The Canadian company yesterday signed a licensing agreement with the University of Guelph, which developed the spearmint variety containing high levels of rosmarinic acid. Rosmarinic acid is found in large quantities in herbs like oregano, lemon balm, sage, marjoram and rosemary. Its antioxidant activity is said to be stronger than that of vitamin E. This means that it helps to prevent cell damage caused by free radicals, which is thought to be linked to a host of health problems. High levels According to Steve De Brabandere from the University of Guelph, the new spearmint variety contains far higher levels of rosmarinic acid than other plants currently cultivated for the compound - including rosemary and oregano. "Rosemary typically contains around 1.5 to 2 percent rosmarinic acid, and oregano and regular spearmint are also in that range," he told NutraIngredients-USA.com. "The spearmint plant that we developed contains 8 to 10 percent rosmarinic acid of the dry weight of the leaf." Extraction The new licensing agreement will allow Ceapro to use its proprietary extraction process to purify the rosmarinic acid from the spearmint plant, which could likely result in a highly concentrated extract. With the licensing agreement only just signed, the firm has yet to develop its ingredient. However, it said its extraction process will allow it to obtain a pure compound, without the color or flavor associated with spearmint. The firm said it will ultimately supply the ingredient for use in nutraceutical, cosmaceutical and pharmaceutical applications. Benefits Rosmarinic acid is typically used in the food industry for its role as a preservative in meat, as it prevents oxidation. However, beyond its antioxidant properties, it also has anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been found to have anti-allergy benefits, specifically for conditions such as hay fever or asthma. Other studies have also shown that the compound may be beneficial for rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, it is thought to have specific antimicrobial and antimicotic properties that could be valuable in cosmeceutical formulations. Market Ceapro, which has so far focused on organic products, hopes that the development of its new ingredient will help it enter a new market. According to the firm's CEO Mark Redmond, "we expect our growing distributor network will find broad market appeal and acceptance for a rosmarinic acid that is odourless, tasteless and ingestible." "This moves Ceapro's natural product offerings beyond organics and into nutraceuticals," he said.