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

  • Associate Professor of Neurology, School of Medicine

Biography

Dr. Amala Soumyanath is Director of the NIH funded BENFRA Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center at OHSU, and Co-Director of the NIH T32 Training Grant on CAM Research Training in Neuroscience and Stress. She has a Pharmacy degree and PhD, from the University of London. Her area of expertise is “Pharmacognosy,” the scientific study of medicinal plants. Prior to joining OHSU, Dr. Soumyanath (then Amala Raman) was a faculty member at the Department of Pharmacy, King's College London, UK. She joined the 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

Dr Soumyanath's research has encompassed the characterization and quality control of botanicals, phytochemical isolation and analysis, preclinical and clinical evaluation of botanical extracts, and bioavailability and pharmacokinetic studies of botanical compounds. 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.  

Botanicals for Neurological and Functional Resilience in Aging

Centella asiatica and Withania somnifera are popular botanical dietary supplements in the US, where they are sold as “Gotu kola” and “Ashwagandha” respectively. They are reputed to improve cognition, sleep and mood, three functions that may decline during aging. Dr. Soumyanath directs collaborative studies at the BENFRA Center OHSU aimed at elucidating functional effects, mechanisms and active compounds of these two botanicals. The ultimate goal is to provide the scientific basis for reliably effective botanical dietary supplements. 

Centella asiatica for neurological diseases

Dr. Soumyanath has been studying the potential use of the Ayurvedic herb, Centella asiatica, for neurological diseases in collaboration with neuroscientists and neurologists at OHSU, and analytical experts at Oregon State University. Their research has shown that Centella asiatica can stimulate peripheral nerve regeneration and acts as a neuroprotective agent in central nervous system. Preclinical and clinical studies are 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'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, a depigmentary skin disease. She is now continuing this work at OHSU in collaboration with 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.

“Plants have provided healing to humans from time immemorial. I strongly believe that they have a continuing role in current and future healthcare. Advanced scientific methods can now be applied to study traditional botanical remedies, allowing us combine ancient knowledge with strong scientific evidence as a basis for the effective use of botanical medicine.”
-Dr. Soumyanath

In her spare time, Dr. Soumyanath enjoys world travel, world music, and art.

Education

  • B.Pharm., 1981, University of London
  • Ph.D., 1987, King's College London, University of London

Memberships and associations

  • American Society of Pharmacognosy

Publications

Publications

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