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37

Journal of Ethnopharmacology,
17 (1986) 37-64
Elsevier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd.

PHARMACOLOGY
OF LEMONGRASS
(CYMBOPOGON
CZTRATUS
STAPF). I. EFFECTS OF TEAS PREPARED FROM THE LEAVES ON
LABORATORY
ANIMALS*

E.A. CARLINI, JUIDA DE D.P. CONTAR, ARMANDO R. SILVA-FILHO, NYLSON G.


DA SILVEIRA-FILHO,
MARIO LUIZ FROCHTENGARTEN
and ORLANDO F.A.
BUENO
Departamento de Pslcobiologia, Escola Paulista de Medicina, Rua Botucatu,
S&o Paula - SP (Brazil)
(Accepted

862, 04023

April 30,1986)

Summary
Cymbopogon
citrutus is one of the most used plants in Brazilian folk
medicine for the treatment of nervous and gastrointestinal disturbances. It
is also used in many other places to treat feverish conditions. The usual way
to use it is by ingesting an infusion made by pouring boiling water on fresh
or dried leaves (which is called abafado in Portuguese). Abafados obtained
from lemongrass harvested in three different areas of Brazil (Ceara, Minas
Gerais and Slo Paulo States) were tested on rats and mice in an attempt to
add experimental confirmation to its popular medicinal use. Citral, the main
constituent of the essential oil in Brazilian lemongrass, was also studied for
comparison. Oral doses of abafados up to 40 times (CL,,) larger than the
corresponding dosage taken by humans, or of 200 mg/kg of citral, were
unable to decrease body temperature of normal rats and/or rats made hyperthermic by previous administration of pyrogen. However, both compounds
acted when injected by intraperitoneal route. Oral administration of doses
C20 -CloOof abafados and 200 mg/kg of citral did not change the intestinal
transit of a charcoal meal in mice, nor did it decrease the defecation scores
of rats in an open-field arena. Again, by intraperitoneal route both compounds were active. The possible central nervous system depressant effect
of the abafados was investigated by using batteries of 12 tests designed to
detect general depressant, hypnotic, neuroleptic, anticonvulsant and anxiolytic effects. In all the tests employed, oral doses of abafados up to C,,, or
of citral up to 200 mg/kg were without effect. Only in a few instances did

*This work was aided by Central de Medicamentos (CEME) and AssociacZo Fundo de
Incentive I Psicofarmacologia (AFIP).
0378-8741/86/$10.15
o 1986 Elsevier Scientific Publishers Ireland Ltd.
Published and Printed in Ireland

38

intraperitoneal
doses demonstrate
effects. These data do no lend support to
the popular oral therapeutic use of lemongrass to treat nervous and intestinal
ailments and feverish conditions.

Introduction
Cy~~o~ogo~
citrutus Stapf. (family Gramineae), lemongrass in English,
popularly known in Brazil as capim-cidr&o or cupim-sunto, is widely employed in Brazilian folk medicine, Prepared as a tea or abafado, it is frequently used as a sedative (calmative)
and hypnotic, but also as an analgesic, anti-emetic, antispasmodic
and to treat other stomach and intestinal
ailments (van den Berg, 1980; Matos et al., 1982; Nogueira, 1983; Paviani,
1964).
The medicinal use of lemongrass is not restricted to Brazil. On Mauritius
Island and on the Malay Peninsula it is recommended
against the common
cold, pneumonia, fever and gastric problems (Fook, 1980); in Nigeria as an
antipyretic and for its stimulant and antispasmodic effects (Olaniyi et al.,
1975); in Angola and India it is considered as an antitussigen, anti-emetic,
antiseptic and antirheumatic
(Alves et al., 1960); in Indonesia it is employed
to help digestion and as a diuretic and sudorific (Hirschhorn, 1983).
Substances extracted from lemongrass are also used in medicine. In India
its essential oil is used to treat gastrointestinal
problems (Alves et al., 1960)
and geraniol, one of the constituents
of the essential oil, is prescribed as an
asthmolytic
in China (Peigen, 1983).
The concentration
of the essential oil fraction obtained from lemongrass
varies from 0.2% up to 3% of the fresh plant (Alves et al., 1960); a sample
from South Brazil yielded 0.28% of essential oil (Silva and Bauer, 1971). The
essential oil fraction is composed of many compounds:
alcohols, aldehydes,
ketones, acids, esters and other terpenes and sesquiterpenes.
In the essential
oil obtained from the plant grown in the Phillipines, Somalia, India, Ceylon,
Angola and Congo, the main component
is citral (a mixture of neral and
geranial) which constitutes
30--80% of the oil fraction (Abegaz and
Yohannes, 1983; Oliveros-Belardo
and Aureus, 1980; Rabha et al., 1980;
Sylva, 1980; Vale, 1964); in the Ethiopian essential oil geraniol is the main
constituent
(Abegaz and Yohannes, 1983). In two samples of essential oil
obtained from lemongrass of South (Rio Grande do Sul State) and Southeast (Sdo Paulo State) Brazil, citral was present as the main component
(86% and 48%) (Silva and Bauer, 1971; Liberalli et al., 1946).
Despite the ubiquitous medicinal use of lemongrass there is a great paucity
of pharmacological
research on the plant. A survey of Biological Abstracts
from 1954 to 1983, revealed only two articles, one dealing with the sedative
effects of the essential oil from Cymbopogon
nardus (Kokate et al., 1972)
and the other describing the anti-asthmatic
properties of a component
of
Cym~opogo~
distuns (Huang et al., 1976). Similarly, a survey of the Cumu-

39

luted Index Medicus from 1960 to 1982 disclosed only two references on an
antispasmodic principle present in Cymbopogon proximus (Abdel-Moneim
et al., 1969; Radwan, 1975).
The present paper deals with the pharmacological effects of the tea of
Cymbopogon citratus on laboratory animals. For comparison purposes citral
was also used. It was decided to investigate the popular preparation (abafado)
rather than chemical entities obtained from C~mbopogon citrates in an
attempt to directly confirm the folk medicinal use of the plant.
To obtain data aiming to confirm the traditional therapeutic use in gastrointestinal ailments, experiments on charcoal intestinal transit in mice anr
defecation of rats in an open-field apparatus were performed. To study the
eventual antipyretic properties of lemongrass, the body temperature of rats
was measured. To evaluate the possible depressant effect on the central
nervous system the following experiments were carried out: measurements
of spontaneous motor activity in mice, grooming and rearing of rats in the
open-field and rota-rod performance of mice, were used to given an indication of general depressant activity; measurements of the sleep-wakefulness
cycle of rats (electroencephaphalography)
and potentialization of barbiturate sleeping-time of mice were used to study hypnotic activity; measurements of catatonic behavior and palpebral ptosis of rats and blockade of
stereotyped behavior induced by apomorphine in rats were carried out to
assess eventual neuroleptic effect; meas~ements of neophobia reaction
and punished responses in rats were used to check a possible anxiolytic
effect; and, finally, measurements of electroshock- and pentylenetetrazolinduced convulsions were made to assess any anticonvulsant effect.
Materials and methods
Plant material
Samples of C~mbopogon citratus Stapf. from the state of CearL (Northeast Brazil), Srj,o Paul0 (Southeast Brazil) and Minas Gerais (Southeast) were
harvested from July to November. The specimens were classified by botanists from the local universities.
The essential oil fraction of lemongrasses from Sao Paulo and Ceari
revealed 46.6% and 70.9% citral and 36.7% and 16.0% myrcene, respectively
(Matos et al., 1984, and unpublished data). The citral from the Cear& sample
was composed of 44.2% neral and 55.8% geranial; that of Sio Paulo had 48%
and 52%, respectively (Matos et al., 1984).
The doses administered to mice and rats were based on the amounts
ingested by human beings. In Brazil the abafados are usually prepared from
two fresh leaves finely minced with scissors or from 2 g of dried material,
with 150 ml of tap water. This corresponds to about 2.0 ml abafado/kg body
wt. Leaves were dried in an oven at 37-40C for 3 days resulting in a water
loss of 67-78%.
For administration to mice an abu~udo I was prepared by pouring 150 ml

