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The Many Benefits of Apigenin: Nature’s Cognitive Enhancer

By Dr. Nicole Cain ND, MA

A Comprehensive Guide to Neuroprotection, Mood Enhancement, and Brain Health

Key Points:

In a world increasingly concerned with mental wellness, brain health and cognitive decline, the search for natural neuroprotective agents has gained immense traction. Apigenin, a ubiquitous flavonoid found in nature, emerges as a promising contender, offering a combination of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that safeguard and heal the cells in our brain and body.

Whether you’re grappling with anxiety, stress, depression, or sleep disturbances, apigenin may just be the remedy you’re seeking. In this article we will delve into the world of apigenin, exploring its benefits, forms, bioavailability, optimal supplementation strategies, suitability, dietary sources, dosage, and potential contraindications. The following topics will be unpacked in detail:

What is Apigenin?

Apigenin, a yellow-colored, naturally occurring flavonoid found in various fruits, vegetables, and herbs, possesses remarkable antioxidant properties. These powerful antioxidants combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals, protecting cells from damage and promoting healing in the brain and body.

In plants, apigenin is often linked to sugar molecules, making it more water-soluble and enabling it to seamlessly integrate into the watery world of plant cells. However, when isolated from its plant companions, apigenin’s water-loving nature diminishes. This can be likened to the challenge of mixing oil and water – they simply resist blending.

This diminished water solubility translates into poor absorption by the body when apigenin exists in isolation. This highlights the importance of embracing a balanced plant-based diet rather than isolating individual nutrients and relying solely on supplements.

The health of your gut microbiome plays another pivotal role in apigenin’s absorption. Recent research unveils that when apigenin enters your system, it engages with the friendly bacteria residing in your gut, particularly those belonging to the Bacteroides family. These friendly bacteria diligently break down apigenin into smaller, more readily absorbed molecules. This conversion dramatically enhances apigenin’s bioavailability, enabling it to be absorbed more effectively and exert its beneficial effects throughout your entire body.

Apigenin exists in various forms, each possessing unique properties and potential effects within the body. In nature, apigenin typically forms partnerships with sugar molecules, giving rise to apigenin glycosides. Among these, apigenin-7-O-glucoside stands out as the most bioavailable form, followed by apiin, vitexin, isovitexin, rhoifolin, and schaftoside.

The Benefits of Apigenin

Apigenin’s potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties make it a valuable ally in combating various health challenges. Let’s delve into the multifaceted benefits of apigenin, exploring its diverse effects on the body and mind.

1.   Anti-inflammatory Effects

Apigenin exerts its anti-inflammatory effects by modulating inflammatory pathways, inhibiting the activity of key inflammatory enzymes such as cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX). These enzymes play a key role in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, molecules that contribute to inflammation. By suppressing their production, apigenin effectively tamps down inflammation, reducing its harmful effects on the body.

2.   Neuroinflammation Management

Apigenin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties make it a valuable tool for managing neuroinflammation, a chronic inflammatory state in the brain associated with various neurological disorders. By reducing microglial activation and gliosis, hallmarks of neuroinflammation, apigenin may help protect neurons from damage and promote brain health.

3.   Antioxidant Effects

Apigenin acts as a potent antioxidant, neutralizing reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS), highly reactive molecules that can damage cells and contribute to various health problems. By scavenging these harmful free radicals, apigenin protects cells from oxidative stress, a process linked to aging, chronic diseases, and neurodegeneration.

4.   Neuroprotective Effects

Apigenin’s neuroprotective properties make it a promising candidate for protecting neurons from various stressors, including excitotoxicity and oxidative stress. Excitotoxicity occurs when neurons are overstimulated by glutamate, a neurotransmitter, leading to cell death. Apigenin mitigates excitotoxicity by regulating glutamate levels and protecting neurons from damage.

5.   Nurtures Brain Cells

Apigenin potentiates the effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a critical neurotrophic factor for neuronal survival and growth. BDNF promotes the growth and development of new neurons, enhances synaptic plasticity, and protects existing neurons from damage. Apigenin’s ability to increase BDNF levels may contribute to its neuroprotective and neurotrophic effects.

6.   Molecular Interactions of Apigenin

Apigenin exerts its diverse effects by interacting with various molecular targets. One key target is nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a transcription factor that plays a central role in inflammation. Apigenin inhibits NF-kB activation, thereby suppressing the expression of pro-inflammatory genes. Additionally, apigenin interacts with other signaling pathways and gene expression mechanisms, influencing various cellular processes.

7.   Combats Candida Infections

Apigenin exhibits antifungal activity against Candida albicans, a common fungal pathogen responsible for various infections, including thrush and vaginitis. Studies have demonstrated that apigenin can effectively inhibit Candida albicans growth and biofilm formation, suggesting its potential as an antifungal agent.

