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Rosemary and Thyme for Brain Health

June 8, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

The next time you grill some rosemary chicken or make a pot of Boston clam chowder with thyme, keep in mind that these fragrant herbs may be doing a lot more for your health than simply stimulating your taste buds. Recent scientific research is providing evidence that Rosmarinus officinalis and Thymus vulgaris may in fact shield us from some of the common ills that affect both the body and mind. In conducting today’s research, I was pleasantly surprised to find that these unassuming and ubiquitous herbs show a great potential impact on brain health and function.

A Brazilian study published in June 2009 uncovered an antidepressant effect of a rosemary extract applied to two behavioral models in mice. The authors of the research determined that rosemary positively interacted with the monoaminergic system in the brains of the test animals. The monoaminergic system focuses on several neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. (1) All three of these substances can be lacking in individuals who suffer from depression. In addition, two recent human studies also demonstrated an anti-anxiety and fatigue reducing effect in participants utilizing rosemary essential oil as a form of aromatherapy. (2,3)

Some fascinating research presented in the British Journal Nutrition found a rather unique way in which thyme may also support brain health. In this experiment, one group of rats was given a thyme supplement and another group was used as control. The control group did not receive any supplementation. After the completion of the study, the researchers analyzed the rats’ brains to determine whether the thyme supplementation provoked any negative or positive changes. It was found that the levels of antioxidants in the brains of the mice receiving thyme were comparable to antioxidant levels of much younger mice. An even more surprising finding was that the levels of certain healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil), were significantly higher in the thyme supplemented animals. (4) These findings are further supported by a similar study conducted just one year prior. (5) This research is significant because omega-3 status is thought to protect age-related cognitive function and healthy mood states that often suffer with escalating age.

Without a properly functioning circulatory system, one can’t expect to be mentally sharp. One of the primary reasons why cognitive abilities decline with age is because of reduced blood flow to the brain. It appears that both rosemary and thyme may be viable, dietary tools in combating this unwanted occurrence.

A 2008 study appearing in the journal Thrombosis Research determined that the addition of 5% of either rosemary or thyme could mitigate the ill effects of a “Western-style high-fat diet” in a group of mice that was examined for 12 weeks. The authors theorized that the benefits were the result of positive changes relating to the “inhibition of platelets and stimulation of endothelial cells”. It’s important to note that these desirable circulatory changes occurred without increasing the risk of bleeding issues, such as those that are sometimes found with synthetic blood thinning medications. (6,7)

In closing, I’d like to share a simple recipe that is a delicious way to incorporate some fresh rosemary and thyme into your diet. It’s one of my favorite low carbohydrate pizza alternatives.

Pizza Gondolas

  • organic Roma tomatoes
  • organic provolone cheese
  • organic cream cheese
  • soft goat cheese
  • organic shallots
  • organic rosemary
  • organic thyme
  • sea salt

Start by cutting the tomatoes in half and scooping out the insides (all the seeds and liquid). Allow the cream cheese and goat cheese to come to room temperature. Finely mince the rosemary, shallots and thyme and mix into the softened cream and goat cheese. Fill the hollowed out tomato halves and add sea salt to taste. Then, top the filled halves with a slice of the provolone cheese. Place the “gondolas” on a baking sheet under the broiler for several minutes. Keep a close eye on them. Remove once the cheese starts to bubble and a light brown crust forms on the provolone.

These Italian treats can be used as an appetizer or even as a main course. You can make this a more substantial dish by including some pepperoni or sausage to the stuffing mixture. Try adding basil or olives to the cheese mixture too. Anything that would taste good on a pizza will work just fine. Serve this with a fresh side salad or a succulent cut of meat, and you’re ready to go.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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17 Comments & Updates to “Rosemary and Thyme for Brain Health”

  1. Oct Says:

    Cro walked by as I was reading the end of your article and said in an interested voice “what’s that?”.

    I scrolled up to let him know it was an article written by one of my blog friends, then began to summarize the health benefits of rosemary and of thyme. As he began to walk away I scrolled back down to your pizza gondolas photo and said that this was one of Harry’s favorite way of adding rosemary and thyme to his diet.

    Attention recaptured, Cro commented that those look very good.

    :) He loves roma tomatoes.

    Great article JP, I think we’ll be adding more rosemary and thyme to our meals.

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks, Oct!

    I hope you guys try them out and enjoy them as much as we do!

    Be well!

    JP

  3. jen boda Says:

    Great post. Rosemary and Thyme are also great herbs to add to homemade beauty products. Rosemary is great in shampoo and thyme is a wonderful muscle soother in baths. Thanks for the reminder!

    jen

  4. JP Says:

    Thanks, Jen. Good tips!

    The shampoo I’m currently using contains rosemary. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  5. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    but how does the Thymus make me vulgaris?

  6. JP Says:

    That’s a question for the ladies, Iggy. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  7. Ragab Says:

    A teaspoon of Ground thyme with a half teaspoon cloves Is very useful for the brain and nerve And good for diabetics, And also ground thyme with a little ginger powder, and a little honey, a very fine brain, liver, tested for hundreds of years in the Middle East is still

  8. JP Says:

    Thanks for sharing those traditional recipes, Ragab!

