Pharmacokinetics of Hypericin and Pseudohypericin after Oral Intake of the Hypericum Perforatum Extract LI 160 in Healthy Volunteers

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Abstract

The single- and multiple-dose pharmacokinetics of the naphthodianthrones hypericin and pseudohypericin derived from St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum, LI 160, Lichtwer Pharma GmbH, Berlin) were studied in 12 healthy male subjects. After a single oral dose of 300, 900, or 1800 mg of dried hypericum extract (250, 750, or 1500 μg hypericin and 526, 1578, or 3156 μg pseudohypericin), plasma levels were measured with a modified highly sensitive high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) method (lower detection limit 0.1 ng/mL) up to 3 days. The median maximal plasma levels were 1.5, 4.1, and 14.2 ng/mL for hypericin and 2.7, 11.7, and 30.6 ng/mL for Pseudohypericin, respectively, for the three doses given above (interim evaluation of four volunteers). The median elimination half-life times of hypericin were 24.8 to 26.5 hours, and varied for pseudohypericin from 16.3 to 36.0 hours. Ranging between 2.0 to 2.6 hours, the median lag-time of absorption was remarkably prolonged for hypericin when compared to pseudohypericin (0.3 to 1.1 hours). The areas under the curves (AUC) showed a nonlinear increase with raising dose; this effect was statistically significant for hypericin. During long-term dosing (3 x 300 mg/day), a steady-state was reached after 4 days. Mean maximal plasma level during the steady-state treatment was 8.5 ng/mL for hypericin and 5.8 ng/mL for pseudohypericin, while mean trough levels were 5.3 ng/mL for hypericin and 3.7 ng/mL for pseudohypericin. In spite of their structural similarities there are substantial Pharmacokinetic differences between hypericin and pseudohypericin.

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