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Study: spearmint and rosemary extracts improve memory

Posted:  Friday, November 22, 2013

The health benefits of spearmint and rosemary have been described for years in numerous studies, but new research in mice suggests that antioxidants from spearmint and rosemary made into an enhanced extract can improve learning and memory, potentially helping with age-related cognitive decline.

Prof. Susan Farr, from Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri, presented her early findings at Neuroscience 2013, a meeting hosted by the Society for Neuroscience.

Using new antioxidant-based extracts made from spearmint and also a similar antioxidant from rosemary extract, Prof. Farr tested the effects on mice with age-associated cognitive decline.

In terms of improving memory and learning in three tested behaviors, the higher dose rosemary compound was most successful.

Additionally, the lower dose of rosemary extract, as well as the spearmint extract compound, improved memory in two of the behavioral tests.

She also observed reduced oxidative stress in the part of the mice brains that controls learning and memory, which she notes is a marker of age-related decline.

Though her research yielded exciting results, Prof. Farr is not recommending that individuals binge on spearmint and rosemary just yet:

"This probably means eating spearmint and rosemary is good for you. 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."

Rosemary and spearmint benefits abound

Though rosemary can be used in many cooking recipes to flavor poultry or even to add an extra something to bread dough, on the list of its many talents, health benefits appear.

Not only is it a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, but also it can be used to treat indigestion.

A study from 2012 suggested that rosemary oil may boost brain performance, while another from 2010 recommended adding extract of the herb to beef while cooking to reduce cancer-causing agents that can form during cooking.

Spearmint, also packed with antioxidants and good for digestion, has been said to have anti-fungal properties, as well as properties that could help treat mild hirsutism in women.

Concluding her findings, Prof. Farr says:

"Our research suggests these extracts made from herbs might have beneficial effects on altering the course of age-associated cognitive decline."

She adds that "it's worth additional study."

The research was supported by the VA Medical Center in St. Louis, MO, and it should be noted that it was also supported by Kemin Industries, which makes specialty ingredients for vitamin and dietary supplements.

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