Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wham: Rosemary is Great for Your Brain

Did you know that eating Rosemary Chicken or Rosemary Potatoes will help protect your brain from free radicals? A recent discovery at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research has found a mechanism for the herb’s action in ameliorating neurological conditions such as stroke and Alzheimer's disease. This is one powerful little plant.

Rosemary not only tastes good in culinary dishes, but scientists have now found it is also good for your brain. A collaborative group from Burnham (La Jolla, CA) and their Japanese colleagues reports that the herb rosemary contains an ingredient that fights off free radical damage in the brain. The active ingredient in rosemary, known as carnosic acid (CA), can protect the brain from stroke and neurodegeneration that is due to injurious chemical free radicals. These radicals are thought to contribute not only to stroke and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, but also to the ill effects of normal aging on the brain.

Two recent publications in The Journal of Neurochemistry and Nature Reviews Neuroscience reported for the first time that carnosic acid activates a novel signaling pathway that protects brain cells from the ravages of free radicals. In animal models, the scientific group, led by Drs. Takumi Satoh (Iwate University, Japan) and Stuart Lipton (Burnham Institute), found that CA becomes activated by the free radical damage itself, remaining innocuous unless needed.

Burnham researchers say that this is exactly what is wanted in a drug. The scientists call this type of action a “pathological-activated therapeutic” or "PAT" drug. They use this term because the action of CA represents a "gentle tap" in comparison to the heavy sledge hammer that some drugs produce, including significant side effects in areas of the body where their effects are not needed and not wanted.

That's the beauty of nature. Stuart A. Lipton, MD, PhD, the senior author on the paper and Director, Professor, and Senior Vice President at the Burnham Institute says “Moreover, unlike most new drugs, this type of compound may well be safe and clinically tolerated because it is present in a naturally-occurring herb that is known to get into the brain and has been consumed by people for over a thousand years.”

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