6 Positive Impacts on Brain Health

Given apigenin’s remarkable ability to enhance overall well-being, it’s no surprise that it holds immense promise in the realm of neurology. Its multifaceted neuroprotective properties make it a compelling candidate for addressing a range of neurological conditions, offering a beacon of hope for individuals seeking natural and effective approaches to brain health.

Let’s embark on a journey to explore the neurological applications of apigenin, delving into its potential to alleviate mood disorders, mitigate neurological aging, and combat neuroinflammation. We’ll also investigate its role in enhancing cognitive function and memory, particularly in cases of age-related decline. Additionally, we’ll examine the promising research on apigenin’s potential benefits in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD).

1.   Ally in Managing Mood Disorders

Apigenin’s antianxiety, antidepressant, and sleep-promoting effects make it a potential ally in managing mood disorders. Animal studies have shown promising results, suggesting that apigenin may help alleviate mood disorders including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances.

2.   Protecting the Brain from the Effects of Time

With its robust anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, apigenin may play a role in mitigating the effects of neurological aging. It may help slow cognitive decline, promote neurovascular health, and overall brain well-being.

3.   Taming the Brain’s Inflammatory Response

Neuroinflammation, a chronic inflammatory state in the brain, plays a role in various neurological disorders. Apigenin’s ability to reduce neuroinflammation may help improve post-stroke outcomes, protect neurons from damage, and promote neurogenesis, the process of generating new brain cells.

4.   Enhancing Cognitive Function and Memory

Apigenin’s neuroprotective effects may extend to enhancing cognitive function and memory, particularly in cases of age-related cognitive decline. It may improve synaptic plasticity, the brain’s ability to form new connections, and reduce oxidative stress, a contributor to cognitive decline. Studies suggest best results were attained at 30-45 mg per day.

5.   Counteracting Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

Apigenin’s potential in AD lies in its ability to address the hallmarks of the disease, namely amyloid-beta peptide aggregation and tau protein phosphorylation. It may protect neurons from oxidative stress and promote neurotrophic signaling, essential for neuronal survival and growth.

6.   Help in Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

Apigenin’s neuroprotective effects may offer benefits in PD by reducing neuroinflammation and preventing dopaminergic neuron loss. It may modulate autophagy, the cellular cleaning process, and promote mitochondrial function, crucial for neuronal health in PD.

Apigenin’s diverse array of neurological benefits positions it as a promising natural compound with the potential to address a wide range of brain health concerns. As research continues to unravel its therapeutic potential, apigenin may pave the way for new and effective treatments in various areas of neurology.

Sources of Apigenin

With a firm grasp on apigenin’s science and biochemistry, let’s embark on a journey to optimize your intake of this remarkable compound. We’ll explore the diverse dietary sources of apigenin, delve into the benefits of incorporating herbal remedies, and unravel the potential of supplementation.

Dietary Sources:

As we’ve discovered, apigenin graces a multitude of plant-based treasures, each offering a unique blend of nutrients and synergistic effects. You might consider incorporating these apigenin-rich foods into your daily diet:

To maximize apigenin’s benefits, embrace a diverse array of these sources. Parsley, for instance, boasts an abundance of apigenin and vitamin C, while celery and celery juice provides a synergistic combination of apigenin, potassium, and folate.

Prioritize fiber-rich options like whole grains and vegetables, as they promote gut microbial health and enhance apigenin’s absorption. Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt further support a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, ensuring optimal apigenin bioavailability.

Herbal Remedies

There are a wealth of herbs that harbor apigenin’s goodness. Chamomile tea, a time-honored remedy for relaxation and sleep, is a potent source of apigenin. Similarly, propolis, a resinous substance produced by bees, offers apigenin alongside anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Oregano, a culinary staple, also delivers apigenin along with its antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits.

Table 1: Foods and herb sources of apigenin and amounts

Food/ herbAmount of apigenin
Celery Seeds2.85 mg/100 g
Chamomile tea840 mg/100 grams
Peppermint5.39 mg/100 g
parsley215 mg/100 g
Thyme2.50mg/100 g
Mint18–100 mg/100 g
Cashew Apples2.0 mg/100 g
Grapes293.58 mg/100 g
oregano2.57 mg/100 g

Supplementation Strategies

For those seeking a more concentrated form of apigenin, supplementation offers a convenient and effective approach. Apigenin supplements are readily available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, and powders.

