Amala Soumyanath, PhD

Affiliate Research Investigator

Dr. Amala Soumyanath has a Bachelor in Pharmacy and PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences, both from the University of London. Her research expertise is in “Pharmacognosy”, the scientific study of medicinal plants. This encompasses quality control of botanicals, phytochemical isolation, bioassays to study activity, clinical studies of botanicals and evaluation of bioavailability of plant derived compounds.

From 1990 to 2002, Dr. Soumyanath (née Amala Raman) held a faculty position in the Department of Pharmacy, King’s College, University of London, UK. Dr. Soumyanath joined OHSU in 2003, through ORCCAMIND – the Oregon Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Neurological Diseases. She is now affiliated with the Department of Neurology and the Layton Alzheimer’s Disease Center at OHSU.

Dr. Soumyanath’s current research focus is on the properties and use of the herb Centella asiatica for neurological disorders. Collaborative studies with neuroscientists and neurologists at OHSU has shown that Centella asiatica may stimulate peripheral nerve regeneration and may be also be useful as a neuroprotective agent in central nervous diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Both pre-clinical and clinical studies are being pursued.

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 discovered that piperine, a substance from black pepper, stimulates melanocyte (pigment cell) proliferation. 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. It’s great that we now have the scientific means to ensure rational phytotherapy.”

In her spare time, Dr. Soumyanath enjoys world travel and world music. For inner peace she turns to the tenets of Sri Adi Sankara’s Advaita philosophy.