There is no body part more taxed by today’s hectic lifestyle than the brain. We must have vast amounts of knowledge and be constantly learning. Everything has to be retained, recalled, processed, analyzed, and applied at lightening speed. Both the left and the right side of the brain are relentlessly called upon to perform at peak efficiency, while it also looks after the rest of the body. Combine these factors with the stress levels that usually comes with modern day families and it is little wonder that our brain could use a natural boost.
The brain requires nurturing to operate at peak performance levels just like your other organs, yet it is the most neglected. A healthy diet, adequate sleep and exercise are crucial for optimum brain function, but like the rest of the body performance can be enhanced naturally with herbs. There are herbs available that improve concentration, learning capacity, memory, clarity, speech, and the ability to cope with stress. They can be stimulating or reduce anxiety. There are also herbs that support optimum brain function through improved oxygenation, circulation, and detoxification of brain tissue.
I’ve tried virtually all herbs on the market for improved brain function to support my work-a-holic ways. I have listed my top choices below. Your results may vary, but it will provide you with a great place to start. I take supplements throughout the day to allow each one to work individually before adding another. I also purchase some of the milder herbs in powder form to add to family meals so everyone can enjoy their benefits. You’d be amazed at what I can sneak into spaghetti sauce. 😉
6 Herbal Brain Boosters
1. Bacopa monnieri works with both sides of the brain to improve all mental functions, including focus, learning capacity, and memory. This herb has a bonus function in its ability to reduce the impact of stress. It reduces nervousness, anxiety, and improves sleep without leaving you groggy. Other benefits of Bacopa monnieri include balancing brain proteins GABA and glutamate, improved neurotransmitter function, adrenal gland healing and immune system support. Take it an hour or two before bed for best results.
2. Ashwagandha is the principal ayurvedic herb for chronic memory loss. It has proven useful in stress & anxiety reduction, neural protection, nerve cell regeneration, and free radical control.
In Life Extension Magazine, Dale Kiefer wrote of an Ashwagandha study in which, “Study participants reported increased energy, reduced fatigue, better sleep, and an enhanced sense of well-being. The participants showed several measurable improvements, including a reduction of cortisol levels up to 26%, a decline in fasting blood sugar levels, and improved lipid profiles.”
3. Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng) improves concentration, alertness, and stamina, while also protecting against stress. It supports the central nervous system, circulatory system and immune system. Siberian Ginseng can be taken consecutively for up to two weeks and is intended to provide an extra boost in exceptionally trying situations.
4. Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) enhances learning capacity, thinking, concentration, memory, work efficiency and general well-being. Experts suggest it can be safely used for up to three months at a time, but may be unsafe for prolonged use due to ‘hormone-like’ effects.
5. Ginkgo biloba improves cognitive functioning to a point that it has been studied for the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. It improves concentration and both working and long-term memory. Ginkgo biloba improves blood flow and oxygen to the brain and its antioxidants destroy free radicals.
6. Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) increases concentration, improves memory, and relieves mental fatigue. Even the scent can improve mental alertness. Try adding a plant to your home or workspace and rub a few leaves to release the scented oils when you need a mental or emotional boost.
For full benefits, obtain your herbs from a reputable supplier that focuses on freshness and purity. I rely on Starwest Botanicals in the US for bulk herbs, due to a lack of a similar online Canadian alternative.
Caution: It’s important to consult with your doctor before adding herbs to your diet to avoid drug interactions or negative impact on existing medical conditions. Ginseng, for example, interacts with a number of medications and speeds the effects of alcohol. Ask your doctor before using herbs if you are pregnant or nursing, and before administering to children under 12. Using more than the recommended dosage may be dangerous.
Do you use natural brain boosters? Please share your favourites in the comments below.
Kiefer, Dale. Ashwagandha: Stress Reduction, Neural Protection, and a Lot More from an Ancient Herb. 2006.
Cassels, Caroline. Active Compound in Rosemary May Be Neuroprotective. 2007.
Le Bars, P. L. et al. Influence of the Severity of Cognitive Impairment on the Effect of the Ginkgo Biloba Extract EGb 761 in Alzheimer’s Disease. 2002.
Wesnes, K. A. et al. The Memory Enhancing Effects of a Ginkgo Biloba/Panax Ginseng Combination in Healthy Middle-Aged Volunteers. 2000.
Zhao, R. & McDaniel. Ginseng Improves Strategic Learning by Normal and Brain-Damaged Rats. 1998.
Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Herbal Healing. 2012.
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