Essential oils from pumpkins, green tea reduce brain damage in MS rats

Oils cited for antioxidant properties; both still must be tested in humans

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Rodents eat from a pile of food alongside a cage wall.

Treatment with essential oils derived from green tea or pumpkin reduced brain damage in a rat model of multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study reports.

The oils also helped to restore the abnormal levels of neurotransmitters — chemical messengers that nerve cells use to communicate — and reduce markers of inflammation, cell death, and a type of cellular damage called oxidative stress.

In particular, pumpkin essential oil was suggested to lead to certain benefits in these animals, while the research findings were “consistent with previous studies demonstrating the potent antioxidant properties of [green tea oil].”

“Our findings imply that [pumpkin oil] has a neuroprotective impact, possibly linked to the high concentration of antioxidant compounds, … which might help prevent inflammation and chronic disease,” the researchers wrote.

The study, “Improvement effects of green tea and pumpkin oils on myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein-induced Multiple sclerosis in rats,” was published in the Journal of Functional Foods.

Recommended Reading
An oversized red pen checks boxes labeled Clinical and Trials on a clipboard's checklist.

Trial Testing Safety, Efficacy of Ginger Supplements in RRMS

Studies needed on pumpkin, green tea essential oil effects in people

Essential oils are oils that contain the major biologically active compounds that are found in specific plants. The term “essential” oil can be a bit misleading, as these oils are not required for human health. Instead, the term refers to the oil containing the essence — hence the essential — of the plant it is from.

Many different essential oils have been used for a long time in traditional medicine practices, and in recent years, scientists have begun to use the modern scientific method to test their potential value in healthcare applications.

Here, an international team led by scientists in Egypt tested the effects of two types of essential oils, green tea oil and pumpkin oil, in an animal model of MS. Both of these essential oils have been reported to possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, the researchers noted.

MS is caused by an inflammatory attack in the brain and spinal cord that damages the myelin sheath, a fatty protective covering around nerve fibers that helps them to send electrical signals. For their experiments, the researchers used a rat model in which the animals are essentially vaccinated to trigger an autoimmune attack against a protein in the myelin sheath.

As the first disease symptoms became evident, some rats were given an inactive vehicle solution as a control, while others were given green tea or pumpkin oils by mouth daily for three weeks.

Analyses of the rats’ brains showed that control rats had substantial areas of brain tissue damage — but damage to brain tissue was notably reduced in rats given either of the essential oil treatments.

These compounds might aid the treatment of MS.

In control rats, the induction of MS-like disease led to a significant decrease in levels of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine. Rats given either of the essential oils had significantly higher levels of these neurotransmitters compared with control rats.

Another neurotransmitter called epinephrine was significantly increased in diseased mice given a control solution, but those levels also went back to normal with either of the essential oils.

The treatments also led to reductions in brain markers of inflammation compared with controls. Markers of oxidative stress — a type of cell damage triggered by inflammation — and of apoptosis, a type of cell death, likewise were reduced by the essential oil treatments compared with what was seen in untreated control rats.

Collectively, the researchers concluded that both green tea oil and pumpkin oil “suppressed neuronal degradation, oxidative stress, inflammation, and apoptosis in the brain cortical tissue of diseased rats.”

“Therefore, these compounds might aid the treatment of MS,” the researchers wrote. They called for further studies to test the potential therapeutic value of these two essential oils in people.

For this study, the researchers used essential oils that are sold by an Egypt-based company called Nefertari. The company was not directly involved with the study, which was funded by King Saud University, in Saudi Arabia.