While researching herbal extracts that could potentially be useful as a health supplement for autism, we came across an extract of the plant Agaratum conyzoides (chick weed, goatweed).
Agaratum conyzoides contains certain chemicals that (in theory) could bind to the oxytocin receptor. Oxytocin is the neurotransmitter involved in social recognition, pair bonding, maternal behavior and anxiety.
Agaratum Historical Uses
Another common name for Agaratum is tropical whiteweed. Agaratum are shorts plans with white flowers or blue flowers. Most species are native to Central America and Mexico, but four are native to the United States.
Extracts of Agaratum conyzoides have insecticidal and nematocidal activity, as well as antibacterial activity against the bacteria Staphylococus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Eschericichia coli, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Extracts of Agaratum conyzoides contain many bioactive compounds including flavonoids, alkaloids, cumarins, chromenes, terpenoids and tannins. It is used in traditional medicine in Suriname in the Amazon.
An infusion is prepared from the leaves of the entire plans and applied to treat colic, goals fevers, diarrhea, rheumatism and spasm. It is also recommended for its antibacterial properties.
Our experience with this Extract
While testing an extract of Agaratum, we didn’t observe any ‘oxytocinergic‘ effects in terms of improving social interactions. But if we used the extract in a very low dose (let’s say a few drops), we were able to change the sleeping patterns of our son. In particular, we were able to see a shift in waking time.
In fact, at the age of four, our son was getting up earlier and earlier every day, which was very disturbing to family life. As we gave him a few drops of this extract in his drink before bed time, we noticed that his sleep would be longer for about 45 minutes the following morning.
The effect of Agaratum extract on sleep pattern was only observed if the extract was given in very low doses (1-2 drops), once every 7-10 days. This means that the dosing of this extract has to be cycled, as giving the extract on a daily basis has no effect on sleep.
The best dosage would have to be fine-tuned. The dosage is dependent on the child’s age, weight and how much the child’s sleep pattern is ‘out of phase‘ (non-24 hour).
Uvänas-Moberg K., Arn I, Magnusson D. (2005) The psychobiology of emotion: the role of the oxytocinergic system. Int J Behav Med.12:59-65.
Goodlin-Jones, B.L., Tang, K., Liu, J., Anders, T.F. (2008) Sleep patterns in preschool-age children with autism, developmental delay, and typical development. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry47:930-8.