40

of boiling water over 2 fresh minced leaves or 2 g of powdered dried


leaves; the container was covered with aluminum foil and wrapped with a
piece of cloth until reaching room temperature
and then filtered. In a few
experiments the leaves or the powder were left in boiling water for 5 min
and then covered with the aluminum foil and cloth until reaching room
temperature
and then filtered (abafudo II).
Dosing mice with 2.0 ml/kg of either abafado (dosage C,) was considered
equivalent to the amount taken by humans. Dosages Cl0 (20 ml/kg) and CZO
(40 ml/kg) corresponded
to, respectively,
10 and 20 times the human
dosage. For larger doses the abafados were prepared from 10 leaves or 10 g
of powder to 150 ml of water. Administering 20 and 40 ml/kg corresponded
to dosages C& and C,,,O, respectively.
For still larger dosages the desired
amount of abafudo I was taken to a lyophylizer
and the residue resuspended
in small volumes of water (ubufudo III).
For dosing rats, only ubufudos from 10 leaves or 10 g of powder were
used; the volumes employed varied from 0.4 ml/kg (dosage C,) to 8 ml/kg
(dosage &o).
Animals
Male albino Swiss mice, 2-3 months old from our own colony were used.
They were kept in air conditioned
laboratories at a temperature
of 24 + 2C
and in a 12-h dark-light cycle. Male Wistar rats, 3-4 months old from our
own colony and reared in conditions similar to the mice, were also employed.
Drugs
Citral (45% neral and 55% geranial) was kindly provided by Industria
Saccoman Ltda., Sao Paulo-Brazil, to whom we are grateful. The compound
was solubilized with Tween-80 in distilled water (0.5% mixture of water +
Tween80).
Apomorphine
hydrochloride
(Merck Laboratories,
U.S.A.) solutions, freshly prepared in distilled water containing 1 mg/ml of ascorbic acid
was used in the stereotypy
experiments.
Activated charcoal (Merck Laboratories, U.S.A.), 10 g suspended in 100 ml of 5% gum acacia was employed
to study intestinal transit. Lipopolysaccharide
from Escherichiu coli (Sigma
Chem. Co. U.S.A.) solubilized in water, was used as pyrogenic agent. Haloperidol (Haldol@, Johnson & Johnson Laboratories,
U.S.A.), diphenylhydantoin sodium Parke Davis Ltd. U.S.A.) and pentylenetetrazol
(Sigma Chem.
Co.) were the other drugs employed. Water was used as the control vehicle in
the experiments
with the ubufudos. Tween-80 in water (0.5%) was the
control solution in the experiments with citral.
Pharmacological
The following

methods
tests were performed

on rats and mice.

Body temperature in ruts


Groups of six rats each were given (orally

or intraperitoneally)

either

vehicle, doses Cl0 to CGOof abafados I, II and III of lemongrass from Sdo
Paulo and CearS or 100 and 200 mg/kg of citral. The colonic temperature,
measured by inserting the sensor probe of a digital thermometer
5-6 cm
into the colon was recorded before drug treatment (time 0) and 1, 2, 3 and
4 h after drug administration.
In a second experiment,
groups of six rats each were previously injected
with 10 mg/kg of the pyrogen agent from E. coti, Two hours later when the
rats temperature
was beginning to rise, abafudos were given to the animals
orally and the temperature
was again recorded 1, 2 and 4 h later.
Intestinal transit in mice
Twenty-four-hour
fasted mice, in groups of 10 animals each, received
either vehicle, abilfudo I or citral through oral or i.p. routes. Thirty or
60 min later (see Table 2) they were given orally 0.35 ml of an aqueous
suspension of 10% charcoal in 5% gum acacia (Turner, 1965). Fifteen
minutes later the animals were killed by cervical dislocation and the small
intestines removed. The distance the charcoal had transited from the pylorus
was measured and expressed as the percentage of the total length of the
small intestines.
Open-field behavior
The open field consisted of a white painted arena of plywood measuring
48 X 28 X 20 cm in diameter with three 60 W lamps and three loudspeakers
producing a constant noise of 76 decibels. The floor of the arena was divided
into several units by black painted lines (for details see Masur, 1972).
Groups of eight rats each were treated with several abafudos from Sao
Paulo lemongrass or with citral. One hour after oral administration
or 30 min
after i.p. injection each rat was placed in the center of the arena and defecation (number of fecal boluses eliminated), ambulation (number of floor units
entered) and rearing (number of times the rat stood up) were recorded for
3 min.
Rota-rod test
Groups of 10 previously selected mice received various doses of abafados
or citral either by oral or intraperitoneal
routes, as can be seen in Table 4.
The apparatus consisted of a bar, with a diameter of 2.5 cm subdivided into
five compartments
by disks 25 cm in diameter (Dunham and Miya, 1957).
The bar rotated at a constant speed of 12 rev./min. Pre-selection of animals
was done on the experiments
day by eliminating those mice which did not
remain on the bar for two consecutive periods of 1 min.
One hour after the drug administration
the animals were retested and the
time they remained on the rotating bar, with a maximum of 60 s, were
recorded.
Span tuneous motor activity
Abafado I made from dried leaves from Sso Paul0 and Ceari was used.

42

Abafado III from SBo Paulo was also studied. Vehicle and citral groups were
included for comparison purposes. For each dose and drug 10 mice were
employed. Spontaneous motor activity was recorded by means of 10 identical photocell cages, each measuring 25 X 40 X 25 cm and crossed by three
light-beams.
The mice were placed individu~ly in the cages 5 min after i.p. or 30 min
after oral drug administration, and the number of light-beam interruptions
was recorded for the next 30 min.

