Could it be that herbal treatments such as spearmint and rosemary may have beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s disease? Preliminary evidence says maybe.
According to Dr. Susan Farr, a research professor in geriatrics at the Saint Louis University of Medicine. she has found that certain proprietary compounds formulated with antioxidants coming from these plants appear to improve memory and learning. Deficits in these cognitive abilities are known to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurological disease which affects more than 5 million Americans. People with Alzheimer’s disease experience memory loss and loss of cognitive abilities due to the death of brain cells. While it starts mild, it gets progressively worse, leaving its victims confused and forgetful. Although it predominantly affects older people, it can affect people as young as 30 if there is a family history of the disease. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
The proprietary compounds which Farr tested were made with antioxidant-based ingredients coming from spearmint extract as well as two different doses of a similar formulation made from rosemary extract. They were tested on mice with age-related cognitive decline.
Farr says that she found that higher doses of the rosemary extract had the most effect in improving learning and memory out of the three behaviors that were tested. A lower dose of rosemary extract improved memory in two of the tests performed. The spearmint extract also improved memory.
In addition, Farr found signs of lowered oxidative stress in the parts of the brain associated with learning and memory. Oxidative stress is considered to be a marker for age-related declines in cognition.
However, Far says it’s too soon to know whether these herbs will help humans or even what doses might be needed if they do help. The experiments were performed in animals so it’s not possible to extrapolate from these data any recommendations for humans. Farr says she believes that eating spearmint and rosemary are probably good for you, but that she is not prepared to make any sort of recommendation at this point that people start consuming more of these herbs.
But, Farr says her work with the herbal extracts is quite promising and she believes that they are worth further study.
Farr presented the findings from her work at Neuroscience 2013, which was held on November 11.
The presentation coincides with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, which occurs each year in November. The event, which seeks to raise awareness about the disease and its effects on families, has been held every year since 1983, when it was begun by a proclamation from President Ronald Reagan. Rather ironically, it was later claimed by his son Ron that Reagan had been suffering from the disease himself while he was still president.
By Nancy Schimelpfening