Ethnopharmacology of Souroubea sympetala and Souroubea gilgii (Marcgraviaceae) and identification of betulinic acid as an anxiolytic principle

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Brain and Mind Institute


The neotropical lianas Souroubea gilgii and Souroubea sympetala (Marcgraviaceae) were chosen for study as part of a phytochemical discovery strategy focusing on rare plant families in Central America. In participatory research, Q'eqchi' healers in Belize reported the use of these plants to reverse psychological symptoms inflicted by witchcraft. Extracts of two Souroubea species showed significant anti-anxiety activity in the elevated plus maze, a standardized test paradigm. Bioassay guided isolation led to the active principle, the pentacyclic triterpene, betulinic acid, which had activity in the elevated plus maze at 0.5mg/kg. Other phytochemicals isolated included α- and β-amyrin, 2-hydroxyursolic acid, taraxenyl trans-4-hydroxy-cinnamate, naringenin, methyl ursolate, eriodytiol, methyl 2-α-hydroxyursolate, methyl 2-α-hydroxymaslinate, methyl betulinate, and condrilla sterol.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

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