Barbiturate sleeping-tide
Groups of 10 mice each were administered orally or i.p. either with
vehicle (water), doses from CsOto C208of abafados I, II and III prepared
from dried leaves from Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais and Ceara or with 100 mg/
kg of citral. Thirty minutes later the animals pretreated with the abafados
or with citral received, respectively, 50 or 40 mg/kg of sodium pentob~bit~
intraperitoneally. After the barbiturate injection the sleeping-time (time
interval between loss and recuperation of the righting reflex) was recorded in
minutes. The criterion for recuperation of the righting reflex was fixed such
that the animals had to regain their normal posture three consecutive times.

Electroencephalographic studies (EEG)


Eight rats, after anesthesia with 200 mg/kg of methyleugenol (Carlini et
al., 1981), were stereotaxically implanted with bipolar stainless steel electrodes (200 pm diameter) onto the surface of the frontal cortices and into
the posterior neck muscles. The electrodes were connected with pins to an
Amphenol@ strip connector permanently attached to the skull with dental
acrylic (Monti and Carlini, 1979). Following surgery, the rats were housed
individually in plexiglass cages with food and water ad libitum, ambient
temperature 24 ?r 2C. Two weeks were allowed for recovery from surgery.
The animals were submitted to two experimental sessions, 9 days apart,
one with water and the other with dose Cl0 of abafado I obtained from dried
leaves from SCo Paulo, both by oral route. Each experimenta day the rats
were introduced into the experimental chamber 8 h before the experiment
for adaptation to the recording situation and were connected to a Beckman
polygraph.
The drugs were administered at 16 : 30 h and continuous EEG tracings were
recorded for the following 12 h, that is, for 80% of the night period.
The tracings were analysed by visual inspection to obtain the following
parameters: latencies to the first episode and total time spent in slow wave
sleep (SWS); and latency for first episode, total number of episodes and total
time spent in rapid eye movement sleep (REM). The tracings were then
divided in 6 portions of 2 h each to calculate in each portion the time spent
in total sleep (SWS + REM), in SWS and in REM sleep.

43

Catatonia and palpebral ptosis


Groups of 8 male rats each received either through oral or i.p. routes,
vehicle, doses Cl,, and CzOof abafado from dried leaves from Sao Paulo or
20 and 100 mg/kg citral. An extra group of 5 rats was treated with 1 mg/kg
of haloperidol for comparison purposes.
To measure catatonia reaction the rats were gently forced to assume an
upright posture with their forepaws resting on a horizontal glass rod located
10 cm above the floor. The measures were performed beginning 1 and 2 h
after drug administration and each time the animals were put in that position
3 times.
The total amount of time the rats remained with the forepaws on the rod
(in the upright position) was recorded in seconds using stopwatches.
Palpebral ptosis were recorded as grades on a scale of 0 to 4 as follows:
grade 0, eyes totally open; grade 1, eyes 213 open; grade 2, eyes l/2 open;
grade 3, eyes l/3 open and grade 4, eyes totally closed. The grades of ptosis
were recorded 1 and 2 h after drug administration, immediately before the
beginning of catatonia measures.
Blockade of stereotyped behavior induced by apomorphine
Groups of 8 rats each were treated orally with vehicle or doses Cl0 and
CzOof abafado I from dried leaves from Sao Paulo or intraperitoneally with
100 mg/kg of citral. Two other groups of 6 rats each received 1.0 mg/kg of
haloperidol, oral or i.p. routes, for comparison purposes.
Thirty minutes later the rats were injected i.p. with 5.0 mg/kg of apomorphine and introduced individually in wire cages measuring 30 X 20 X 15 cm
with a wire distance of 2 cm. Latency for the appearance of the first sign of
stereotyped behavior (sniffing, licking or biting), total time of stereotypy
(time elapsed from the beginning until the animal displayed tine first grooming) and the grade of stereotypy were scored. The grades varied from 0
(none) to 7 (continuous biting of one wire of the cage without ambulation).
For further details see Troncone et al. (1986).
Transcorneal electroshock
Groups of 10 mice each received vehicle, abafados I and II from dried
leaves from Slo Paulo and Ceari or 50 and 100 mg/kg of citral. An extra
group of 6 mice were dosed with 5.0 mg/kg of diphenylhydantoin for
comparison purposes. Thirty minutes after drug administration the mice
received a transcorneal electroshock of 8 mA and 0.2 s duration. The
number of animals showing tonic convulsions and number of deaths were
recorded. For the test the recommendations of Swinyard et al. (1952) were
observed.
Pentylenetetrazol-induced convulsions
Groups of 10 mice each were previously administered vehicle, abafados I
from fresh or dried leaves from Sao Paulo or citral. Thirty minutes later the

animals received 100 mg/kg of pentylene~trazol subcutaneously in the back


of the neck. Each animal was covered by an inverted 2-l capacity beaker.
The number of animals showing clonic convulsions, tonic convulsions and
the number of deaths were recorded.
Neophobia reaction of rats
Groups of 6 rats each were orally dosed with vehicle, CZOof abafado I
from dried leaves of lemongrass from Slo Paulo or 5.0 mg/kg of diazepam.
One hour after drug admjnistration the rats were removed from the animal
facilities, where they were kept 6 to a wooden cage, and were indi~du~ly
introduced into metal pails of 20-l capacity (novel environment) containing
a previously weighed candy of sweetened milk (novel food). Fifteen, 30, 60
and 90 min later the candies were weighed again in order to determine food
consumption. For further details on the method see Silveira Filho and Tufik,
(1981).
Punished response test
Rats deprived of water for 48 h were individually introduced in an acrylicwalled box (30 X 15 X 30 cm) provided with a drinking tube and a grid floor.
The number of licks was recorded for 10 min. The day after this first session,
a sound of 8 s duration was introduced at a variable interval, signalizing that
during the final 5 s of each sound period electrical shocks of 0.1 s duration
and 0.4 mA could be delivered to the tongue at each lick (punished responses). The procedure was repeated until stable baselines were obtained, i.e. the
rats licked much during the periods without sound and very little during the
sound.
Three groups of 6 previously trained animals each received, respectively,
water as vehicle, dose CZOof abafado I from Sao Paulo and 3.0 mg/kg of
diaze?sm. Fifteen minutes later they were introduced into the box and the
number of punished responses was recorded for 10 min.
One week later the group of rats which had received abafado I were again
tested, this time after being orally dosed with a dose C,, of abafado III
obtained from lemongrass of the same origin.
Results
Body temperature of rats
Table 1 summarizes the results. A dose CZo of abafado I prepared from
dried leaves of lemongrass from S&o Paulo reduced body temperature by 1C
{lines 1 and 2 of Table 1) 1 and 2 h after administration. However, perhaps
due to the small number of animals used (6 per group) and the large standard
deviations after the drug, this difference did not reach statistical significance.
A bafado II from the same plant produced practically identical results (see
line 4 of Table 1). However, the abafudo I from Ceara and the abafado III
from Sao Paula (prepared by lyophylizing abafado I and resuspending the
residue in water) were inactive (lines 3 and 5).

