The science behind spearmint for cognitive performance:
Rosmarinic acid keeps your neurons healthy
One important polyphenol naturally present in spearmint is rosmarinic acid (RA). In cells studies, this spearmint polyphenol displays a remarkable ability to reduce oxidative stress indicating neuroprotective capabilities.4,5,6
A closer look at rosmarinic acid shows interesting potential health benefits related to cognitive function. Rosmarinic acid appears to be able to keep brain cells and specifically mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) in top functioning order.7,8 Brain cells use as much as 20% of the body’s oxygen, so the brain is especially susceptible to damage from ROS or free radicals. A young and healthy brain can efficiently neutralize free radicals. However, as a result of aging, poor diet, and numerous other extrinsic factors, the brain may not be able to manage oxidative stress, which is when cell damage can occur.
Mitochondria are particularly vulnerable to damage from oxidative stress. In vitro studies show rosmarinic acid in spearmint can protect the mitochondria by neutralizing excess ROS and supporting cell viability.9
Kemin's spearmint polyphenols, including rosmarinic acid, were evaluated in an animal study with promising results for translatable human applications.5,6 Mice were given one of three doses of Kemin's specialized spearmint extract for 90 days.
The study showed the following results after consumption of spearmint 5% RA for 90 days:
- Improved memory acquisition and retention in a series of learning exercises
- Decreased protein oxidation in the hippocampus
- Lowered lipid oxidation in the cortex
Polyphenols promote neuron communication
Other polyphenols found in the Lamiaceae family of botanicals that appear to have similar neuroprotective activities are salvianolic acids. Studies show that rosmarinic acid and salvianolic acids support healthy neurotransmission by increasing levels of acetylcholine.11,12 In the brain, acetylcholine acts as a neurotransmitter, allowing neurons to communicate with one another. Healthy neurotransmission plays a vital role in learning and memory.
As one ages, an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) can break down acetylcholine in the brain, which may impair memory and concentration. However, polyphenols like rosmarinic acid and salvianolic acids may reduce the activity this enzyme.
Spearmint in nutritional supplements
Botanical supplements are growing in demand as consumers seek naturally-derived and sustainably grown solutions for staying healthy. When plants are sustainably grown, clinically studied and carefully monitored for antioxidant and polyphenolic levels, these supplement ingredients can provide valuable solutions for health, wellness and brain support.
Look for supplements containing Neumentix™, Kemin's naturally-derived spearmint extract.
In our next article, we'll explore Kemin's sustainable practices and how our spearmint extract supplement ingredient, Neumentix, can help supplement manufacturers market their products to eco-conscious consumers.