Blessed thistle (Cnicus benedictus), a member of the Asteraceae family, thrives in our climate. This plant has been utilized for centuries as a medicinal herb, often consumed as an extract or tea to support the digestive system. Recently, researchers at the Center for Pharmacology of University Hospital Cologne and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Cologne, led by Dr. Philipp Gobrecht and Professor Dr. Dietmar Fischer, have discovered a completely new application for its active component, Cnicin.

Animal models as well as human cells have shown that Cnicin significantly accelerates axon (nerve fibers) growth. The study was published in the journal Phytomedicine.

Rapid help for nerves

Regeneration pathways of injured nerves in humans and animals with long axons are accordingly long. This often makes the healing process lengthy and even frequently irreversible because the axons cannot reach their destination on time.

An accelerated regeneration growth rate can, therefore, make a big difference here, ensuring that the fibers reach their original destination on time before irreparable functional deficits can occur. The researchers demonstrated axon regeneration in animal models and human cells taken from retinae donated by patients. Administering a daily dose of Cnicin to mice or rats helped improve paralysis and neuropathy much more quickly.

Compared to other compounds, Cnicin has one crucial advantage: it can be introduced into the bloodstream orally (by mouth). It does not have to be given by injection. “The correct dose is very important here, as Cnicin only works within a specific therapeutic window. Doses that are too low or too high are ineffective. This is why further clinical studies on humans are crucial,” said Fischer. The University of Cologne researchers are currently planning relevant studies. The Center for Pharmacology is researching and developing drugs to repair the damaged nervous system.

Reference: “Cnicin promotes functional nerve regeneration” by Philipp Gobrecht, Jeannette Gebel, Marco Leibinger, Charlotte Zeitler, Zhendong Chen, Dirk Gründemann and Dietmar Fischer, 14 April 2024, Phytomedicine.
DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2024.155641

The current study received funding of around 1,200,000 euros from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of the project PARREGERON.

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