Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to protect against free radical damage in the brain. Historically associated with improved memory, it has also been found to help inhibit the formation of amyloid beta proteins characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.
A powerful antioxidant, rosemary helps preserve lipid (fat) membranes, which comprise 60% of the brain. Numerous studies have demonstrated that rosemary compounds activate the Nrf2 cell defense pathway, which releases an array of anti-oxidizing and detoxification enzymes that protect neurons from oxidative cell death. Research now clearly outlines a direct association between free radical damage and neuron death in Alzheimer’s disease, especially in brain regions with accumulations of beta-amyloid. Brain cells are more susceptible to free radical damage than any other cell types for several reasons including their high oxygen consumption, high lipid content and relatively low endogenous antioxidant capacity.
Rosemary’s ability to upregulate the brain’s cellular antioxidant defenses is in turn responsible for its potent anti-inflammatory effects. Microglial cells are the major inflammatory cells of the brain which, once activated, produce large amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines that play a direct role in Alzheimer’s pathology. By triggering Nrf2, rosemary helps counteract microglial activation and other neuroinflammatory responses.
Rosemary inhibits the production of beta-amyloid in the brain by promoting alternative, non-toxic pathways for the processing of amyloid precursor proteins. It has also been found to help reverse the cellular signs and symptoms of neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment from beta-amyloid toxicity.