A wild-growing flowering plant abundant in southwestern Asia found to protect the brain after menopause

Women who are anxious about the adverse effects of menopause may have found an ally in felty germander (Teucrium polium), a plant common to the Mediterranean region and southwestern Asia. In a study, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers from L. Orbeli Institute of Physiology in Armenia found that the plant is also able to fend off neuronal impairment that follows menopause based on ovariectomized animal models.

Problems with memory are common occurrences once a woman reaches menopause; however, the condition – also known as “brain fog” – is anything but pleasant. In an earlier study, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that women who experience memory difficulties in menopause are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as have sleeping difficulties. In particular, the team found that menopause primarily affects “working memory,” which they defined as the ability to take in new information and manipulate it – for instance, adding a series of numbers in one’s head or adjusting information after an unexpected change.

In the study, the scientists looked to plant-based treatments for this condition, given that most phytoestrogens are derived from plant sources and carry mild estrogenic properties. Studies on felty germander, in particular, have revealed that the plant’s active compounds contain phytoestrogen-like activity, which makes it suitable for protecting neurons from degradation following menopause. However, there is little scientific literature available that supports its use in improving the cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain that governs memory and learning.

Researchers used female rats that have been ovariectomized (a procedure that removes the ovaries) for the experiments. They were then randomly assigned into four groups: (1) sham-operated (which served as the control group), (2) sham-operated treated with felty germander extract, (3) ovariectomized (OVX), and (4) OVX and treated with felty germander extract. The experiment ran for four weeks, after which researchers collected isolated brain samples for further analysis and testing. The team also identified the physicochemical properties of the plant extract, to understand which compound is responsible for the biological actions of felty germander.

The team found that felty germander is rich in flavonoids, terpenoids, iridoid, and phenylpropanoid glycosides, which account for the plant’s antioxidant and acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitory properties. The latter, in particular, is useful for preventing Alzheimer’s disease – a condition known to affect more women after menopause. They also found that rats treated with the extract exhibited synaptic activity in their brain cells – an indication that felty germander was able to protect the neurons from degradation after ovariectomy. The hippocampal cells of the rats treated with the extract also benefited from the plant extract, as these recovered their shape and size despite the lack of estrogen.

Teucrium polium may improve OVX-induced neuronal impairment through activation of ERs-mediated cell survival signaling,” researchers concluded in their report. They also reported that these findings might pave the way for new approaches to treating memory impairment that follows menopause. (Related: Natural menopause treatment with herbs, food remedies and homeopathy relieves cause of symptoms.)

Beating memory loss during menopause

Women go through a lot of changes during menopause, and some of these can prove to be bothersome at best. That doesn’t mean, though, that women can’t do anything about it. Here are some natural ways that women can fight back against memory loss during this precarious time.

  • Keep it cool. Studies have shown that women who experience a lot of hot flashes are prone to loss of verbal memory.
  • Be active. Aerobic exercise and strength training go a long way for women in menopause: It helps grow new nerve cells in the brain and increases the production of chemicals which help with brain repair.
  • Get some sleep. This is particularly difficult during this time – sleep disruption is a common symptom of menopause, but getting a good night’s sleep helps women improve brain fog and remember new information.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in abundance in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, can help enhance mental acuity.

Learn more about the felty germander and other herbs that improve memory at Herbs.news.

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