Rosemary, the aromatic and evergreen Mediterranean herb known for its delicate pink, purple or blue flowers, may play as significant a role in our health as it has in the culinary arts.
In a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Stuart A. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D. and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) report that carnosic acid, a component of the herb rosemary, promotes eye health.
Using rodent models with light-induced retinal damage, Lipton’s research team found that carnosic acid protected retinas from degeneration and toxicity.
In one part of the study, the researchers induced oxidative stress on retinal cells. They found that cells treated with carnosic acid triggered antioxidant enzyme production in the cells, which in turn lowered levels of cell-damaging free radicals and peroxides.
These findings show promise that rosemary’s carnosic acid may have clinical applications for diseases that affect the outer retina, including age-related macular degeneration, the most common eye disease in the U.S.
According to Lipton, improved derivatives of carnosic acid and related compounds are being developed to protect the retina and other brain areas from a number of degenerative conditions, including age-related macular degeneration and various forms of dementia.