Anxiolytic activity of a supercritical carbon dioxide extract of Souroubea sympetala (Marcgraviaceae)

Martha Mullally, Kari Kramp, Chris Cayer, Ammar Saleem, Fida Ahmed, Calum McRae, John Baker, Andrew Goulah, Marco Otorola, Pablo Sanchez, Mario Garcia, Luis Poveda, Zul Merali, Tony Durst, Vance L. Trudeau, John Thor Arnason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this work was to develop an extraction technique to yield a betulinic acid-(BA) enriched extract of the traditional anti-anxiety plant Souroubea sympetala Gilg (Marcgraviaceae). Five extraction techniques were compared: supercritical carbon dioxide extraction (SCE), conventional solvent extraction with ethyl acetate (EtOAc), accelerated solvent extraction (ASE), ultrasonic assisted extraction (UAE) and soxhlet extraction (Sox). The EtOAc and SCE extraction methods resulted in BA-enriched extracts, with BA concentrations of 6.78 ± 0.2 and 5.54 ± 0.2 mg/g extract, respectively, as determined by HPLC-APCI-MS. The bioactivity of the BA-enriched extracts was compared in the elevated plus maze (EPM), a validated rodent anxiety behaviour assay. Rats orally administered a 75 mg/kg dose of SCE extract exhibited anxiolysis as compared with vehicle controls, with a 50% increase in the percent time spent in the open arms, a 73% increase in unprotected head dips and a 42% decrease in percent time spent in the closed arms. No significant differences were observed between the SCE and EtOAc extracts for these measures, but the animals dosed with SCE extract had significantly more unprotected head dips than those dosed with the EtOAc extract. The SCE extract demonstrated a dose-response in the EPM, with a trend toward decreased anxiety at 25 mg/kg, and significant anxiolysis was only observed at 75 mg/kg dose. This study demonstrates that SCE can be used to generate a betulinic acid-enriched extract with significant anxiolysis in vivo. Further, the study provides a scientific basis for the ethnobotanical use of this traditional medicine and a promising lead for a natural health product to treat anxiety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-270
Number of pages7
JournalPhytotherapy Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Marcgraviaceae
  • Souroubea sympetala
  • anxiolysis
  • betulinic acid
  • elevated plus maze
  • supercritical CO extraction


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