ST. LOUIS -- Enhanced extracts made from special antioxidants in spearmint and rosemary improve learning and memory, a study in an animal model at Saint Louis University found.
"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.
Farr added, "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."
Farr presented the early findings at Neuroscience 2013, a meeting of 32,000 on Monday, Nov. 11. She 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.
She found that 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.
Further, there were signs of reduced oxidative stress, which is considered a hallmark 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."
The research, which was supported by the VA Medical Center in St. Louis, was conducted in conjunction with Kemin Industries, which manufactures specialty ingredients for vitamin/dietary supplements or that can be added to food to enhance its nutritional and health benefits.
Established in 1836, the School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, aging and brain disease, cancer and heart/lung disease.