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How camphor stimulates the brain

From a blood pressure low to a performance high

Munich, 10/22/2008

High blood pressure is feared as a “silent killer” because over time it can cause immense damage to the blood vessels. In contrast, essential hypotension presents no danger to health. Nevertheless, those affected – who make up as much as five percent of the population – often complain of physical discomfort such as tiredness and reduced mental ability. LMU research colleagues of Professor Rainer Schandry have now performed a scientific study that presents the first proof that a classic domestic remedy can provide effective help in these cases: camphor. This agent from the bark of the camphor tree, which originated in China, increased the blood pressure of the subjects within a few minutes, and also improved their ability to concentrate, their hand-eye coordination and their short-term memory. “This could be taken as further proof of the close correlation between the cardiovascular system and brain function,” says Schandry.

People with chronic low blood pressure often complain of tiredness, lack of drive, lack of concentration and reduced mental ability. This is most noticeable in the early morning hours and after meals. There are indications that impaired balance and even falls among older people can be attributed to hypotension. From a medical perspective, however, low blood pressure is generally not something that demands treatment, which means that typically no therapy is offered despite the complaints. The colleagues of Schandry, head of the Biological Psychology unit at LMU Munich, have been studying the correlations between cardiovascular processes and mental processes for many years. As part of these tests, a study has now been completed on the effects of a camphor preparation on blood pressure and mental performance.

In this test, hypotonic subjects received either a placebo, that is a substance that has no effect, or a cardiovascular preparation containing camphor. The subjects’ mental performance was measured before and after they had taken the substances. “The first thing that stood out was that the effects already appeared after one or two minutes,” reports Schandry. “For example, after using the vegetable camphor preparation, a considerable improvement in attention, ability to concentrate, hand-eye coordination and short-term memory were observed. These effects became stronger the higher the blood pressure rose.” What this correlation between cardiovascular system and mental function is based on is not known in detail. It is conceivable, however, that low blood pressure leads to reduced blood flow to the brain. “At any rate, our results have now confirmed the stimulating effect of camphor – which people have known about for thousands of years – for the first time using quantitative physiological and psychological measuring techniques”, says Schandry.

“The effect of Camphor-Crataegus berry extract combination on blood pressure and mental functions in chronic hypotension – randomized placebo controlled double blind design”,
Phytomedicine, Vol. 15/11, S. 914-922, November 2008

Professor Dr. Rainer Schandry
Biological Psychology, Department of Psychology
Tel.: ++49 (0) 89 / 2180 – 5176
Fax: ++49 (0) 89 / 2180 - 16527

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