Anxiety disorders are a major public health concern worldwide. Studies indicate that repeated exposure to adverse experiences early in life can lead to anxiety disorders in adulthood. Current treatments for anxiety disorders are characterized by a low success rate and are associated with a wide variety of side effects. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the anxiolytic effects of a novel herbal treatment, in comparison to treatment with the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor escitalopram. We recently demonstrated the anxiolytic effects of these treatments in BALB mice previously exposed to one week of stress. In the present study, ICR mice were exposed to post natal maternal separation and to 4 weeks of unpredictable chronic mild stress in adolescence, and treated during or following exposure to stress with the novel herbal treatment or with escitalopram. Anxiety-like behavior was evaluated in the elevated plus maze. Blood corticosterone levels were evaluated using radioimmunoassay. Brain derived neurotrophic factor levels in the hippocampus were evaluated using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We found that (1) exposure to stress in childhood and adolescence increased anxiety-like behavior in adulthood; (2) the herbal treatment reduced anxiety-like behavior, both when treated during or following exposure to stress; (3) blood corticosterone levels were reduced following treatment with the herbal treatment or escitalopram, when treated during or following exposure to stress; (4) brain derived neurotrophic factor levels in the hippocampus of mice treated with the herbal treatment or escitalopram were increased, when treated either during or following exposure to stress. This study expands our previous findings and further points to the proposed herbal compound's potential to be highly efficacious in treating anxiety disorders in humans.
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