Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) of the Labiatae family, has  an ancient tradition in phytomedicine. Young shoots , leaves and flowers are used. They contains both essential oils ( eucalyptol , camphor, verbenone,  cineole and bornyl acetate ), both in the phytocomplex, carnosic acid , the most active component of rosemary. This plant support the recovery of mental energy, concentration, safety and motivation. Recent research  has revealed that some fractions present in rosemary act as stimulants and activators of certain brain centers such as the locus coeruleus (with the consequent release of norepinephrine) in the hippocampus and the amygdala (with the release of neurohormones that influence the ‘cortical activation). Used since the Middle Ages to treat disorders of the nervous system and to ward off sickness. It has neuroprotective effects without producing serious side effects characteristic of many agents used to treat neurodegenerative diseases. This type of compound may well be safe and clinically tolerated because it is present in a naturally occurring herb that is known to get into the brain and has been consumed by people for over a thousand years. This agent activates a new signalling cascade that protects brain cells from free radical damage observed in stroke and other degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s . In animals it has been noticed that the a carnosic acid is activated by free radicals, but otherwise remains harmless , which could lead to the development of new drugs. The rosemary could be the ideal solution in the clinical use of potentially neuroprotective treatments.

Two studies issue of Nature Reviews Neuroscience show that carnosic acid activates a novel signalling pathway that protects brain cells from free radical damage, seen in stroke and other neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

In animal experiments, the investigators found carnosic acid is activated by the free radical damage but otherwise remains innocuous, a finding that may signal a major breakthrough in the development of drugs to treat neurodegenerative disease.

According to the investigators, animal experiments showed  carnosic acid activates the Keap1/Nrf2 transcriptional pathway by binding to specific Keap1 cysteine residues, protecting neurons from oxidative stress and excitotoxicity. The study also suggests that carnosic acid may protect the brain against middle cerebral artery ischemia/reperfusion. This new type of agent, known as a pathological-activated therapeutic (PAT) drug, works though a mechanism known as redox chemistry, in which electrons are transferred from 1 molecule to another to activate the body’s own defense system. However, the identification of carnosic acid and its potential beneficial effect in the brain should lead to the development of better and more effective neuroprotective agents. Some researchers have filed a US patent application for a whole series of novel compounds that show even greater benefits than rosemary itself.

The research team hopes to improve upon rosemary’s beneficial effects. We can do even better in protecting the brain from terrible disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease, perhaps even slowing down the effects of normal aging by developing new and improved cousins to the active ingredient in rosemary.