It may sound a bit like a Masterchef mystery-box challenge, but if you can include hot red chillies, parsley, chamomile and thyme in your diet, your brain will thank you for it.
These herbs and spices are all rich sources of a plant compound called apigenin, which can improve brain function and boost memory power, according to a new study. But that’s not all – this food chemical could be the answer to degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Brazilian researchers have demonstrated in laboratory tests that apigenin improves neuron formation and strengthens the connections between brain cells.
Previous experiments with animals had already shown that substances from the same chemical group as the apigenin, known as flavonoids, positively affect memory and learning. Many studies highlight the potential of flavonoids to preserve and enhance brain function. While the effectiveness of flavonoids for brain health is not an entirely new concept, this research is the first to show the positive effects of apigegin directly on human cells and the first to unraveling its mechanism.
The scientists observed that just by applying apigenin to human stem cells in a dish they become neurons after 25 days–- an effect they would not see without the substance. Moreover, the neurons that were formed made stronger and sophisticated connections among themselves after being treated with this natural compound.
“Strong connections between neurons are crucial for good brain function, memory consolidation and learning”, says neuroscientist from IDOR and UFRJ Stevens Rehen, leader author of the paper published today at Advances in Regenerative Biology.
The research team conducted by Rehen demonstrated that apigenin works by binding to oestrogen receptors, which affect the development, maturation, function, and plasticity of the nervous system. This group of hormones is known to delay the onset of psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. However, the use of oestrogen-based therapies is limited by the increased risk of estrogen-dependent tumours and cardiovascular problems.
Researchers believe apigenin can be used as an alternative approach on future treatments for neurodegenerative diseases.
So remember to add parley to salads, thyme to pasta and baked vegetables and red hot chillies to your stir-fries, and follow it up with a nicee cup of chamomile tea in the evening – your brain will thank you for it!