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Essential oil from this Turkish medicinal plant found to reduce dementia-related anxiety and depression

A species of St. John’s wort (Hypericum) that’s native to Central Asia may alleviate depression and anxiety, especially for those with dementia. In a report published in the Journal of Essential Oil Research, researchers from Firat University in Turkey examined the anti-anxiety and anti-depression properties of Hypericum scabrum.

Behavioral changes among those with dementia

Dementia isn’t a specific disease; rather, it’s the umbrella term for conditions which are marked by a decline in cognitive function and loss of functional independence. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 5 million people around the age of 65 have been diagnosed with a type of dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease. Experts predict these figures could go as high as 14 million by 2060.

It’s easy to dismiss dementia as a part of normal aging. However, many older adults live their lives without developing dementia. While these individuals experience age-related memory changes, such as occasionally forgetting names and recent events, their knowledge, skills and experiences stay intact.

People with dementia also experience memory changes, but these cause them to get lost even in familiar places or ask questions repeatedly. Compared to those experienced by healthy older adults, these changes can disrupt daily life. People with dementia also have problems with attention, communication, visual perception and reasoning.

In addition, people with dementia suffer from behavioral and psychological symptoms. It’s very common for them to exhibit apathy, depression and anxiety. Four out of 10 patients with dementia suffer from depression, while nine out of 10 patients show apathy in the latter stages of the disease.


Anxiety, on the other hand, is often seen in patients who still have good insight and awareness of their condition, such as those suffering from vascular or frontotemporal dementia (FTD). It’s worth noting that the causes of anxiety for those with dementia are similar to those without the condition. They include having a history of traumatic events, extreme worry and damage to parts of the brain that regulate emotion.

Hypericum scabrum has anxiolytic and anti-depressive properties

In their report, Turkish researchers looked at H. scabrum, a plant native to Central Asia and western China, and its potential as a treatment for dementia-related depression and anxiety. The plant has long been used in traditional medicine: In Uzbekistan, it is used to treat diseases ranging from cystitis to heart disease, while in southwest China, the plant is used as a local remedy. Meanwhile, folk healers in Iran use H. scabrum to relieve pain and treat headaches, among others.

For their study, the researchers examined the effects of H. scabrum essential oil on anxiety and depressive-like behavior using an animal model of dementia. They made rats inhale the essential oil regularly for three weeks. They then treated the rats with scopolamine, a drug that can induce memory deficits similar to those seen in older adults. After scopolamine treatment, they subjected the rats to behavioral tests.

The researchers found that rats treated with H. scabrum essential oil performed markedly better on tests than untreated ones, suggesting that the oil has anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. (Related: St. John’s wort: A scientific review of its remarkable antibacterial and antioxidant properties.)

In a follow-up study, the team also explored the potential memory-enhancing properties of H. scabrum essential oil using a rat model of dementia. For this, the researchers evaluated how well the essential oil can improve the spatial memory of rats with dementia compared to conventional drug therapies (diazepam and tramadol). They found that H. scabrum essential oil can be used as a complementary therapy for reducing memory impairment in patients with dementia and similar diseases.

Learn more about natural treatments for dementia at

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