How to dose Apigenin:

According to a study published in the Internal Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2.5 mg/kg body weight/day of apigenin tended to be well tolerated by most study participants. Here’s an example of how to calculate how much apigenin you would take given this research:

Table: Formula for calculating apigenin dosage:

Step 1: Convert your weight into kilograms, for example If you weigh 140 lbs divide that by 2.2 = approximately 63 lbs

Step 2: Apply that to the calculation formula for dosing apigenin, for example: 63 pounds x 2.5 mg = about 160 mg

How to Get the Best Results When Dosing Apigenin

Instead of prescribing apigenin as an isolated compound, I typically recommend herbal remedies that contain apigenin alongside other beneficial constituents that address specific health concerns. For instance, if an individual is experiencing anxiety, stomach upset, and insomnia, I might recommend chamomile. Chamomile is an herb that not only contains apigenin but also contains other compounds that can alleviate stomach upset and promote relaxation, effectively addressing all three concerns.

That being said, if you want to try a standard extract of apigenin, I typically recommend my clients start low and then work their way up depending on how they feel. Apigenin dosages vary depending on individual factors like age, health status, and concurrent medications. So you may try 50 mg daily for 1 week, and if that is well tolerated you may work your way up to the 2.5 mg/kilogram dosage.

Optimizing Apigenin Absorption: A Synergistic Approach

To maximize the absorption and utilization of apigenin, consider incorporating the following into your routine:

Apigenin’s Journey Through Your Body: A Voyage of Wellness

As you consume apigenin-rich foods or supplements, it embarks on an incredible journey through your body. Its first stop is the digestive system, specifically the small intestine, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, it hops onto the circulatory highway, hitching a ride on your blood vessels to reach the liver, the body’s processing center.

At the liver, apigenin undergoes a transformation to prepare it for its next adventure. Imagine attaching personalized labels or tags to each apigenin molecule – this is essentially what happens during conjugation. These tags, known as glucuronic acid or sulfate groups, make apigenin more water-soluble, acting like passports that facilitate its smooth passage throughout the body.

Once apigenin is properly equipped with these tags, it’s ready to bid farewell to the liver and embark on its next destination, which could be your brain, heart, lungs, gut, skin – essentially anywhere from head to toe. It’s like taking a grand tour of your body, delivering its beneficial effects wherever it goes.

Apigenin’s Destination: A Tour of Your Body

Here are just a few examples of the different parts of the body apigenin may impact:

Understanding Apigenin Detoxification:

Apigenin’s absorption into the bloodstream is relatively gradual, with peak levels typically reached within 6-10 hours after consumption. This slow absorption suggests that apigenin’s effects may persist over a longer duration.

Your body possesses an elaborate detoxification system that diligently eliminates apigenin and other substances. The liver serves as the central hub for this process, breaking down apigenin into forms that are more readily excreted.

Once your body has processed and metabolized apigenin, preparing it for elimination, the kidneys step in as the ultimate exit point. They diligently filter out the tagged apigenin molecules from your bloodstream, ensuring their departure through urine. A small portion of apigenin may also be eliminated through bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver.

Just because apigenin can have incredible therapeutic benefits, does not mean it is appropriate in all dosages for all people. Let’s move on to talking about apibenin supplementation and explore the potential risks, and contraindications.

Apigenin Supplementation: Exploring Potential Risks and Considerations

While generally considered safe, it’s important to be aware of any potential risks associated with apigenin supplementation.

Potential Side Effects of Apigenin Supplementation:

Apigenin is generally well-tolerated but certain side effects may occur, particularly at high doses. These side effects may include:

Drug Interactions with Apigenin:

Apigenin may interact with certain medications, potentially altering their effectiveness or increasing the risk of adverse effects. Consult a healthcare professional before starting apigenin supplementation if you are taking any medications, particularly:

Contraindications for Apigenin Supplementation:

Apigenin supplementation may not be suitable for everyone. Certain contraindications include:

Long-Term Safety of Apigenin:

While apigenin is generally considered safe, more research is needed to fully assess its long-term safety profile. Long-term studies are crucial to evaluate the potential cumulative effects of apigenin supplementation.

Quality and Standardization of Apigenin Supplements:

Choosing high-quality apigenin supplements from reputable sources is essential to ensure purity and standardization. Look for supplements that undergo rigorous testing and follow strict manufacturing guidelines. I always advise my clients purchase their supplements directly from the manufacturer or from Fullscript to avoid counterfeit supplements.

Some of my favorite brands can be found on my Fullscript (Chamomile is one of the herbs we talked about earlier I may suggest searching for!)

Concluding remarks

Ongoing research continues to explore the potential of apigenin in neuroprotection and neuroinflammation management. Studies are investigating its role in preventing or delaying neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as its potential to enhance cognitive function and memory. Additionally, research is exploring apigenin’s ability to modulate the gut microbiome, which plays role in overall health and may influence brain health.

By embracing apigenin through whole foods and herbs, you can harness its remarkable potential to nurture your brain and nervous system, fostering a state of well-being and enhanced mood. As research continues to unravel the depths of apigenin’s benefits, its role in promoting brain health and overall well-being may become even more prominent.

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Whenever considering changing your protocol whether it includes a change of medications, supplements, diet or lifestyle, always speak with your primary care physician first.

Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.