“Epilepsy is the most common chronic neurological disease, affecting about 1% of the world’s population during their lifetime. Most people with epilepsy can attain a seizure-free life upon treatment with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).
Unfortunately, seizures in up to 30% do not respond to treatment. It is estimated that 90% of people with epilepsy live in developing countries, and most of them receive no drug treatment for the disease. This treatment gap has motivated investigations into the effects of plants that have been used by traditional healers all over the world to treat seizures.
Extracts of hundreds of plants have been shown to exhibit anticonvulsant activity in phenotypic screens performed in experimental animals.
Some of those extracts appear to exhibit anticonvulsant efficacy similar to that of synthetic AEDs.
Dozens of plant-derived chemical compounds have similarly been shown to act as anticonvulsants in various in vivo and in vitro assays.
To a significant degree, anticonvulsant effects of plant extracts can be attributed to widely distributed flavonoids, (furano)coumarins, phenylpropanoids, and terpenoids.
Flavonoids and coumarins have been shown to interact with the benzodiazepine site of the GABAA receptor and various voltage-gated ion channels, which are targets of synthetic AEDs.
Modulation of the activity of ligand-gated and voltage-gated ion channels provides an explanatory basis of the anticonvulsant effects of plant secondary metabolites.
Many complex extracts and single plant-derived compounds exhibit antiinflammatory, neuroprotective, and cognition-enhancing activities that may be beneficial in the treatment of epilepsy.
Thus, botanicals provide a base for target-oriented antiepileptic drug discovery and development.
In the future, preclinical work should focus on the characterization of the effects of plant extracts and plant-derived compounds on well-defined targets rather than on phenotypic screening using in vivo animal models of acute seizures. At the same time, available data provide ample justification for clinical studies with selected standardized botanical extracts and plant-derived compounds.”