The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 11 No. 5 • September 2008

Protection by Spices Against Cell Damage Caused by Peroxynitrite

Peroxynitrite, a potent cytotoxic chemical, is formed naturally in the body by the interaction of nitric oxide and superoxide radicals. This ubiquitous toxin causes oxidative damage to proteins via attack on sulfhydryl groups and thioethers, as well as causing hydroxylation and nitrosation of aromatic amino acids comprising essential residues in proteins, leading to protein dysfunction.1 Lipids are susceptible to peroxynitrite-induced peroxidation. Peroxynitrite also causes DNA damage (including base modification and mutation, as well as DNA strand breakage).1 Peroxynitrite has been implicated in many diseases, especially those associated with inflammation, including (for example) spinal cord injury,2 apoptosis (programmed cell death) in motor neurons,3 arthritis,4 apoptosis of heart muscle cells,5 and respiratory diseases.6

Interestingly, many commonly used spices have potent protective properties against peroxynitrite. A recent paper reports on the protective effects of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, paprika, rosemary, and turmeric.1 The authors of this paper note that people typically get a surprisingly large amount of spices in their diet, with the per capita consumption of spices in America growing from 2.6 g/person per day in 1980 to approximately 4 g/person per day in 2000.

The authors examined a number of measures of protective effects. In one test, they examined the listed spices for protection against peroxynitrite oxidation of fluorescein, finding that, at 100 µg/mL, turmeric inhibited 96.3% of the fluorescein oxidation, while cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and rosemary inhibited it by 74.5%, 71.0%, 63.5%, and 58.0%, respectively. The other spices at that concentration inhibited the fluorescein oxidation by less than 50%.

In another test, the researchers looked at the effects of spices on peroxynitrite-mediated lipid peroxidation (using the TBARS test). Here they found the proportional inhibition to be: cinnamon 63.9%; cloves 58.5%; rosemary 54.0%; turmeric 44.3%; and nutmeg 35.5%. The other spices inhibited the reaction by less than 10%.

In the test of the protective capacities of the spices against peroxynitrite-induced DNA strand breakage, the spices (at 100 µg/mL) decreased the DNA strand breakage by the following amounts: cinnamon 81%; nutmeg 80%; turmeric 49%; cloves 44%; rosemary 40%; cardamom 29%; paprika 26%; and cumin 22%.

The TEAC assay for antioxidant capacity ranked the spices (in decreasing order): cloves > rosemary, cinnamon, turmeric > nutmeg > cumin > paprika and cardamom. The DPPH test looked at the scavenging ability of spices as IC50, the concentration of spice extract needed to quench 50% of the DPPH radical. The most active was cloves, with an IC50 value of 62 µg/mL. The next most effective was rosemary, with an IC50 value of 149 µg/mL.

We also found another paper showing that zingerone, a pungent pyrolytic product of ginger oleoresin found in ginger root, is a strong scavenger of peroxynitrite as well.6


  1. Ho et al. Protective capacities of certain spices against peroxynitrite-mediated biomolecular damage. Food Chem Toxicol 46:920-8 (2008).
  2. Genovese et al. Beneficial effects of FeTSPP, a peroxynitrite decomposition catalyst, in a mouse model of spinal cord injury. Free Rad Biol Med 43:763-80 (2007).
  3. Ye et al. Prevention of peroxynitrite-induced apoptosis of motor neurons and PC12 cells by tyrosine-containing peptides. J Biol Chem 282(9):6324-37 (2007).
  4. Bezerra et al. Reactive nitrogen species scavenging, rather than nitric oxide inhibition, protects from articular cartilage damage in rat zymosan-induced arthritis. Brit J Pharmacol 141:172-82 (2004).
  5. Levrand et al. Peroxynitrite is a major trigger of cardiomyocyte apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. Free Rad Biol Med 41:886-95 (2006).
  6. Shin et al. Zingerone as an antioxidant against peroxynitrite. J Agric Food Chem 53:7617-22 (2005).

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