Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Rosemary Emulates Aricept / Donepezil

Rosemary HERBS & SPICES:

Aricept® (generic: donepezil) treats Alzheimer's and other dementias by blocking AChE. Rosemary does that naturally. Learn about rosemary's dementia-fighting benefits from USDA Dr. J. Duke.

"Rosemary contains more than a dozen antioxidants and a half-dozen compounds reported to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine. It's fabulous that the classical herb of remembrance has so many compounds that might help people suffering from Alzheimer's."

These are the words of Dr. James Duke, former U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Chief of Medicinal Plant Research.

Continued below video...

Dr. Duke is one of the world's leading authorities on medicinal plants. He helped build the USDA database that demonstrates how rosemary may slow the progress of Alzheimer's.


How Aricept® and Rosemary Help
The brain depends on a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, or ACh for short. The brain keeps making fresh batches. In order to keep the brain from getting flooded with it, there is an "esterase" that breaks it down after use. Think of the esterase as the garbage truck, carting away extra acetylcholine. In Alzheimer's, there is a shortage of acetylcholine, so we want to inhibit (or block) the esterase (the garbage collector), so that more acetylcholine stays in the brain. To do that, a person needs to consume an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor, such as Aricept® or rosemary.
His strong advocacy of rosemary has to do with a chemical called acetylcholine. Anyone who has lived with Alzheimer's in the past decade has heard of the drug Aricept®, sold generically as donepezil. It is the #1 drug therapy for Alzheimer's.

Aricept® is a medicine that does one thing: it prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine.

So does rosemary.

Dr. Duke said that when he learned of the new medications that fought Alzheimer's by inhibiting the breakdown of acetylcholine, "I probed my U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) database for herbs with phytochemical constituents that were also reported to prevent the breakdown of ACh (acetylcholine).

"Even though I myself had been the source of the overwhelming proportion of the data in the database for more than a decade, I was surprised at the output. The database yielded about a half dozen anti-AChE (acetylcholine esterase) compounds, with Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) the proud winner in terms of their numbers and potencies."

Dr. Duke's Big Bet

Back in 1994, Dr. James Duke publicly bet his hair that rosemary shampoo would do as well as over-the-counter medication in helping the symptoms of Alzheimer's.


"Because," he said, "aromatic phytochemicals are absorbed transdermally through the pores in the scalp just as elsewhere on hairy areas of the body, so it would be a very good bet indeed that some of the volatile aromatic phytochemicals in rosemary shampoo would make their way into the circulation and thence to the brain."

Probing the USDA phytochemical database once again on Labor Day 2007, he found that rosemary has now been reported to contain nearly a dozen aromatic compounds potentially active against AChE (acetylcholine esterase).

Dr. Duke shares more about that memory from three years ago. "On that same day I heard, at least thrice, a commercial broadcast on NBC telling listeners that Aricept® (donepezil HCl), the most heavily promoted of synthetic anti-Alzheimer's drugs, probably modifies a neurotransmitter involved in Alzheimer's. But Aricept® consists only of a single AChE inhibitor, and it's synthetic and unnatural; rosemary contains nearly a dozen!!"

Extra Bonus

In addition to its benefits to memory and cognition, herbs like rosemary also contain thousands of phytochemicals that have other positive effects on health. In addition, aromatic herbs like rosemary will also produce an attractive aroma in the otherwise depressing environment that Alzheimer's can often induce.

Dr. Duke's Takeaway

Dr. James Duke sums up with the following advice: "All of this leads me to conclude that rosemary shampoo, rosemary tea (and aromatic mint teas), and rosemary in skin lotions and in bath water are safe and pleasant ways to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. And cholinergic foods… chased down with an anti-AChE herbal tea… would be my suggestion for retarding dementia."

Rosemary of Yore
  • Sir Thomas Moore (1478-1535) wrote, "As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance..."
  • In ancient Greece, students wore sprigs of rosemary in their hair to fortify the brain and refresh the memory. In Greek mythology, Minerva, the goddess of knowledge, is associated with rosemary. Also part of Greek mythology were the nine daughters of Mnemosyne, or memory, who are often depicted as holding sprigs of rosemary.
  • Rosemary has been used as a symbol for remembrance (during weddings, war commemorations and funerals) in Europe and Australia.
  • Mourners would throw it into graves as a symbol of remembrance for the dead.
  • In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Ophelia chides Hamlet, saying, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember." (Hamlet, iv. 5.)
  • In 1607, Roger Hackett, one doctor of divinity of the time, said of rosemary that, "It helpeth the brain, strengtheneth the memorie and is very medicinable for the head."
  • Rabbi Doctor Moses Maimonides, often deemed the greatest Talmudic scholar since Moses at Sinai, taught 800 years ago that tea made of rosemary leaves soothes the nerves, sharpens brain function and memory, and helps induce sleep.
Related article:


  1. All of that sounds very hypothetical. If you inhibit cholinesterase too strongly, you can actually kill a person, so something that contains a lot of inhibitors may not be what you want at all. What sorts of testing have been done in Alzheimer's patients? I'm not finding anything at or ALOIS. A recent study on healthy elderly people found that too much rosemary can actually degrade cognitive function (which is what you'd expect.)


    Also PLEASE note that you should NOT give a "natural" cholinesterase inhibitor to your loved one in addition to Aricept, Razadyne, or Exelon. Overdosage with cholinesterase inhibitors can result in cholinergic crisis characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, salivation, sweating, bradycardia, hypotension, respiratory depression, collapse and convulsions. Increasing muscle weakness is a possibility and may result in death if respiratory muscles are involved.

  2. The Talmud actually says smelling Rosemary and some other spices will help the memory. This is nearly 2,000 years old predating all of the listed sources. I imagine that even Ann would agree that there should be no harm in inhaling the smell of Rosemary.

  3. Dr. Duke suggests that Rosemary Shampoo and Rosemary tea might be helpful, but I believe that pure Rosemary essential oil would be even more beneficial. Here is a link to a study that was done in 2009 on the benefits of Rosemary and other essential oils in the treatment of Alzheimer's.

  4. Rosemary has always been my favorite aromatherapy oil. When my husband and I moved into our first home I decided to create an herbal garden in our backyard. ROSEMary was my first planting. 7 years later the plant has grown up to the rooftop....After Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers I would take her to the bavkyard to relax n smell the herbs. She loved it...I had no idea about it as close specimen to Aricept. Mom was recently diagnosed with Late Stage Alz. Yesterday I went to a local health food shop and unknowingly purchased a bottle of rosemary to place on a cotton ball. Just saw this article..coincidence or a God wink.

  5. We will often use Rosemary in our dementia gardens as a memory trigger which, as with other plants such as lavender, are culturally familiar and so likely to be associated with past memories. A list of other plants we use can be found in our free online guide


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