All cultures around the world use herbs in their cuisine, some more than others. Indian cuisine, for one, has some of the best uses for herbs that do wonders for enhancing flavors in their dishes. The benefits of herbs, however, go beyond just adding a spike in the taste; they have also been shown to help the brain.
A new study led by Stevens Rehen, of the D’Or Institute for Research and Education and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, now suggests that consumption of herbs can lead to the formation of new brain cells with greater forged connections between them. This benefit is due to a product called apigenin, present in many herbs and plants, such as red pepper, chamomile, and more. Since earlier studies had shown that substances from the same group as apigenin led to memory and learning benefits, the research team decided to study the effects of apigenin specifically on neurons.
Image Source: Small_Frog
The researchers applied apigenin to human stem cells and observed the effects. After about 25 days, these cells had differentiated to neurons, whereas this phenomenon was absent in the control group without any apigenin. It was also observed that stronger connections were formed between these newly developed neurons, signifying that apigenin not only has the ability to transform cells, but it could also lead to more sophisticated communication. Furthermore, the scientists discovered the process by which apigenin does so: the compound binds to estrogen receptors (ER), which plays a crucial role in development and function of the nervous system.
The study may also lead to further research of possible compounds that mimic the estrogen-mediated effects on the neurons and their connections. Previous studies have hinted at the possibility of estrogen delaying the development of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, or even depression, but estrogen therapy is difficult to test because it is impeded by risks of tumor growth and cardiovascular problems. Rehen’s study, however, may be a new breaking point in treating these disorders through the use of apigenin.
Despite all the new possibilities, one thing is for sure: herbs are often overlooked, but they can actually be very important to your health. So, the next time you sit down for a meal, sprinkle a bit of parsley or peppermint onto your meal. You, or should I say your brain, won’t regret it!
Feature Image Source: Lavender by Steve Grant