Water
Fresh leaves
Dried leaves

Water
Citral
Citral
Citral

significantly

---

I
I
II
III

Abafado I
A bafado I

Abafado
Abafado
A bafado
Abafado

Preparation

from vehicle-treated

S&o Paulo
SIo Paulo

leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves

*Differs

Sio Paulo
Ceari
Slo Paulo
Sio Paulo

Water
Dried
Dried
Dried
Dried

Source

Naterial

Six animals per dose.

i.p.
orat
i.p.
i.p.

i.p.
i.p.
i.p.

rats (P G 0.05; one-way

2 ml/kg
200 mg/kg
100 mg/kg
200 mg/kg

8 ml/kg
c 20
C Zil

oral
oral
oral

oral

Route

AND DRIED

8 ml/kg
C I:0
C 2*
C *o
C .o

Dose

EFFECTS OF ABAFADOS I, II, III FROM FRESH


TEMPERATURE
OF RATS

TABLE 7

t 0.44
+_0.19
r 0.29
t 0.33
?r 0.26

analysis

r
t
i
*

0.26
0.29
0.24
0.19
of variance

38.3
37.7
37.1
37.8

37.9 r 0.48
38.2 * 0.47
38.2 i: 0.25

38.1
38.2
38.0
38.4
37.5

Oh
t
t
+
5
t

0.27
I.38
0.38
1.38
0.23

followed

37.6
36.9
37.1
36.2

t
r
t
c

f 0.13
t 1.50
?: 0.14
+ 1.37
f 0.28

37.3
36.9
36.8
35.4

t-test).

+ 0.16
t 0.83
r 0.74
t 0.60*

37.4 c 0.40
36.2 i 0.64*
35.8 + 0.79*

37.6
36.6
37.7
36.7
37.8

2h

by Students

0.42
0.72
0.50
0.26*

37.5 f 0.18
37.2 L 0.48
36.8 ?: 0.42

37.7
36.7
37.9
36.8
37.5

lh

ON BODY

f
t
t
*
f

0.17
1.63
0.25
0.42
0.20

37.4
37.3
37.1
36.8

+
5
t
+

0.22
0.36
0.52
0.49

37.7 f 0.36
38.0 +_0.26
37.5 + 0.25

37.7
37.9
37.7
37.3
37.0

4h

and after drug administration

AND OF CITRAL

(C + S.D.) before

OF LEMONGRASS

Temperature

LEAVES

46

On the other hand, when doses CzO of u~u~~dos I obtained either from
fresh or dried leaves of lemongrass from Sdo Paulo were given through
intraperitoneal
route, a statistically significant decrease in temperature
was
obtained 2 h after the injections (lines 7 and 8).
Citral (200 mg/kg) by oral route and 100 mg/kg i.p. did not significantly
affect the temperature;
only 200 mg/kg i.p. was effective in doing so in the
first 2 h after administration
(last 4 lines of Table 1).
Finally, the ~~u~~do I obtained from the dried feaves of Sgo Paulo was
unable to counteract the fever induced in the rats by the pyrogen of E. co&
Thus, 1 and 2 h after orally administering a dose C&, (or 4 h after the injection of 10 mg/kg of the pyrogen), the temperature
of the rats were 38.7 +
0.48C and 38.3 + 0.2OC, respectively. These results did not differ from the
values of the control group, 38.1 + 0.37 and 38.5 f 0.35, respectively,
1 and 2 h after vehicle.
~nt~sti~a~ transit

According to the first 6 lines of Table 2, oral doses CsO and Ctoo of
abafudo I obtained from fresh or dried leaves of Iemongrass from Sgo Paulo
did not alter the intestinal activity of mice. Thus, the charcoal meal travelled
from 55% to 73% of total small intestines whether the previous treatment had
been water or any of the abafados. However, doses CloO of the abafudos from
Stjo Paulo and CearG administered
intraperitoneally
(lines 7 and 8 of
Table 2) drastically reduced in~stin~
transit. Similar results were obtained
with citral. Through the oral route, 100 and 200 mgfkg did not modify the
intestinal activity (lines 9-11) although the same doses when administered
intraperitoneally,
produced a clear reduction in intestinal transit (last 4 lines
of Table 2).
Open-field

behavior

As can be seen in the first three lines of Table 3, oral doses CzO of abafado
I slightly reduced defecation
but the difference did not reach statistical
significance. A replication of this experiment (lines 4 -7 of Table 3) again
showed the same non-significant
decrease in defecation produced either by
doses Czo of abafadas I and II or by intraperitoneal
injection of dose Cl0 of
abafado I. One hundred mg/kg of citral by oral route was also unable to
significantly reduce defecation in rats. However, a marked decrease was
noticed when citral was given by the intraperitoneal
route.
As far as ~bulation
is concerned, as seen in Table 3, none of the above
treatments was effective in modifying it. Rearing was affected only by the
i.p. injection of 100 mg/kg of citral.
Rota-rod
Abafado

I (first 7 lines of Table 4) from fresh leaves from Sao Paulo and
Minas Gerais did not alter the performance
of mice on the rotating bar,
when administered either by oral or i-p. routes or in doses 50 times larger

Sio Paul0
Slo Paul0

SIo Paul0
S&o Paul0
Cearl
Cearl

Water
Fresh leaves
Dried leaves

Water
Fresh leaves
Dried leaves
Dried leaves
Dried leaves

Water
Citral
Citral

Water
Citral
Citral
Citral

40 ml/kg
C I0
C IO
C ,O
C I no
20 ml/kg
100 mg/kg
200 mg/kg
20 ml/kg
25 mg/kg
100 mg/kg
200 mg/kg

60
60
60
30
30
60
60
60
30
30
30
30

I
I
I
I

C 50

30

Abafado
Abafado
Abafado
Abafado

20 ml/kg
C 50

30
30

Abafado
Abofado

Dose

Minutes
elapsed between
drug and
charcoal

Preparation

66.8 + 18.8
71.0 t 14.0
73.0 f 12.8
oral
oral
oral

71.6
55.8
21.3
18.0

+ 19.0
t 23.7
+_ 5.3**
* 2.9**

66.8 f 6.8
69.1 2 11.2
59.6 + 19.5
oral
oral
oral
i.p.
i.p.
i.p.
i.p.

66.2
63.4
55.6
28.0
25.6

oral
oral
oral
i.p.
i.p.

+ 12.3
* 12.2
r 13.2
f- 8.1*
+_ 7.5**

Intestinal transit?

Route

a Percent of total length of small intestine travelled by the charcoal meal. Values are mean f S.U.
* Differs significantly from vehicle treated mice (*P < 0.01; **P < 0.001; one-way analysis of variance followed by Students f-test).

