Adding herbs like parsley and thyme to your diet might help boost your brainpower, courtesy of apigenin. Apigenin is a flavonoid found in many herbs, including parsley, thyme, and chamomile, and certain other plants like celery and other vegetables.
When researchers applied apigenin to human stem cells in a petri dish, something remarkable happened – 25 days later, the stem cells had turned into neurons (an effect that didn’t occur without apigenin).1
The synapses, or connections between neurons, were also “strong and more sophisticated,” which is crucial for memory consolidation, learning, and overall brain function.2
The researchers noted that apigenin binds to estrogen receptors, which affect the development, maturation, function, and plasticity of the nervous system.
They wrote in the journal Advances in Regenerative Biology:3
” … [B]y simply adding a plant compound called apigenin to human pluripotent stem cells, they become neurons after a few days. We also observed that neurons could make more sophisticated connections among themselves after treatment with this natural compound.
This observation suggests that flavonoids derived from plants can be used as a tool for the production of neurons in a dish.
Moreover, since flavonoids are present at high amounts in some foods, we can speculate that a diet rich in flavonoids may influence the formation of neurons and the way they communicate within the brain.”
How might apigenin help grow new brain cells?
The fact that apigenin triggers stem cells to become neurons is quite remarkable. Neurogenesis, or your brain’s ability to adapt and grow new brain cells, is known to be influenced by lifestyle factors, including exercise and diet.
Apigenin may be one factor in the latter and may explain why flavonoid-rich foods are associated with neurogenesis. According to Stanford University, antioxidants such as flavonoids promote neurogenesis not only in a petri dish but also in rodent brains.
Flavonoids, in particular, increase neurogenesis in the hippocampus of stressed rats, possibly by increasing blood flow to the brain and/or increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a remarkable rejuvenator in several respects.
In your brain, BDNF not only preserves existing brain cells,5 it also activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons and effectively makes your brain grow larger.
Apigenin could fight cancer too
Brain health isn’t the only reason to include more apigenin-rich foods in your diet; it also appears to be a potent cancer fighter. When mice implanted with cells of a particularly deadly, fast-growing human breast cancer were treated with apigenin, the cancerous growth slowed and the tumors shrank.6
Blood vessels feeding the tumors also shrunk and restricted nutrient flow to the tumor cells, starving them of the nutrients need to spread. In 2013, apigenin was again shown to block the ability of breast cancer cells to inhibit their own deaths.
Interestingly, the compound was also found to bind to 160 proteins in the human body, which suggests it has far-reaching health effects (unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which typically only have one specific target). The researchers explained:7
“… [I]n contrast to small-molecule pharmaceuticals designed for defined target specificity, dietary phytochemicals affect a large number of cellular targets with varied affinities that, combined, result in their recognized health benefits.”
Apigenin has even been found to make treatment with the breast cancer drug paclitaxel more effective.8
And according to the International Journal of Oncology:9
“Apigenin has been shown to possess remarkable anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties. In the last few years, significant progress has been made in studying the biological effects of apigenin at cellular and molecular levels.”
Increase apigenin by eating celery, parsley, & more
Apigenin is most prevalent in celery and parsley, but it’s also found in many other plant foods, including:
Apigenin may even be one reason why drinking chamomile tea has been found to reduce thyroid cancer risk by up to 80 percent.10
Human exposure to apigenin occurs mostly through the consumption of apigenin-containing fruits and vegetables, although researchers are not sure how much is absorbed into the bloodstream.
Some of the research studies used an injection of apigenin, but you also obtain biologically significant quantities through a healthy diet.
Researchers of the 2011 study noted:11
” … [I]t appears that keeping a minimal level of apigenin in the bloodstream is important to delay the onset of breast cancer …
It’s probably a good idea to eat a little parsley … every day to ensure the minimal amount. However, you can also find this compound in pill supplements …”
1, 3 Advances in Regenerative Biology December 10, 2015
2 Medical News Today December 11, 2015
4 Stanford University July 1, 2011
5 Forbes Magazine October 13, 2013
6 Hormones & Cancer May 9, 2012
7 Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun 11;110(24):E2153-62.
8 PLoS One. 2011; 6(12): e29169.
9 Int J Oncol. 2007 Jan;30(1):233-45.
10 The European Journal of Public Health April 4, 2015
11 News Bureau University of Missouri May 9, 201
New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mercola graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1982. And while osteopaths or D.O.s are licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery just like medical doctors (M.D.s), they bring something extra to the practice of medicine.
Osteopathic physicians practice a "whole person" approach to medicine, treating the entire person — rather than just the symptoms. Focusing on preventive health care, D.O.s help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it too.
Dr. Mercola is passionate about natural medicine and strongly believes that the current medical system is largely manipulated and controlled by large corporations whose primary focus is profit. His website, Mercola.com, which started as a small hobby interest in 1997, has now grown to today’s number one natural health website educating and empowering millions to take back the control over their own health.
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