Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent and considered a major public health concern worldwide. Current anxiolytics are of limited efficacy and associated with various side effects. Our novel herbal treatment (NHT), composed of four constituents, was shown to reduce anxiety-like behavior while precluding a common side effect caused by current anxiolytics, i.e., sexual dysfunction. Nevertheless, NHT’s mechanism of action is yet to be determined. There is evidence that some medicinal herbs interact with the GABAergic system. Therefore, we aimed to examine whether NHT’s anxiolytic-like effect is exerted by alterations in GABAA receptor density in the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and hypothalamus. The effects of 3-weeks treatment with NHT on anxiety-like behavior and locomotion were assessed using the elevated plus maze (EPM) and the open field test (OFT), respectively. Regional GABAA receptor levels were analyzed using [3H] RO15-1788 high-affinity binding assays. In stressed mice, NHT reduced anxiety-like behavior similarly to the benzodiazepine, clonazepam, while locomotion remained intact. Lack of changes or minor changes in regional GABAA receptor density in the brain were induced by NHT or clonazepam. In naive mice, performance in the EPM, locomotion and GABAA receptor densities were not altered by treatment with NHT or clonazepam. These findings support NHT as an efficacious and safe anxiolytic, although the GABAergic involvement remains to be further elucidated.
- GABA receptor
- Herbal treatment