Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) is a flowering plant that belongs to the staff-vine family commonly found in parks and gardens in Japan, Korea, and central and northern China.
It’s a well-known ornamental plant with a purplish-scarlet red color of the leaves that emits a lemony odor and has an equally vibrant pink fruit.
But, its colorful appearance is only part of what gave it its common name.
In fact, when the weather is hot, old flowers or seed pods release a volatile oil which when ignited produces a brief suspended flame that’s harmless to the plant.
A Little More Info on Burning Bush
Burning bush is abundant in many beneficial chemicals, like flavonoids (plant chemicals with antioxidant properties) and terpenes (aromatic organic compounds).
In addition, it has shown to possess the strongest antioxidant activity out of more than 100 species of edible tree leaf extracts.
For these reasons, a group of scientists from Korea decided to examine if burning bush extract could halt cognitive decline caused by oxidative stress.
They conducted a mouse model study and we’ll go through their findings.
The goal of the study was to examine whether an extract produced from the leaves of the burning bush plant could improve the symptoms of induced cognitive dysfunction akin to Alzheimer’s disease in mice by triggering an antioxidant response.
In order to induce cognitive dysfunction, the mice were administered a plant alkaloid.
They were put through several behavioral tests intended to help assess their working memory, short and long-term memory, spatial learning, and association memory.
Prior to the behavioral tests, the mice were being treated with different solutions, including burning bush extract and common dementia medication, in order to compare the results at the end.
The study was quite successful, and the researchers’ findings proved to be very consistent with their hypothesis.
- According to the results, burning bush extract exhibited “radical scavenging activities”, which means that its antioxidant enzymes inhibit and neutralize the free radicals responsible for oxidative stress and neural cell damage
- Its antioxidant activity thought to come primarily from the flavonoids rutin and quercetin, also generated neuroprotective effects by impeding the loss of neural cells, strengthening them, and promoting new cell growth.
- The mice’s short and long-term memory loss was partially restored with moderate doses of the extract, and with higher doses, it was completely reversed. Similarly, impaired spatial learning was also completely restored, and this result was similar to the effects of common dementia medication.
- Administration of a combination of burning bush extract and the common dementia medication showed a significant reduction of the levels of the induced oxidative stress.
- In addition, the expression of the receptors in the brain that are responsible for keeping the brain cells healthy was restored after the administration of the extract. The levels of these receptors are often decreased when there are symptoms of cognitive decline. BDNF is one such receptor involved in neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity, and it’s thought that higher levels of BDNF indicate slower rates of cognitive decline.
- Finally, the administration of burning bush extract prior to the plant alkaloid that induced cognitive dysfunction in the mice showed significant neuroprotective effects by decreasing the damage on the neural cells in the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory), an effect similar to the common dementia medication.
Cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases and any type of promising research results like the ones from the current study are always welcome.
However, according to the scientists that conducted this study, more research is needed in order to fully examine the active compounds that made it effective against cognitive dysfunction and contributed to the reduction and reversal of the damage.
Hopefully, future trials will answer this question.
Resource: Woo, Y.; Lim, J.S.; Oh, J.; Lee, J.S.; Kim, J.-S. Neuroprotective Effects of Euonymus alatus Extract on Scopolamine-Induced Memory Deficits in Mice. Antioxidants 2020, 9, 449.