, Toyama 930-0194, Japan

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2008, 8:49  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-8-49

Published: 16 August 2008



We previously hypothesized that achievement of recovery of brain function after the injury requires the reconstruction of neuronal networks, including neurite regeneration and synapse reformation. Kihi-to is composed of twelve crude drugs, some of which have already been shown to possess neurite extension properties in our previous studies. The effect of Kihi-to on memory deficit has not been examined. Thus, the goal of the present study is to determine the in vivo and in vitro effects of Kihi-to on memory, neurite growth and synapse reconstruction.


Effects of Kihi-to, a traditional Japanese-Chinese traditional medicine, on memory deficits and losses of neurites and synapses were examined using Alzheimer's disease model mice. Improvements of Aβ(25–35)-induced neuritic atrophy by Kihi-to and the mechanism were investigated in cultured cortical neurons.


Administration of Kihi-to for consecutive 3 days resulted in marked improvements of Aβ(25–35)-induced impairments in memory acquisition, memory retention, and object recognition memory in mice. Immunohistochemical comparisons suggested that Kihi-to attenuated neuritic, synaptic and myelin losses in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and striatum. Kihi-to also attenuated the calpain increase in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. When Kihi-to was added to cells 4 days after Aβ(25–35) treatment, axonal and dendritic outgrowths in cultured cortical neurons were restored as demonstrated by extended lengths of phosphorylated neurofilament-H (P-NF-H) and microtubule-associated protein (MAP)2-positive neurites. Aβ(25–35)-induced cell death in cortical culture was also markedly inhibited by Kihi-to. Since NF-H, MAP2 and myelin basic protein (MBP) are substrates of calpain, and calpain is known to be involved in Aβ-induced axonal atrophy, expression levels of calpain and calpastatin were measured. Treatment with Kihi-to inhibited the Aβ(25–35)-evoked increase in the calpain level and decrease in the calpastatin level. In addition, Kihi-to inhibited Aβ(25–35)-induced calcium entry.


In conclusion Kihi-to clearly improved the memory impairment and losses of neurites and synapses.