Source

I FROM FRESH AND DRIED LEAVES OF LEMONGRASS AND OF CITRAL ON INTESTINAL

Material

Ten animals per dose.

EFFECT OF ABAFADO
TRANSIT IN MICE

TABLE 2

A bafudo
A bafado

A bafado I
Abafudo
II
Abafado I

Water
Fresh leaves
Dried leaves

Water
Fresh leaves
Dried leaves
Dried leaves

Water
Citral
Citral

i.p.
oral
i.p.

i.p.

c 10

1 ml/kg
100 mg/kg
100 mg/kg

oral
oral
oral

oral
oral
oral

Route

8 ml,kg
C
C:::

8 ml/kg
C 20
C 70

Dose

+ 2.2

+ 2.2

3.0 % 2.4
0.1 f 0.3*

4.4

2.3

4.4 +_0.8
3.1 * 0.7
2.8 * 1.7

5.0 % 2.6
2.9 +_2.4
3.5 f 2.2

Defecation
(mean c S.D.)

+_12.3

+ 16.0

36.8 + 16.5
36.9 f 11.7

47.8

30.1

45.3 * 21.0
44.0 i 10.3
39.2 f 14.9

48.4 + 9.5
43.4 * 12.7
45.8 * 11.4

Ambulation
(mean + S.D.)

5.3

18.0 + 11.6
8.6 t 6.0
7.1 + 4.7*

9.8

16.0 f- 7.1
18.0 r 6.5
14.2 f_ 9.4

17.0 + 7.8
15.1 f. 4.8
11.2 -t 6.7

Rearing
(mean + SD.)

OF SXO PAUL0 AND OF CITRAL ON THE OPEN-FIELD BEHAVIOR OF

*Differs significantly from vehicle-treated rats (*P $ 0.05; one-way analysis of variance followed bv Students t-test).

I
I

Preparation

FROM LEMONGRASS

Material

Eight animals per dose.

EFFECTS OF ABAFADOS
RATS

TABLE 3

19

than the corresponding


dosage ingested by humans. Negative results were
also obtained when abafado I (lines 8 --15 of Table 4) from dried leaves from
Sdo Paulo, Minas gerais and Ceari was given orally or i.p. up to doses CsO-C 1o0. An experiment
with abafudo II obtained from dried leaves from Silo
Paulo (line 13) as well as oral and intraperitoneal
doses Clo4 and Czo8 of
ubufudo III (lines 16-20)
were also inactive, Finally, citral up to 100 mg/kg
through oral or i.p. routes (last 4 lines of Table 4) was also unable to affect
mice in this test.
Spontaneous
motor activity
As seen in Table 5, the ubufudo I from Slo Paulo and Ceara, up to dosages
of Cloo, did not modify the motor activity of mice; dose C1,O of ubufudo III
from Sdo Paulo was also inactive. Citral by the intraperitoneal
route discretely decreased the motor activity of the mice in a dose-dependent
manner
but only with the larger doses (50. -100 mg/kg) the results differed significantly from controls. However, up to 100 mg/kg of citral by oral route was
inactive.
Barbiturate sleeping-time
The results are summarized in Table 6. The ubafudos I, II and III from
dried leaves from Sao Paulo, administered by oral i.p. routes, at doses up
to 208 times larger than that corresponding
human dosage, were unable to
potentiate the sleeping time induced in the mice by 50 mg/kg of pentobarbital. Abafudo I from Minas Gerais and Ceara States were also inactive. The
only positive result found was that obtained with 100 mg/kg of citral by
intraperitoneal
route. However, the same dose of citral by the oral route was
unable to potentiate the barbiturate effect.
Electroencephulographic
studies
After being dosed with the vehicle or with the dose CzO of abafudo I the
mean latencies for the first REM sleep episode were, respectively,
64.2 +
44.7 and 63.4 + 52.1 min. Latencies for the first episode of SWS were also
similar: 20.4 * 15.1 and 20.1 It 16.0 min, respectively.
The total numbers
of REM sleep episodes in the 12-h, respectively,
15.1 +_3.1 and 18.2 f 5.2,
also did not differ.
Table 7 shows the time spent by the rats in each sleep parameter during
each 2-h period of the 12 h of observation.
As can be seen, with the exception of the amount of REM sleep at the period 6-S h, no differences occurred when the rats were orally dosed either with water or the ubufudo.
Catatonic reaction and pulpebrulptosis
As seen in Table 8, the ubufudo I from dried leaves of lemongrass from
Sao Paulo, at doses Cl0 and C&, induced neither catatonia nor palpebral
ptosis in the rats. This failure contrasts with the marked effects of the neuroleptic haloperidol.
Citral up to 100 mg/kg through i.p. route was also
inactive in these two tests.

OF ABAFADOS

leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves

leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves

Water
Dried
Dried
Dried
Dried
Dried
Dried
Dried

Water
Dried
Dried
Dried
Dried

Water
Citral
Citral
Citral

leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves
leaves

Water
Fresh
Fresh
Fresh
Fresh
Fresh
Fresh

Material

Paul0
Paul0
Paula
Paul0

Abafado
A bafado
A bafado
Abafado

Sio
SZo
Sio
Sio

Abafado
Abafado
A bafado
Abafado
A bafado
Abafado
Abafado

Sio Paul0
Minas Gerais
CearSl
Ceari
Sio Paul0
SHo Paul0
S&o Paul0

Abafado
Abafado
Abafado
Abafado
Abafado
Abafado

Sio Paul0
Sio Paul0
Sit0 Paul0
Minas Gerais
SHo Paul0
Sio Paul0

Preparation

FROM LEMONGRASS

Ten animals per dose.

EFFECTS

TABLE 4

III
III
III
III

I
I
I
I
II
I
I

I
I
I
I
I
I

i.p.
oral
oral
i.p.
i.p.
oral
oral
i.p.
i.p.

20 ml/kg
100 mg/kg
50 mg/kg
100 mg/kg

oral
oral
oral
oral
oral
oral
i.p.
i.p.

oral
oral
oral
oral
oral
i.p.
i.p.

Route

ON ROTA-ROD

40 ml/kg
c 10.
C 201
C 104
C 201

Dose

AND OF CITRAL

57.7
55.5
50.6
44.8

47.0
53.3
52.5
38.6
26.7

53.5
50.6
57.1
54.2
50.6
55.0
54.3
51.8

58.7
59.0
51.9
42.4
49.9
50.1
46.0

18.0
17.7
16.9
20.3
21.7
i 5.7
t 6.9
+ 16.2
* 23.5

t
f
t
*
+

f 11.5
t 14.2
t 7.6
t 13.5
L 16.5
r 8.2
f. 10.8
t 13.6

* 4.1
+ 3.9
t 13.2
+_20.1
i- 6.2
t. 16.7
t 18.5

Performance
(s r SD.)

