Neurological scientists at Rush University Medical Center have found that using cinnamon, a common food spice and flavouring material, can reverse the biomechanical, cellular and anatomical changes that occur in the brains of mice with Parkinson’s disease. The results of the study were recently published in the June 20 issue of the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.
“Cinnamon has been used widely as a spice throughout the world for centuries,” says Kalipada Pahan, study lead researcher and the Floyd A Davis professor of neurology at Rush. “This could potentially be one of the safest approaches to halt disease progression in Parkinson’s patients.”
“Cinnamon is metabolised in the liver to sodium benzoate, which is an FDA-approved drug used in the treatment for hepatic metabolic defects associated with hyperammonemia,” says Pahan. It is also widely used as a food preservative due to its microbiocidal effect.
Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamonum cassia) and original Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum) are two major types of cinnamon that are available in the USA.
“Although both types of cinnamon are metabolised into sodium benzoate, by mass spectrometric analysis, we have seen that Ceylon cinnamon is much more pure than Chinese cinnamon as the latter contains coumarin, a hepatotoxic molecule,” says Pahan.
“Understanding how the disease works is important to developing effective drugs that protect the brain and stop the progression of Parkinson’s disease,” says Pahan. “It is known that some important proteins like Parkin and DJ-1 decrease in the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients.”
The study found that after oral feeding, ground cinnamon is metabolised into sodium benzoate, which then enters into the brain, stops the loss of Parkin and DJ-1, protects neurons, normalises neurotransmitter levels, and improves motor functions in mice with Parkinson’s disease.
This research was supported by grants from National Institutes of Health.
“Now we need to translate this finding to the clinic and test ground cinnamon in patients with Parkinson’s disease. If these results are replicated in Parkinson’s disease patients, it would be a remarkable advance in the treatment of this devastating neurodegenerative disease,” says Pahan.