Amala Soumyanath, B.Pharm., Ph.D.

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Associate Professor

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Dr. Amala Soumyanath has a Pharmacy degree and a PhD, both from the University of London. Her area of expertise is "Pharmacognosy," the scientific study of medicinal plants. From 1987 to 2002, Dr. Soumyanath (then  Amala Raman) held a faculty position in the Department of Pharmacy, King's College London, UK, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses and directed a research group studying botanicals used in diabetes or skin diseases. Dr. Soumyanath joined the faculty of OHSU Neurology Department in 2003, through ORCCAMIND – the Oregon Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Neurological Diseases. She is currently also affiliated with the Layton Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Center at OHSU.

Research Interests

General: Dr Soumyanath's research encompasses the characterization and quality control of botanicals, phytochemical isolation, preclinical and clinical evaluation of botanical extracts, and bioavailabilty and pharmacokinetic studies of  the active compounds in botanicals. The goals of her research are to:

  • validate and understand the traditional use of botanicals through scientific study, and
  • investigate botanicals as a source of new treatments for disease.  

Centella asiatica for neurological diseases Dr. Soumyanath’s current research focus is on the Ayurvedic herb, Centella asiatica. Recent studies, in collaboration with neuroscientists and neurologists at OHSU, have shown that Centella asiatica extracts may stimulate peripheral nerve regeneration and also be useful as a neuroprotective agent in central nervous system. Preclinical and clinical studies are currently being pursued on the use of Centella asiatica extracts in the treatment of diabetic neuropathy,  Alzheimer's Disease and mild cognitive impairment.

Piperine for vitiligo Dr. Soumyanath is also working closely with the Dermatology department at OHSU to develop a new treatment for vitiligo, a depigmentary skin disease. Dr. Soumyanath's group at King’s College London discovered that piperine, a substance from black pepper, stimulates melanocyte (pigment cell) proliferation and may be able to induce repigmentation in vitiligo. She is now continuing this work at OHSU in collaboration with Dr. Philippe Thuillier (Public Health and Preventive Medicine, OHSU), and Dr. Sancy Leachman, and other members of the Department of Dermatology, OHSU. The goal of this team is to bring piperine to the market as a novel treatment for vitiligo.

Dr. Soumyanath says, "Plants have provided healing to humans from time immemorial. I strongly believe that they have a continuing role in current and future healthcare.  Advances in scientific methods allow us to combine traditional knowledge with strong scientific evidence as a basis for the use of botanical medicine."

In her spare time, Dr. Soumyanath enjoys world travel and world music, while for inner peace she turns to Sri Adi Sankara's Advaita philosophy.


Selected Publications

"Caffeoylquinic acids in centella asiatica protect against amyloid-β toxicity," Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (Vol: 40, Issue: 2, Page 359-373) - 2014

"Centella asiatica extract improves behavioral deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease: Investigation of a possible mechanism of action," International Journal of Alzheimer's Disease - 2012

"Monitoring human melanocytic cell responses to piperine using multispectral imaging," Progress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE (Vol: 7883, ) - 2011

"Passiflora incarnata L. (Passionflower) extracts elicit GABA currents in hippocampal neurons in vitro, and show anxiogenic and anticonvulsant effects in vivo, varying with extraction method," Phytomedicine (Vol: 17, Issue: 12, Page 940-949) - 2010

"In vivo evaluation of piperine and synthetic analogues as potential treatments for vitiligo using a sparsely pigmented mouse model," British Journal of Dermatology (Vol: 158, Issue: 5, Page 941-950) - 2008


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Memberships & Associations

American Society of Pharmacognosy