Macular Degeneration Protection: Rosemary

Macular Degeneration Protection: Rosemary

Sometimes it is the least expected thing that may be of more help to your health than you could have ever imagined. As research and medical intervention continues to battle the debilitating effects of macular degeneration, many alternative peripheral applications have shown to help prevent or slow the disease. 

With upwards of 11 million people suffering with macular degeneration or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and this number predicted to double over the next thirty years, any natural approach is welcomed. Some of these approaches, with good science backed studies, include the use of saffron, eating eggs, and adding more carotenoids (compounds that give fruits and vegetables colors) to your diet. Now, the herb rosemary can be added to the list. 

The benefits of rosemary for macular degeneration show how this easily grown and assimilated savory herb may be a powerhouse in battling the accumulating degeneration of AMD. 

Dew of the Sea

Native to and found abundantly in the Mediterranean areas of southern Europe, Anatolia (west Asia), and north Africa, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a member of the mint family and also linked to the plants oregano, basil and marjoram. Often found in the wild, close to large bodies of water such as the Mediterranean sea, rosemary in latin is translated as “dew of the sea”.  Commercially, most rosemary comes from Spain, France, and Morocco however it can easily be grown in any herb garden. 

Rosemary dates as far back as 500BC where evidence of it being used as a culinary spice also correlates with its medicinal capabilities as well. According to Medical News Today, “Possible health benefits include improved concentration, digestion, and brain aging.”

The woody, fragrant scent of this pine needle-like plant offers an almost lemon-pine bittersweet taste. Add rosemary to just about any dish because consuming more could deliver important nutrients and antioxidants that protect against macular degeneration.  

Rosemary Studies

There have been several studies of the many observational reports regarding how rosemary enhances health. In addition to possessing anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant compounds rosemary also contains iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, and B-6. 

Some health benefits of eating or supplementing with rosemary include:

  • Memory, focus and mood improvement (particularly from the aroma) – “These findings suggest that compounds absorbed from rosemary aroma affect cognition and subjective state independently through different neurochemical pathways.” – study conclusion published in ‘Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology’ (2012) 
  • Joint pain relief – “Topical application of menthol and rosemary can alleviate severity and frequency of recurrence of musculoskeletal pain” – Isfahan University of Medical Sciences (2017)
  • Protecting skin from sun damage – “Treated subjects [oral supplement of rosemary and grapefruit] showed a decrease of the UVB- and UVA-induced skin alterations (decreased skin redness and lipoperoxides) and an improvement of skin wrinkledness and elasticity.” – Food and Nutrition Research (2016)

These study examples of rosemary confirm the validity of this healing herb. However, another archived study from 2012 has piqued the interest of those seeking natural assistance for macular degeneration. 

Carnosic Acid

Healing plant compounds (phytonutrients) are all based on a chemical protagonist linked to each individual plant. The archived study looked at the assumed active compound in rosemary called carnosic acid. 

The study, ‘Compound found in rosemary protects against macular degeneration in laboratory model’ looked at how free-radical damage (compounds that damage cell process and membranes) was affected by carnosic acid. Many scientists theorize that part of the macular degeneration trigger comes from an individual’s body being unable to fight free radicals. 

Analysis from Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, La Jolla, CA was described by Science Daily,

“The researchers exposed the cells growing in the dish to hydrogen peroxide in order to induce oxidative stress, a factor thought to contribute to disease progression in eye conditions such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. They found that cells treated with carnosic acid triggered antioxidant enzyme production in the cells, which in turn lowered levels of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (cell-damaging free radicals and peroxides).”

Published in the journal ‘Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science’ the study concluded, 

“These findings suggest that CA [carnosic acid] may potentially have clinical application to diseases affecting the outer retina, including age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, in which oxidative stress is thought to contribute to disease progression.”

As a result of this and several other studies on rosemary and macular degeneration, this pungent herb was added to the Age-related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) antioxidant formulation supplemental recommendation. 

In a study of the AREDS supplement with added rosemary, researchers from Wright State University, Dayton, OH and Emory University, Atlanta, GA. reported the method,

“Some animals received a daily dietary supplement consisting of a small cracker infused with an AREDS antioxidant mineral mixture, AREDS antioxidants minus zinc, or zinc oxide alone. Other rats received AREDS combined with a detergent extract of the common herb rosemary, AREDS plus carnosic acid, zinc oxide plus rosemary, or rosemary alone. Antioxidant efficacy was determined by measuring retinal DNA levels 2 weeks after 6 h of intense exposure to white light (9,000 lux) 

Published in the journal ‘Molecular Vision’ (2017) it was concluded that, 

“Rosemary enhanced the protective efficacy of AREDS and led to the greatest effect on the retinal genome in animals reared in high environmental light. Chronic administration of rosemary antioxidants may be a useful adjunct to the therapeutic benefit of AREDS in slowing disease progression in AMD.”

There is even a phase one study from Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Center in Israel from 2018 which is researching the combination of tomato, rosemary, and lutein on macular degeneration. Preliminary data was described as reported by Nutritional Outlook, 

“The results showed that the antioxidant combination containing lycopene and carnosic acid in addition to lutein+zeaxanthin and the minerals zinc and copper was most effective at providing antioxidant protection and boosting the body’s overall natural mechanisms against stressors.”

Overall, using more rosemary when you cook or taking rosemary supplements may increase carnosic acid to your retina. Even though testing is still involved in small studies, an AREDS formula that includes rosemary could help. Always check with your doctor for possible contraindications especially if pregnant or taking medication.