Can persimmon leaf help you sleep?

29 September 2022

NICM Health Research Institute’s Dr Phoebe Zhou and Professor Dennis Chang are investigating if a herbal preparation made from persimmon leaf extract, called Nao Xing Qing (NXQ), can help treat insomnia based on a multi-compound-multi-targeted approach.

Persimmon leaf extract is traditionally used to promote blood circulation and remove blood statis. In Japan, herbal tea of persimmon leaves is popularly used to lower blood pressure, protect blood vessels, and help insomnia.

Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder, and it is associated with increased risks of mortality, significant disability and (recurrent) stroke in population affected by cardiovascular diseases. Sleep is regulated by a variety of neurotransmitters and their complex network.

Chief investigator, Dr Zhou says previous studies and pilot data show promise for NXQ for promoting sleep and reducing insomnia by targeting these neurotransmitters.

“From past studies conducted in China, the preliminary data suggests the bioactive components, as in the chemicals found in a plant, in this case, the persimmon leaf’s chemical makeup, has an action in the body that may promote good health, in this case the promotion of sleep and decrease of insomnia,” says Dr Zhou.

“Sleep is regulated by a variety of chemicals/neurotransmitters and their neuroglial network in the body and brain including melatonin, serotonin (5-HT), dopamine (DA), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), acetylcholine (ACh), norepinephrine (NE), and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which are currently considered as the major therapeutic targets for insomnia.

“Our preclinical research aims to demonstrate the effect of NXQ and activities of main bioactive on GABA, 5-HT and cholinesterase related to insomnia which underpins the overall activity of NXQ in treating insomnia.

“We also aim to formulate the optimal compound-formulas from NXQ that can help contribute to the novel drug development in attenuating insomnia.

The researchers expect the study to be completed in 2023.

The study is funded by NICM Health Research Institute and Hutchison Whampoa Guangzhou Baiyunshan Chinese Medicine Co. Ltd.