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Background: Leonotis nepetifolia Linn (Lamiaceae) is used in traditional medicine for its calming (tranquilizing) effects. The aim of this study was to determine whether there is any scientific justification for this use. To achieve this purpose, we investigated the behavioural effects of the methanol extract of Leonotis nepetifolia stem (37.5, 75 and 150 mg/kg) in mice.
Methods: Acute toxicity studies were carried out on the methanol stem extract of Leonotis nepetifolia to determine the LD50. The behavioural tests employed were diazepam-induced sleep onset and duration, hole board assay for exploratory activity, mouse beam walk assay for motor coordination, and the staircase test for the detection of anxiolytic compounds. Preliminary phytochemical screening was also carried out on the extract.
Results: The intraperitoneal LD50 value was found to be 3.8 g/kg. The results showed that the extract significantly prolonged the duration of diazepam-induced sleep at the highest dose (150 mg/kg). There was no observable effect on exploratory activity and motor coordination at the doses tested (37.5, 75 and 150 mg/kg). The extract, however, at 150 mg/kg elicited a significant decrease in the number of rearings in the staircase test, an effect also observed in the group of mice injected with an anxiolytic dose of diazepam. The preliminary phytochemical screening revealed the presence of alkaloids, saponins, glycosides and triterpenoids.
Conclusion: The results obtained suggest that the crude methanol extract of Leonotis nepetifolia stem possesses some biologically active constituents with potential anxiolytic activity and thus may justify its traditional use as a tranquilizer.
Keywords: behavioural; exploratory; Leonotis nepetifolia; motor coordination; anxiolytic