According to researchers at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, antioxidant compounds found in spearmint and rosemary improved memory and learning in mice with age-related cognitive decline. The rodents also evidenced fewer signs of oxidative, factors that are typically seen in the region of the brain involved in memory and learning that signal the onset of cognitive decline. As the scientists note, impaired cognitive function is often a precursor to Alzheimer's disease.
The research team, who presented their findings at the annual meeting of The Society of Neuroscience in San Diego in November 2013, note that it’s not yet clear how these results transfer from mouse to man, as is the case with most studies that involve animal models. It also follows that it’s not known how much rosemary or spearmint people would have to consume or supplement with to improve memory or learning capacity since the experiment relied on extracts of antioxidant components in the herbs that the researchers refer to as “novel” and “proprietary compounds.” So, in terms of how much and by what mechanism rosemary and spearmint may counter age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease, more research is needed.
Of course, herbalists and health conscious folk in general recognize the value of incorporating antioxidant-rich, plant-based foods in the diet every day, including herbs. There’s also a lot to be said for the whole-spectrum philosophy that allows all of the phytochemicals in plants work together synergistically rather than picking them apart to produce proprietary compounds to patent and market. With that said, there’s no need to wait for more research or the arrival of a new supplement formula to hit the shelves before you can enjoy flavoring your favorite tea blends or seasoning your foods with herbs. And don’t forget…rosemary is for remembrance!
Saint Louis University. "Can certain herbs stave off Alzheimer's disease?" ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131115111524.htm (accessed September 2, 2014)