Sage, Rosemary, and Enzymes: Plant-Derived Compounds Shown to Inhibit Pain Pathways

Long used in traditional medicine, new research illustrates the specific mechanisms by which plant-derived diterpenoids are able to alleviate pain and inflammation.

Found in fungi, marine organisms, and most particularly in plants of the salvia genus, certain diterpenoids have the ability to alleviate pain and inflammation. Carnosol (CS) and Carnosic acid (CA) are bioactive ingredients in spice herbs like sage and rosemary and have historically been used in traditional medicine.

The British Journal of Pharmacology this week accepted an article detailing just how these natural substances impact pathways associated with inflammatory pain. The work was co-led by Giuseppe Bifulco, PhD, at the Univesity of Salerno in Italy, and Andreas Koeberle, PhD, of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany.

Their research, conducted by monitoring pain responses in 66 mice, found that CS and CA both worked to inhibit enzymes associated with pain and inflammation. Overexpression of the two key enzymes, abbreviated 5-LO and mPGES-1, can be observed in inflammatory disorders, immune processes, and some tumors. CS and CA, the paper notes, “interfere with the multiple signaling pathways that are deregulated during inflammation and inflammatory pain syndrome.”

The study’s findings reinforce previous evidence of the benefits of these diterpenoids, most intriguingly in their potential to assist cancer patients, and provides deeper insight into the exact mechanisms by which they inhibit inflammation and pain. The article says its findings “render CS and CA interesting bioactive ingredients in Salvia spp. that are traditionally used as anti-inflammatory remedies and paving the way for a rational use of Salvia spp. nutraceuticals.”

“Understanding both the molecular basis and pharmacological relevance of natural products is essential,” in the words of Dr. Bifulco, “to fully exploit the power of nature for human health."