PERFORMANCE

on the rota-rod

OF MICE

cxi

I
I
I
I
III
I
20
50
100
25
50
100

ml/kg
mglkg
mg/kg
mg/kg
mg/kg
mg/kg

C,
C,
C I0
c )111,
C,%,
C Irt0
i.p.
oral
oral
i.p.
i.p.
i.p.

oral
oral
oral
oral
oral
oral
oral

Route
t 118
k 102
+ 81
_c140
+ 127
r 108
+ 122
+ 121
329 f 87
292 r. 79
235 + 87
260 c 112
185?
87*
82 r 50**

280
240
264
290
278
230
230
235

Mean f&D.)

of light-beam inte~uptions

*Differs significantly from vehicle-treated mice (*P Q 0.05; **P G 0.02; one-way analysis of variance followed by Students t-test).

Water
Citral
Citral
Citral
Citral

Abafado
Abafado
A bafado
A bafado
A bafado
Abafado

SHo Paul0
Slio Paul0
SPo Paul0
SIo Paul0
SHo Paul0
Cearsi

20 ml/kg
40 ml/kg

Water
Water
Dried leaves
Dried leaves
Dried leaves
Dried leaves
Dried leaves
Dried leaves

Dose

Preparation

Source

FROM DRIED LEAVES OF LEMONGRASS AND OF CITRAL ON THE SPONTANEOUS MOTOR

Material

Ten animals per group.

EFFECTS OF ABAFADOS
ACTIVITY OF MICE

TABLE 5

I
II
III
III
I
1
I

Stio Paul0
Go Paul0

SIo Paul0
Sio Paul0
Sio Paul0
St%0Paul0
Minas Cerais
Cead
Cearl

Source

20 ml/kg
100 mgikg
100 mg/kg

20 ml/kg
C 10.
C 208

Dose

oral
oral
i.p.

i.p.
i.p.
i.p.

oral
oral
oral
oral
oral
oral
oral
oral

Route

f 31.3
L 36.0
i 27.2
?: 22.3
+ 20.0
t 23.6
+ 22.4
F 15.1

22.2 t 19.7
24.3 t 21.7
68.9 ?: 26.0*

46.5 r 16.2
52.2 t 18.1
53.8 t 15.2

44.1
66.0
44.8
43.2
41.4
42.9
33.8
32.9

Sleeping-time
(min t S.D.)

FROM DRIED LEAVES OF LEMONGRASS AND OF CITRAL ON THE PENTOBARBITAL

*Differs significantly from vehicle-treated group (P G 0.02; one-way analysis of variance followed by Students t-test).

Water
Citral
Citral

Water
Abafado III
A bafudo III

Water
Abafado
Abafado
A bafado
Abafudo
Abafado
Abafado
Abofado

Material
or preparation

Ten animals per dose.

EFFECT OF ABAFADOS
TIME OF MICE

TABLE 6
SLEEPING-

f
f
5
+
*
*

22
10
17
19
22
19

343 5 73

73
59
52
55
53
50

f 17
+ 18
* 21
+_23
+ 17
+ 14

359 t 68

72
66
50
65
64
42

+ 19
t. 11
+ 17
5 17
t 18
c 15

315 + 68

66
53
48
52
48
48

Water

Water
A bafado

Slow wave sleep

Total sleep

Sleep parameters (min f. S.D.) after water or abofudo

*Differs significantly from water treatment (P < 0.05; Students f-paired test).

b-12

o-2
2-4
4-6
6-8
8-10
10-12

Time interval
after drug
administration
th)
f
t
t
r
f.
2

14
18
18
20
17
12
325 + 61

65
57
47
59
58
39

A bafado

EFFECTS OF DOSE C,, ABAFADO I OBTAINED FROM DRIED LEAVES OF LEMONGRASS


OF VEHICLE (WATER) ON ELECTROENCEPHALO~RAPHIC
PAR~ETERS
OF THE RAT

TABLE 7

+ 6.2
r 3.6
+ 1.9
+_1.9
+ 4.3
+ 3.9
28.0 r 7.4
I.

7.1
6.4
3.9
3.1
5.2
2.5

Water

- -._---

l.l_

-~

It 4.9
t 3.3
f 4.1
t 3.9*
r 3.0
L 3.2
34.0 i 8.3

7.3
9.4
3.4
6.2
6.2
3.2

A bafado

Rapid eye movement sleep


___--

---

OF SAO PAUL0 AND 8 ml/kg

i.p.
i.p.
i.p.

0.9 t

1.7

2.1 ?: 2.0
0.7 t
1.8
13.4 f 18.2

0.8 r
1.3
1.1 c
1.8
311.2 F 182*

lh

Catatonia (s 2 SD.)

2.1 +

5.3

1.9 f
2.1
1.2 +
1.6
23.8 + 31.4

4.7 f
5.3
3.2 f
4.6
893.0 ? 192%

2h

0
0
0

0
0
3

lh

0
0
0

0
0
4*

2h

Ptosis (median)

I FROM

*Differs significantly from control and abafad~ I groups f*P < 0.02; Duncans new multiple range test for catatonia and Kruska!Wallis analysis of variance followed by Mann-Whitney U-test for ptosis).

4 ml/kg
20 mglkg
100 mg/kg

Water
Citral
Citral

oral
oral
oral

oral

8 d/kg

c 10
c
1 r&/kg

Water

Route

Dose

Abafado I
Abafado I
Haloperidol

Material or
preparation

Eight rats per dose.

MEASUREMENT OF CATATONIC REACTION AND PALPEBRAL PTGSIS OF RATS TREATED WITH ABAFADO
L~MONGRASS OF SP;O PAUL0 OR WITH CITRAL

TABLE 8

__

55

Blockade of stereotyped behuuior


As expected, the neuroleptic
drug haloperidol completely
blocked the
stereotyped
behavior induced by the dopaminergic
agonist apomorphine
(last 2 lines of Table 9). However, doses Cl0 and CZOof abafado I from
lemongrass harvested in Go Paul0 and 100 mg/kg of citral given i.p. were
unable to counteract the effects of apomorphine.
~ranscornea~ electroshock
Table 10 summarizes the results. A bafados I and II from dried
Srjio Paulo and Ceari were unable to protect the mice against the
vulsions and deaths induced by electroshock.
The same failure
observed with 50- -100 mg/kg of citral injected intraperitoneally.
5 mg/kg of diphenylhydantoin
gave complete protection.

