Drs. Barry Oken and Amala Soumyanath standing outdoors at OHSU, smiling at each other
Barry S. Oken, M.D., Ph.D. (ORCCAMIND) and Amala Soumyanath, B.Pharm., Ph.D. (BENFRA and ORCCAMIND)

Research areas and projects

BENFRA Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center

Aging-related challenges, including alterations in mood, sleep disturbances and cognitive decline, have detrimental effects on quality of life for the elderly. Many botanical agents, including Centella asiatica (CA; “gotu kola”) and Withania somnifera (WS; “ashwagandha”), are purported to improve resilience to these changes, yet few have been evaluated in well-designed clinical trials.

The BENFRA center examines CA and WS in preclinical research studies to evaluate their effects, underlying mechanisms and active constituents. This information will inform the design of future clinical trials to evaluate their efficacy in humans. Ultimately these studies will lead to better formulated dietary supplements with reliable health benefits for healthy aging. 
Learn more about BENFRA

Center for Women’s Health: Curcumin Implant Study

PI: Alison Edelman, M.D., M.P.H.
The goal of this study is to learn if a supplement called curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, taken for 30 days can reduce the number of days of vaginal bleeding in women using the contraceptive implant (nexplanon or implanon). 
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Family Medicine research

A wide breadth of research in integrative medicine has taken place within the department of Family Medicine. Highlights have included incorporation of yoga and acupuncture into clinical settings and non-pharmaceutical approaches to asthma. Current topics include measuring the effects of interdisciplinary integrative medical practice on attitudes regarding a whole heath approach and factors influencing symptom presentation in hypermobile patients. 

Knight Cancer Institute research

Dr. Steve Chamberlin, a naturopath, acupuncturist and graduate of OHSU's National Library of Medicine Fellowship in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology who had a prior career in data science and predictive modeling in a variety of industries, is energized by his interest in applying computational methods to the study of integrative medicine. He uses public resources to predict natural product treatments and their associated drug synergies for oral squamous cell cancer and has helped to develop electronic tools to assist patients choosing to use integrative oncology services.

Dr. Chamberlin is currently researching the molecular mechanisms of botanical extracts for the treatment of neurodegenerative conditions, which falls under the umbrella of resilience research. A related area of interest to him is the study of salutogenesis, the process of moving from a less healthy state to a more healthy condition, which he would also call wellness restoration, or the opposite of pathogenesis. Of particular interest to him is promotion of health care access for underserved populations.

Read Dr. Chamberlain's thesis, Natural Product Target Network in Cancer: Definition and Application Public Deposited.

OHSU psychedelic research: Social Neuroscience and Psychotherapy Lab (SNAP)

SNAP Lab aims to maximize the benefits of therapeutic alliance and psychotherapy through the adjunct use of social psychopharmacology, such as oxytocin, MDMA, and psilocybin. Members of the OHSU community may join the OHSU Psychedelic Medicine & Research Collaborative email list.
Learn more about the SNAP lab at

Oregon Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Neurological Disorders

Funded through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, ORCCAMIND is committed to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research in neurological disorders. Studies examine the breadth of CAM approaches, including dietary supplements, yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, meditation and other mind/body medicine.
Learn more about ORCCAMIND

Sharing History through Active Reminiscence and Photo-imagery study

SHARP, led by Dr. Raina Croff at OHSU, aims to maintain or improve cognitive health among older Black Americans through increasing physical and social activity. SHARP is culturally celebratory, engaging healthy and cognitively impaired participants in image-prompted oral history building as they reminisce together while walking through Portland, Oregon’s historically Black neighborhoods. Additionally, SHARP actively works to narrow equity gaps by providing valuable research opportunities and mentoring for emerging scholars of color. SHARP is funded by the CDC Healthy Aging Program, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the National Institute on Aging and is supported by PreSERVE Coalition for Black American Memory and Brain Health.
For more information: and

Featured project

A tangle of vines and leaves of the Centella asiatica plant

BENFRA Project 1: Centella asiatica

This project focusses on the resilience-promoting effects of the plant Centella asiatica. This herb is used in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine as a nerve tonic and to improve cognitive function. Our lab and others have shown that low doses of a water extract of Centella asiatica can improve cognitive function in rodent models of aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Anxiolytic effects and improvement in insomnia as a result of administering the extract have also been reported.

However, few clinical trials have attempted to validate these effects, and each has suffered from severe methodological flaws such as lack of controls, being underpowered or evaluating poorly characterized products. Very little attention has been paid to assessing appropriate biomarkers of target engagement, which may provide an early indication of possible efficacy in longer trials of clinical outcome. 
Learn more about BENFRA