(Natural News) The mint (Lamiaceae) family is a large family that consists of 236 genera and more than 7,000 species of flowering and herbaceous plants. Many of the most widely used and popular culinary herbs belong to this family, such as rosemary, sage, basil, mint, lavender, lemon balm, oregano and thyme. These herbs, besides being pantry staples, are also known to possess many medicinal properties, thanks to their abundance in biologically active components.
One of the many useful compounds shared by these edible medicinal herbs is rosmarinic acid. Classified as a polyphenol — a category of chemicals commonly found in plant-based foods that confer numerous health benefits — rosmarinic acid has been scientifically proven to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. These properties allow rosmarinic acid to be effective against a variety of ailments, such as peptic ulcers, cataracts, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and bronchial asthma.
In a recent study, researchers from different universities in Thailand found that rosmarinic acid can be used to treat hypertension and hyperglycemia. In fact, they reported that the compound not only acts as a natural vasodilator, which helps lower blood pressure, but also as a natural blood sugar-lowering agent. They reported their findings in an article published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
The benefits of rosmarinic acid from culinary herbs for cardiometabolic health
Angiotensin II (ANG II) is a peptide hormone linked to hypertension and oxidative stress. A known vasoconstrictor — a chemical that constricts the walls of the blood vessels, resulting in blood vessel narrowing — it is the active form of the hormone angiotensin I, which is converted into such by an enzyme known as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). Because of the consequence of its activity, chemicals that inhibit ACE are used for the treatment of hypertension because they can help relax the veins and arteries. This results in the lowering of blood pressure.
For their study, the researchers evaluated the effects of short- and long-term treatment with rosmarinic acid on blood pressure and glucose transport in the skeletal muscles of hypertensive rats. Previous studies have found that hypertension is strongly linked to insulin resistance. On the other hand, rosmarinic acid has been found to inhibit the activity of ACE and function as a natural vasodilator. (Related: The benefits of folate supplementation for people with hypertension.)
To further examine these effects, the researchers used eight-week-old rats with ANG II-induced hypertension for their experiments. They divided the rats into sham and ANG II-infused (250 ng/kg/min) groups, the latter of which was given 10, 20 or 40?mg/kg rosmarinic acid. The researchers then evaluated the mice’s body weight, liver and heart weights, oral glucose tolerance, skeletal muscle glucose transport activity and the expression of signaling proteins.
The researchers reported that short- and long-term rosmarinic acid treatment decreased systolic, diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure in the hypertensive rats. Long-term treatment with 10, 20, and 40?mg/kg rosmarinic acid prevented ANG II-induced hyperglycemia. On the other hand, short-term rosmarinic acid (40 mg/kg) treatment reduced fasting plasma glucose levels and induced skeletal muscle glucose transport.
According to the researchers, these effects appear to be due to the increased activity of extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK) in the skeletal muscles. ERKs are signaling molecules involved in the regulation of glucose metabolism.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that rosmarinic acid treatment is an effective alternative strategy for improving skeletal muscle glucose transport and protecting against ANG II-induced hypertension and hyperglycemia.
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