Researchers explore mustard seed fatty acid’s potential for brain health

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / Mirzamlk
Getty Images / Mirzamlk

Related tags Ala Brain health Nootropic

In vitro tests conducted by researchers at the Yasuj University of Medical Sciences in Iran suggest that the seed oil of a plant in the mustard family warrants further investigation for its potential brain health benefits.

The team of researchers investigated the effects of various concentrations of Alyssum homolocarpum ​seed oil on embryonic neural stem cells, which are immature precursors of the central nervous system.

They found that when neural stem cells were exposed to the oil on a petri dish, it increased the proliferation and stimulated differentiation of the cells.

Alyssum homolocarpum ​seed oil was selected because it is one of the richest herbal sources of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, a type of omega-3 essential fatty acid. Previous studies have linked ALA to proliferation and differentiation of cultured neural stem cells.

In addition to the rich-ALA content, they chose to investigate this specific plant because of its use in traditional Persian folk healing. “Alyssum, a famous genus of Brassicaceae or mustard family, is native to the Middle East…and comprises 100-170 related species,”​ they explained in their paper, which was published this week in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

“Alyssum homolocarpum plant is well known by Persian practitioners and folk healers and is traditionally known as Qodume Shirazi or Toodari,” ​they added.

Comparing the seed oil to synthetic ALA

The researchers hypothesized that the presence of the seed oil prior to differentiation is important to induce its activity on neural stem cells in vitro.

“The current study is designed to investigate the direct effect of [the seed oil] on proliferation, but also differentiation, of neural stem cells and to compare its activities with a synthetic source of ALA,” ​they reported.

The plant specimen was collected from mountains of Shiraz city and authenticated by a taxonomist. Lab mice were fed with either 0.5 g/kg each day with the mustard seed oil for 14 days. The mice were then sacrificed, and their brains plated into single cells.

In an assay, the researchers observed the proliferation of neural stem cells when exposed to the synthetic ALA or the seed oil. This reflects the self-renewal potential of the cells.

“A significant increase of [about two-fold] in embryonic neural stem cells viability was obtained using [the seed oil] at 25, 50, and 75 μM whereas synthetic ALA was significant at 50 μM only,” ​they reported.

Researchers attributed the seed oil’s outperformance over the isolated synthetic ALA  ​to its full blend of fatty acids, including β-sitosterol, stearic acid, and myristic acid.

“Overall, our study suggests that diets containing high concentrations of natural ALA …could be an efficient strategy to strengthen the proliferative and differentiative activities of ALA, particularly for induction of neurogenesis,” ​they wrote.

“This oil could be used to control neurodevelopmental syndromes, cognitive decline during aging, and various psychiatric disorders.”

Further studies are needed to determine the optimal dose of these fatty acids for gliogenesis, oligodendrogenesis, or neurogenesis.

Source: ​BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Published online,
“Alyssum homolocarpum seed oil (AHSO), containing natural alpha linolenic acid, stearic acid, myristic acid and β-sitosterol, increases proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells in vitro”
Authors: Reza Mahmoudi, et al.

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