Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures due to faulty nerve cell signaling. Doctors aren’t sure what causes epilepsy, but genetics, strokes, head trauma and dementia may be involved, according to mayoclinic. Conventional treatment with anti-epileptic drugs attempts to control the frequency and duration of the seizures, but these medications don’t work for everyone and may have unpleasant side effects. Natural herbal treatments, though not a substitute for conventional care, may help relieve convulsions without those side effects. It is important to consult a health care professional before starting any herbal treatment for epilepsy.
False pepper, or Embelia ribes, is a creeping vine with small yellow-green flowers found throughout India. Folk healers use the bark, leaves and fruit to treat a range of disorders, including parasites, rheumatism, fever, abdominal problems, skin diseases, tumors, mental disorders, convulsions and nervous debility. The active ingredient is embelin, and the plant has anti-inflammatory, anti fertility, anti tumor and antioxidant actions. Embelin belongs to a chemical category called benzoquinone, and quinone derivatives have anticonvulsant actions. A study published in the May 2010 issue of “Phytomedicine” tested the anticonvulsant activity of an extract of embelin from false pepper berries on test animals with induced seizures. The study found that embelin significantly inhibited convulsive movements in the animals and was as effective as diazepam, an anti-seizure drug. Studies on humans are needed to validate the traditional use of false pepper for convulsions and to confirm these findings.
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The bo tree, or Ficus religiosa, is a large fig tree found throughout South Asia. The bo tree is sacred to Hindus and Buddhists, and is used medicinally and ritually. Throughout history, different Ficus species around the world have been used to treat epilepsy, and Indian Ayurvedic medicine uses the bo tree for this disorder. A study published in the June 2009 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” noted that the figs of the bo tree contain the highest amount of serotonin compared to figs from other Ficus species. The study tested an extract of the figs for its anti-convulsant actions, and found that it significantly inhibited seizures by increasing serotonin transmission in nerve sells. This study supports the Ayurvedic use of bo tree figs in epilepsy, but further studies are needed to confirm these findings.
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The violet tree, or Securidaca longepedunculata, is a small tree with aromatic purple flowers native to tropical Africa. Folk healers use the roots to treat a range of mental and physical disorders, including spirit possession, headache, inflammation, anxiety, pain and epilepsy. A study reported in the May 2010 issue of the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” compared a root extract of violet tree to phenobarbitone, an anticonvulsant drug, on animals with seizures induced by different chemicals. All animals treated with the extract had a delayed onset of seizures. Depending on the chemical used to induce the seizures, the effects were better than, or equal to those of animals treated with phenobarbitone. This study confirms the traditional use of the violet tree for epilepsy. Studies on humans are needed to confirm these results.