Herbs Could Improve Cognitive Function

Although there’s ongoing controversy about the usefulness of herbs to treat medical problems, a study has found that spearmint and rosemary could improve learning and memory.

Researchers found that cognitive function improved after the two herbs were enhanced with antioxidants.

"We found that these proprietary compounds reduce deficits caused by mild cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to Alzheimer's disease," said Susan Farr, Ph.D., research professor geriatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

But she also cautioned consumers to proceed with care.

"This probably means eating spearmint and rosemary is good for you,” she said. “However, our experiments were in an animal model and I don't know how much -- or if any amount -- of these herbs people would have to consume for learning and memory to improve. In other words, I'm not suggesting that people chew more gum at this point."

Farr, who presented the early findings at Neuroscience 2013 tested a novel antioxidant-based ingredient made from spearmint extract and two different doses of a similar antioxidant made from rosemary extract on mice that have age-related cognitive decline.

The higher dose rosemary extract compound was the most powerful in improving memory and learning in three tested behaviors. The lower dose rosemary extract improved memory in two of the behavioral tests, as did the compound made from spearmint extract.

There were also signs of “reduced oxidative stress,” – a sign of age-related decline in the part of the brain that controls learning and memory.

"Our research suggests these extracts made from herbs might have beneficial effects on altering the course of age-associated cognitive decline," Farr said. "It's worth additional study."

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