    Be well!

    JP

  9. Angie Says:

    I made these last night and they are AWESOME! Thanks for the recipe, JP!

  10. JP Says:

    I’m happy that you enjoyed them, Angie!

    We’ve been making the stuffed tomatoes (with fresh herbs from our parents garden) the past few weekends. Delicious! Who needs pizza when you can have these instead?! ;)

    Be well!

    JP

  11. Rosemary Says:

    I have a nice crop of rosemary and thyme in my herb garden this year. What is the best way prepare/store these for use during the winter months? Freeze? Dry?

  12. JP Says:

    Rosemary,

    It seems that either way preserves the antioxidant content of herbs fairly well.

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/g105431467371230/

    http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/133/5/1286

    http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com/2006/08/how-to-freeze-fresh-herbs-rosemary-and.html

    Be well!

    JP

  13. Rosemary Says:

    JP,

    Thank you for the links. That third link is exactly what I was looking for. Tomorrow I plan to harvest my Rosemary and Thyme and follow kalyn’s beautifully illustrated instructions. My basil is already in the freezer as pesto frozen in ice cube trays then popped out and wrapped to make easy to grab single serving portions. Similarly, I make roasted tomato sauce and freeze it in a silicone muffin pan and pop them out and wrap each “muffin”.

    Rosemary

  14. karenj Says:

    Thanks for the tip!

  15. JP Says:

    You’re most welcome, Karen!

    Be well!

    JP

  16. JP Says:

    Update: A reason to season with rosemary …

    http://www.aulamedica.es/nh/pdf/8048.pdf

    Nutr Hosp. 2014 Nov 1;30(5):1084-91.

    Impact of cooked functional meat enriched with omega-3 fatty acids and rosemary extract on inflammatory and oxidative status; a randomised, double-blind, crossover study.

    BACKGROUND & AIM: n-3 fatty acid intake has been associated with inflammatory benefits in cardiovascular disease (CVD). Functionalising meat may be of great interest. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of functional meat containing n-3 and rosemary extract on inflammatory and oxidative status markers in subjects with risk for CVD.

    METHODS AND RESULTS: A randomised, double-blind, cross-over study was undertaken to compare the effects on the above markers of consuming functional or control meat products. 43 volunteers with at least two lipid profile variables showing risk for CVD were randomly assigned to receive functional meat (FM) or control meat (CM) over 12-weeks with a 4-week wash-out interval before crossover. Functional effects were assessed by examining lipid profile, CRP, PAI-1, TNF-alpha, IL-6, fibrinogen (inflammatory markers), and TBARS, FRAP and 8-iso-PGF2 (oxidative status markers). 33 subjects (24 women) aged 50.7±8.8 years completed the study. In FM treatment, PAI-1, fibrinogen and 8-iso-PGF2 decreased significantly after 12 weeks, while FRAP significantly increased. In contrast, in CM treatment, a significant increase was seen in PAI-1, while FRAP significantly declined. Significant differences were also seen between the FM and CM treatments after 12 weeks in terms of the change observed in PAI-1, FRAP and 8-iso-PGF2 values. No significant differences were seen in anthropometric variables nor were adverse effects reported.

    CONCLUSION: The consumption of FM containing n-3 and rosemary extract improved oxidative and inflammatory status of people with at least two lipid profile variables showing risk for CVD. The inclusion of such functional meat in a balanced diet might be a healthy lifestyle option.

    Be well!

    JP

  17. JP Says:

    Updated 08/11/15:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26257801

    Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015 Jul-Aug;20(4):460-4.

    The effect of Rosmarinus herbal tea on occupational burnout in Iran Chemical Industry Investment company employees.

    BACKGROUND: Burnout is one of the most important problems that the employees encounter. Many health problems arise due to burnout which is to be dealt with by the employees and the owners in the industry. Among many different ways of dealing with this problem, herbal therapy seems to be a promising solution. The present study intended to investigate the effect of Rosmarinus officinalis (RO) on burnout in employees who work in industrial environments.

    MATERIALS AND METHODS: An experimental study was performed to see whether RO has an effect on burnout or not. A total of 66 employees, aged between 20 and 60 years, who had worked for at least 1 year in the technical wards of Iran Chemical Industry Investment Company took part in the study. The participants were randomly assigned to two groups of control (n = 33) and RO (n = 33). The RO group received 4 g of Rosemary in 150 cc water per day for 2 months. The control group, on the other hand, did not receive anything. The data were collected via Geldard (1989) Burnout Inventory before and after the treatment. A t-test was performed to analyze the collected data.

    RESULTS: The results of statistical tests showed that after intervention, the score of occupational burnout in RO group was better, and a significant difference was found between the control and experimental groups (P = 0.03), in favor of the experimental group.

    CONCLUSIONS: The results of the study revealed that Rosmarinus had a positive effect on burnout in employees in this study. Further studies in this field are suggested.

    Be well!

    JP

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