leaves from
tonic conwas also
In contrast,

Pe~tylenetetrazol-induced convulsions
As seen in Table 11, oral doses C5,, of abafado I from fresh or dried leaves
from Sbo Paulo, as well as 50-100
mg/kg of citral, given by oral or i.p.
routes, did not give the mice protection
against the effects of pentylenetetrazol.
Neophobia reaction
The rats treated orally with 8.0 ml/kg of water, as expected, took 60 min
to begin to ingest the novel food available to them (Table 12). At that time
4 of the animals treated with the anxiolytic drug diazepam had already ingested the food, one of them starting the ingestion at 30 min. At 90 min the
diazepam group also ate significantly more than controls.
The rats treated with dose CZo of the abafudo did not eat at all during the
entire 90-min period.
swished response test
As seen in Table 13, the three groups of rats, in the last control session
emitted a small number of punished responses (licks during the sound period
signalizing the electrical shocks). The performances
during the experimental
session revealed that the vehicle and the abafudos I and III did not interfere
with the behavior of the rats. However, as expected, diazepam significantly
increased the number of punished responses by the rats.
Discussion
The folk use of lemongrass to treat feverish conditions (Alves et al., 1960;
Fook, 1980; Olaniyi et al., 1975) was the first of three popular therapeutic
indications on which we focused in the present work. As seen in Table 1,
doses CzO and ChOof abafudos obtained from the plants harvested in Sao
Paul0 and Ceara States were not able to significantly decrease body temperature of rats, when administered by the oral route. Citral, by the oral route, up

oral
oral
oral
i.p.
oral
i.p.

Route

1.6
1.9
1.6
1.4

tr 0.2
r. 0.5
r 0.3
t 0.6
-

Latent y
(min t S.D.)

Stereotyped

OF L~MONGRASS
IN RATS

behavior

r 4.0
2 6.4
* 6.2
* 7.9
r 0.3*
0*

5.0
4.5
4.0
6.0
0*
0

ON THE STEREO-

and total time; Kruskal-Wallis

Grade
(median)

AND OF CITRAL

range test for latency

55.7
58.5
52.6
62.3
0.5

Total time
(min t S.D.)

OF SAO PAUL0

from the other groups (P < 0.001; Duncans new multiple


followed by Mann-Whitney
U-test for grades of stereotypy).

8 ml/kg
C 10
c
l;;o mg/kg
1 mg/kg
1 mg/kg

Water
Abafado I
Abafado I
Citral
Haloperidol
Haloperidol

*Differs significantly
analysis of variance

Dose

per dose.

Material
or preparation

Eight animals

EFFECTS OF ABAFADO I FROM DRIED LEAVES


TYPED BEHAVIOR INDUCED BY APOMORPHINE

TABLE 9

10

Water
Abafado I
Abafado II
Citral
Citral
Citral
Diphenylhvdantoin

Water
Abafado I
Abafado II

Material or
preparation

Ten animals per dose.

Cearl
Cearl
-

40 ml/kg
C 50
C 100
100 mg/kg
50 mg/kg
100 mg/kg
5 mglkg

2.0 ml/kg
C 5(1
C 50

SHo Paul0
Sio Paul0

Dose

Source

oral
i.p.
i.p.
oral

oraf
oral

oral

oral

Route

100
100
80
90
100
100
0

100
100
90

Tonic
convulsions
w1

30
30
20
30
20
20
0

20
10
10

Deaths
(at

EFFECT OF SEVERAL ABAFADOS PREPARED


FROM DRIED LEAVES OF LEMONGRASS
OF Sir0 PAUL0 AND CEARA
AND OF CITRAL ON THE TONIC CONVULSIONS
AND DEATHS CAUSED IN MICE BY TRANSCORNEAL
ELECTROSHOCK

TABLE

20 ml/kg
C 50
C 50

100ml/kg
20
mg/kg
50 mg/kg
100 mglkg

Water
Fresh leaves
Dried leaves

Citral
Water
Citral
Citral

oral
i.p.
i.p.
i.p.

oral
oral
oral

Route

100
100
100

100
100
100

Clonic
convulsions
(%)

0
0
0

8 ml/kg
C
5 *&g/kg

Water
Abafado I
Diazepam

0
0
0.06

30 min

0.13 f: 0.26
0
0.89 t 0.42*

60 min

(g t S.D.) after

;::
100
100

100
90
100

Deaths
(%)

0.24 * 0.18
0
0.91 + 0.13*

90 min

OF S.&O PAUL0 ON FOOD CONSUMPTION OF RATS IN

90
100
100

100
90
100

Tonic
convulsions
(%)

*Differs significantly from controls (P g 0.05; one-way analysis of variance followed by the Students f-test).

15 min

Food consumption

Dose

Material
or
preparation

The drugs were administered through oral route. Six animals per dose.

EFFECT OF ABAFADO I FROM DRIED LEAVES OF LEMONGRASS


A NOVEL ENVIRONMENT (NEOPHOBIA REACTION TEST).

TABLE 12

Dose

Material
or
preparation

Ten animals per dose.

EFFECT OF ABAFADQ I FROM LEAVES OF LEMONGRASS OF SAG PAUL0 AND OF CITRAL ON THE CONVULSIONS
AND DEATHS PRODUCED IN MICE BY 100 mg/kg PENTYLENETETRAZOL
SC.

TABLE 11

59

TABLE 13
EFFECT OF ABAFADOS
I AND III FROM DRIED LEAVES OF LEMONGRASS OF
SK0 PAUL0 ON THE NUMBER OF PUNISHED RESPONSES EMITTED BY PREVIOUSLY TRAINED RATS (PUNISHED LICKING TEST)
Six animals per dose.
Material
or
preparation

Dose

_-Water

Abafado I
Abafado III
Diazepam

8 ml/kg
C 20
C
3 &g/kg

Mean number of punished responses


(t&D.) in
Last control
session

Experimental
session

2.7 ?: 0.5
3.2 * 2.4
-

5.7
2.0
2.7
13.0

4.5 r 1.6

_-

i
r
t
r

2.0
0.7
0.9
2.3*>1

*Differs significantly from control group at experimental session (P < 0.05;one-way


analysis of variance followed by Students i-test).
Differs significantly from values at own control session (P < 0.05;Student's
paired
t-test).

to 200 mg/kg, also lacked effect. However, when the abafado or citral was
injected intrape~toneally si~ific~t
decreases of about 2C were obtained.
The lack of effect by oral route was also observed when a dose CZoof the
abafado was given to rats made hyperthermic by previous administration of
a pyrogen. The non-effectiveness of oral doses of lemongrass contrasts with
the positive results found with other Brazilian plants. Thus, oral doses of
2.5 and 5.0 ml/kg of an abafudo from seeds of Licaria puchury-major
(prepared by pouring 100 ml of boiling water over 5 g of powdered seeds)
signific~tly reduced the temperature of rats (Carlini et al., 1983).
The treatment of gastrointestinal disturbances is another folk medicinal
use of oral preparations of lemongrass (Alves et al., 1960; Fook, 1980;
Hirschhorn, 1983; LiberaIli et al., 1946; Olaniyi et al., 1975). Defecation of
rats in an open-field arena and intestinal transit in mice were the methods we
employed to investigate this attributed effect of the plant. The results
obtained were negative. As seen in Table 2, the abafudo I from S&o Paul0
and Ceari States was not able to decrease the intestinal transit of mice up to
the dose Cloo by oral route; 200 mg/kg of citral orally also was inactive.
Again, these compounds demonstrated activity by i.p. route. Similar results
were obtained with rats defecation scores in an open-field arena, as shown in
Table 3. Doses CZOof abafado I orally or C,,, intraperitoneally slightly
decreased defecation but the results fell short of statistical significance; only
100 mg/kg of citral i.p. significantly decreased defecation.
At least in Brazil, the main popular use of lemongrass is to treat nervous
disturbances such as insomnia, anxiety, tension and irritabilty, etc. It is

