From Dr. Mercola:
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).4 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 May 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