Gardenia, widely used in TCM, found to prevent cognitive impairment and neurotoxicity
03/28/2019 // Janine Acero // Views

The idea of losing memories -- no matter how special or mundane they may be -- is one dreaded by a lot of people, but losing them to neurodegenerative disease makes it worse, even unbearable. While numerous studies have been done to investigate these kinds of diseases, the most prevalent of which is Alzheimer's, their exact causes have not been fully explained by scientific data.

Still, these health conditions that impair cognitive function are very much a real threat, especially to aging people, and scientists continue to look for ways to reduce and even reverse the symptoms associated with these diseases. A study published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, in particular, looked at gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) and evaluated its effects on learning and memory using in vivo studies.

Compound in gardenia protects the brain against injury and dysfunction

The brain controls all our bodily functions, making neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's truly frightening. These conditions can turn simple activities like going home into the most difficult chore, as you begin to forget the once-familiar route you have taken countless times before. Some of the recognized key drivers of Alzheimer's disease include cholinergic (nerve cells) dysfunction, mitochondrial damage, oxidative stress and inflammation of the central nervous system (neuroinflammation).

In the study, researchers looked at Chinese herbs, which have been used medicinally for thousands of years, as a good source for potential drugs for Alzheimer's. They focused on gardenia fruit, a common Chinese herbal medicine, and investigated its protective effects of against cognitive impairment and neurotoxicity on amyloid-beta-induced animal models.


The fruit possesses tranquilizing effects, an important component of widely used traditional Chinese medicine for dementia. The researchers extracted crocin (GJ-4), a carotenoid found in G. jasminoides, and looked at its neuroprotective ability in mice injected with amyloid-beta 25-35.

They found that treatment with GJ-4 dose-dependently enhanced the memory and cognitive ability of the injected mice. Previous studies indicated that the protective effects of GJ-4 target neurons and cholinergic dysfunction. Furthermore, GJ-4 was found to enhance antioxidant capacity and reduce neuroinflammation.

The researchers concluded that gardenia fruit has protective effects against cognitive injury initiated by its compound crocin, and could be a promising source of treatments aimed to improve cognitive and memory injury.

Gardenia essential oil

Did you know that gardenia is a cousin of coffee? They are flowering plants in the family Rubiaceae. Like its cousin, gardenia boasts of health benefits. Its essential oil, in particular, is known for its healing properties.

Gardenia essential oil is a sweet-smelling substance that is used in perfumes and aromatherapy. Its scent resembles that of the jasmine flower, which is why gardenia is also known as cape jasmine. But fragrance isn't the only thing it possesses. Below are some of the notable health benefits of gardenia essential oil:

  • It has anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it an effective remedy against inflammatory disorders like arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and intestinal inflammation. The compounds geniposide and genipin in gardenia exhibit strong anti-inflammatory ability, which may even help treat the symptoms of jaundice, edema, fever, and hepatic disorders.
  • It helps overcome seizures and calms the body. Its sedative and anti-seizure effects were found to be enhanced when you mix the essential oil with jujube seed oil.
  • It is an effective anti-bacterial agent. Use gardenia essential oil to treat bacterial infections like sepsis and tetanus. Simply add a few drops to water to use it as a spray or sprinkle a few drops in a bucket of water.
  • It is loaded with antioxidants, which help reduce your risk for numerous diseases, including the big C.
  • It is said to be an effective aphrodisiac. Give your partner a relaxing massage with gardenia essential oil or add a few drops to a bath for a more enjoyable and passionate time in the bedroom.

And although not as popular as its cousin in the food industry, gardenia flowers can be added to salads, used as a garnish, and as a natural yellow coloring, thanks to its fruits, which are valued as a less expensive substitute for saffron.

Sources include:

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