60

actually one of the most important Brazilian popular calmantes, drugs


used to calm people down (Nogueira, 1983). To investigate this folk use, we
have employed batteries of tests that can give some indication of nonspecific sedation of the central nervous system and of hypnotic, neuroleptic,
anxiolytic or anticonvulsant effects.
A decrease of ambulation and rearing of rats in an open field arena is
observed after treatment with many CNS depressant drugs (Cunha and
Masur, 1978). Oral or i.p. doses CiO-C *,-,of abafudo I obtained from dried or
fresh leaves of lemongrass of Sao Paulo and oral 100 mg/kg of citral were
unable to decrease ~bulation
or rearing (Table 3). The only effect noted
with this method was the decrease of rearing after 100 mg/kg of citral
intraperitoneally. The rota-rod test yields positive results with a large series
of CNS depressants (Riley and Spinks, 1958). However, as seen in Table 4,
the abafdos obtained from fresh or dried leaves from lemongrass harvested
in three different states of Brazil were completely inactive even when given
orally or intraperitone~ly in doses as high as CZOs,i.e. a dose 208 times larger
than the corresponding estimated human dosage; 100 mg/kg i.p. of citral was
also inactive.
One of the most obvious signs of sedation in mice is a decrease of their
spontaneous motor activity (Kinnard and Watzman, 1966; Riley and Spinks,
1958). As seen in Table 5, oral doses from C1 to ClsO of a~u~~dos from
lemongrass of Sao Paulo and Ceari and 50-100 mg/kg of citral were unable
to decrease the motility of mice; however, when citral was given through the
intraperitoneal route a clear reduction of motor activity was observed.
Again, 10 ml/kg of an abafado of Licaria puchury-major,
a plant used in
Brazil for the same popular therapeutic indications as lemongrass, strongly
depressed the motor activity of mice (Carlini et al., 1983).
The eventual hypnotic effect of lemongrass was investigated through the
barbiturate sleeping-time test in mice and EEG recording in rats. The barbiturate test gives positive results for all known hypnotics, although is not
specific for this class of drugs (Riley and Spinks, 1958; Irwin, 1962). As
seen in Table 6, abaf@dos I, II and III obtained from lemongrass of three
Brazilian States by oral or intraperitone~ routes, even at the very large
dosage of CZDs,did not potentiate the sleeping-time of sodium pentobarbital.
Citral given by the oral route was also inactive and the only positive result
was obtained with i.p. injection of 100 mg/kg citral (last line of Table 6). The
absence of hypnotic effect of the lemongrass preparation from Sio Paulo,
was also confirmed by the study of the sleep-wakefulness cycle of rats. The
results of Table 7 show that the dose CZOdid not interfere with any of the
parameters of SWS and REM sleep measured for 12 h after orally dosing the
rats.
Catatonic reaction, palpebral ptosis and blockade of the stereotyped
behavior induced by apomorphine, are among the most common tests
employed to detect neuroleptic effects of drugs (Janssen et al., 1968).
Abafado I prepared from leaves of lemongrass harvested in Sao Paulo, at
doses C2,, by oral route, induced neither catatonic reaction nor palpebral

61

ptosis (Table 8) and was not able to counteract the stereotyped


behavior
induced by apomorphine
(Table 9). Citral, even at a 100 mg/kg dose by the
intraperitoneal
route, was also inactive. On the other hand, haloperidol, as
expected, was very active in all three situations.
Blockade of electroshockor pentylenetetrazol-induced
convulsions in
mice are characteristic
effects of some CNS-depressant drugs useful in the
treatment of epilepsy (Krall et al., 1978). Oral C5,, doses of abafado from
lemongrass obtained in Sao Paulo and Ceara State did not protect mice
against electroshock
as did diphenylhydantoin
(Table 10). nor against the
convulsions and deaths induced by pentylenetetrazol
(Table 11). In these
two tests citral, up to 100 mg/kg intraperitoneally,
was also completely
inactive.
The possible anxiolytic effect of lemongrass was also investigated. Rats
placed in a strange environment
avoid novel but palatable food given to them
(Corey, 1978), but when previously treated by anxiolytic drugs they exhibit
an increased food consumption
in such a situation (Poschel, 1971). Table 12
shows that diazepam, a known anxiolytic drug, actually does increase the
food consumption
of rats in a neophobic situation. The data of Table 12
also show the complete absence of anxiolytic effect of an oral dose CZ,, of
abafado I lemongrass of Sao Paulo.
The punished response test, another animal model of anxiety, is also used
to study anxiolytic drugs (Iversen, 1980). As seen in Table 13, dose CZOand
Cd0 of abafudo from Sao Paulo did not mimic the clear anxiolytic effect of
diazepam.
In summary, the present data obtained with 14 different pharmacological
tests, employing rats and mice and oral doses as high as 208 times the estimated human dosage did not support experimentally
the alleged folk use of
lemongrass for treatment
of gastric and nervous disturbances and feverish
conditions. In fact, the absence of any pharmacological
effect produced by
the oral doses of the abafudos was remarkable; the only demonstrable
effects
were those obtained when the intraperitoneal
route was employed, such as
decrease in body temperature
of rats (Table 1) and of charcoal intestinal
transit of mice (Table 2).
The results obtained with citral were similarly discouraging. This mixture
of neral and geranial is the main component of the volatile oil fraction of
Brazilian lemongrass (Matos et al., 1984). Several plants with volatile oil
fractions have a widespread use in folk medicine and many components
extracted from essential oils are potent pharmacological
agents (Carlini et al.,
1983; Dallmeier and Carlini, 1981; Sell and Carlir i 1976). However, oral
doses of 100-200
mg/kg of citral were inactive in all tests in which they
were used; even intraperitoneal
doses were inactiv
ir, several tests. These
findings contrast with the ample array of pharmaco_ogical activity described
for several substances present in the essential oil fraction of plants, such as
eugenol, methyleugenol,
safrole, estragole and anethole (Le Bourhis and
Soenen, 1973; Dallmeier and Carlini, 1981, Engelbrecht et al., 1972; Seto
and Keup, 1969).

62

In conclusion, the experimental data of the present work do not lend


support to the popular use of the abafados from lemongrass as a medicinal
aid to treat some diseases.
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