What Is Carnosic Acid?

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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2019
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Carnosic acid is a phytochemical, sometimes referred to as benzenediol abietane diterpene, a natural, disease-fighting compound found in certain plants. The common herbs rosemary and sage contain it. Experts consider the substance as an antioxidant and believe it inhibits the activity of disease-causing free radicals, especially in the brain. It might also have other health benefits, such improving nerve function, helping with weight management, and increasing blood flow.

Scientists recognize carnosic acid as a beneficial phytochemical. Basically, phytochemicals are naturally occurring substances that are produced by plants. While they aren’t needed by the human body for survival, studies have shown that they have certain disease-fighting capabilities. Rosemary, a fragrant herb used in cooking, has high amounts of carnosic acid. Sage, another common herb, also contains the compound, although to a lesser extent than rosemary.

Recognized as an antioxidant, the most notable benefit of carnosic acid is its ability to protect against free radicals in the brain. The action of free radicals in the body gives rise to a number of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. In brief, a free radical is an atom that has an odd number of electrons, leaving one of them unpaired. Consequently, the atom snatches an electron from another atom to match up with its odd electron, turning the second atom into a free radical as well. This process continues, causing a destructive chain reaction on a molecular level, which ultimately results in damage to the cells.


Due to its antioxidant capabilities, carnosic acid inhibits the free radicals before they can cause damage. Further, studies have shown that the acid targets free radicals that affect the brain, thus protecting the cells there that might otherwise be affected. In addition, experts believe that the compound also helps increase blood flow to the brain and therefore boosts brain function.

Aside from the antioxidant benefits of carnosic acid, many believe that it also helps in weight management. Studies have shown that the acid inhibits fat digestion in the stomach. This, in turn, makes a person feel fuller for a longer period of time. Due to this fact, people find the acid to be an effective appetite suppressant, helping them to lose weight.

There are some indications that carnosic acid also helps stimulate nerve growth and function. Consequently, some people believe it is useful in the treatment of disorders affecting the central nervous system. In addition, some studies suggest that carnosic acid also helps prevent the thickening of artery walls. This, in turn, increases blood flow and helps prevent diseases caused by constricted arteries.

While rosemary and sage are natural sources of this particular acid, a person would likely have to consume large amounts of these herbs on a regular basis to enjoy the full health benefits. As a result, many opt for herbal supplements containing a powdered form of the acid. These supplements are generally available at specialty stores or through online retailers.


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