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10 Herbs And Spices That May Help Reduce The Risk Of Dementia

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease characterised by a progressive and persistent decline in memory functions and related skills affecting the day-to-day life of a person. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia (around 70%), followed by vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and dementia of Lewy bodies. [1]

The treatment of dementia is a great challenge as the treatment is often aimed at relieving the symptoms temporarily but not preventing or reversing the disease mechanism. According to a study, for centuries, spices and herbs have been widely used in various forms to lower the risk of chronic diseases, including age-related diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's. [2]

Though consuming spices do not directly prevent the risk of dementia, in some ways, they may improve the brain's abilities and delay cognitive decline that happens in the condition.

Below is a list of some of the herbs and spices that may help reduce the risk of dementia.

1. Black Cumin Seeds

Black cumin seeds, scientifically known as Nigella sativa, have a major role in facilitating memory and learning, treating damaged neuron tissues of the brain and may help with preventing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. The spice is known to prevent dementia due to its potent antioxidant effect and its ability to mimic donepezil, a medication that helps decrease inflammation in the brain. [3]

2. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is widely known as a flavouring spice, however, many are unaware that the spice has a broad range of health benefits too, including boosting cognitive functions and preventing the risk of dementia. The spice has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can help reduce mitochondrial dysfunctions in humans, which is a potential target in age-related cognitive decline, leading to dementia. [4]

3. Turmeric

Turmeric contains principal curcuminoid curcumin, along with two minor curcuminoids - demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. A study has shown that curcumin and demethoxycurcumin are powerful antioxidants and can help reduce DNA damage caused due to amyloid-beta, plaque deposits that lead to dementia. [5]

4. Panax ginseng

A study has shown that Panax ginseng has a similar effect to nimodipine, a medicine commonly used to treat vascular dementia. It says that the herb has neuroprotective effects and may help reduce damage to the brain cells and improve neuronal density and cognitive functions. [6]

5. Holy Basil

Holy basil or tulsi is an easily found potential herb with potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. The herb contains essential compounds such as flavonoids, tannins, ursolic acid, luteolin and many other phytochemicals that can directly help improve the nervous system and endothelial cells functions, leading to improved brain functions. [7]

6. Black Pepper

Black pepper contains alkaloid piperine which has been widely used as a nerve tonic in folk medicine to treat and prevent diseases related to the cognitive deficit (such as dementia). Piperine, when taken in a recommended dose, can help improve memory functions due to its strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-amyloid properties. [8]

7. Ginger

Ginger is a powerhouse of phytonutrients and is widely used in Indian kitchens due to its aromatic aura. The two essential oils, gingerol and zingiberene in ginger have protective roles against dementia. Gingerol can help suppress amyloid beta-induced cellular death in the brain and can help maintain brain health and improve its cognitive functions. [10]

8. Saffron

Saffron has protective effects on the brain cells due to its compounds like carotenoids, crocin and crocetin. These compounds have memory-enhancer and neuroprotective properties and could help in the prevention of dementia. Saffron is also known to inhibit the formation of amyloid-beta and prevent age-related neurodegenerative disorders and cognitive decline. [11]

9. Rosemary

Rosemary contains a primary phenolic compound diterpenes that can help inhibit neuronal cell death and prevent the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. The herb can help reduce brain inflammation and the formation of amyloid-beta, both causes of dementia. [12]

10. Brahmi

Brahmi is popular as an Ayurvedic herb used to reduce brain ageing and memory improvement. The herb is known to cross the brain cells easily and improve blood flow in the organ. Brahmi has a protective effect on the brain and can help reduce cell death due to amyloid-beta, thus leading to the prevention of dementia.

To Conclude

Herbs and spices, which are common ingredients in food preparation, have many health benefits. Consult a medical expert before consuming the aforementioned herbs as medicines and avoid taking the spices in large quantities.