Cinnamon: a possible ally against Parkinson’s disease
A new hope for PD sufferers comes from a study conducted by researchers of Rush University Medical Center from Chicago, about the spice’s properties “sweet” par excellence: the cinnamon.
The cinnamon, is an hazelnut color spice, by typical sweet, dry and pungent flavor, that has a very long history, not only in culinary field but especially as a healing remedy.
Mentioned in the Bible, was already used in Ancient Egypt and from Romans for its many beneficial properties as an aphrodisiac, antibacterial, digestive and antiseptic. Today is the main character of a medical research focused on Parkinson’s disease, according to which this spice may help to slow down or reverse halt Parkinson’s progression.
This study, published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, and conducted by researchers from Rush University Medical Center of Chicago (USA), was done on sample of PD mice, and revealed that cinnamon compounds contained would be able to suspend, cancel and reverse the biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s.
But what is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease (also known as Parkinson disease or just PD) is a slowly progressive disease characterized by symptoms that are movement-related, such as: shaking, rigidity, gait and balance problems, slowness of movement, with thinking and behavioral problems that may occurring in the advanced stages of disease.
These symptoms are the result of the chronic and progressive degeneration of neurons (it means the loss, with death of some groups of nerve cells) that affects a small area of cells within the central nervous system, known as “Substantia Nigra” (Black Substance), so called for the darker color compared to the surrounding brain areas, due to the presence of neuromelanin, a dark pigment found in neuronal cells of this area.
Among other functions, neurons of this brain area also produce and release neurotransmitter, called dopamine, which plays a major role in motor activities of the body, which decrease as a result of the classic signs of PD.
The causes of this disease are still unknown, although both environmental and genetic causes have been postulated.
What happens after consuming this spice?
As the scientists, experts in neurology, involved in this study, explain, after oral feeding, ground cinnamon is metabolized in the liver to sodium benzoate (which is an approved drug used in the treatment for hepatic metabolic defects associated with hyperammonemia) a substance which then enters into the brain, stops the loss Parkin and DJ-1, which normally decreases in the brain of PD patients.
Moreover, this spice can protects neurons and normalizes neurotransmitter levels resulting in improvement of all motor functions.
Until now these studies have been done only in animal models (mice), but the second step for researchers will be to achieve the same results in PD human patients.
“If these results are replicated in PD patients, it would be a remarkable advance in the treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease” the authors say
According to Dr. Kalipada Pahan, the Floyd A. Davis Professor of Neurology of the Rush University Medical Center, cinnamon could be considered one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients.
Parkinson’s disease is generally considered a disease that targets older people (most cases occurring after the age of 50), in spite of this is actually considering worrying: about 1,2 million patients in the United States and Canada and a million cases in Europe.
- Khasnavis, S., Pahan, K. (2014). Cinnamon Treatment Upregulates Neuroprotective Proteins Parkin and DJ-1 and Protects Dopaminergic Neurons in a Mouse Model of Parkinson’s Disease. Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology. DOI: 10.1007/s11481-014-9552-2.