Herbs offer a lot more benefits than just flavoring your food and adding to its aroma. They can enhance clarity of thinking, alertness, focus, concentration, memory and even mood.
“Most commonly, people will notice that they are more focused and alert, that they are more motivated, that they are processing information faster,” says Ray Sahelian, MD, author of Mind Boosters and a family practitioner in Marina Del Ray, California, speaking about herbs as brain boosters.
Herbs that boost cognitive functions do not work like stimulants such as caffeine, ephedrine, or amphetamines. Though a lot of research has been carried out on the influence of various herbs on brain power, results are inconclusive and at times contradictory. Nonetheless, they have been prescribed as alternative medicines and home remedies for ages. Here are some of the most effective ones for boosting brain power:
The Ginko tree is one of the oldest plants on the planet and is native to China. A lot of research has been conducted on this plant because of its potential to treat Alzheimer’s disease and age-related mental decline. The leaf of the Ginko tree is routinely prescribed in places like Germany and France because several studies have shown that it helps cure various mental ailments.
Ginkgo biloba extract is collected from the dried green leaves of the plant and is available as liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets. It is believed that it works by thinning the blood and, thus, improving the flow of oxygen to the brain. It is used for the treatment of blood disorders and memory problems, enhancement of cardiovascular function and to improve eye health.
It can also act as a brain booster for people with average mental abilities. In 2000, the journal Psychopharmacology published a study which stated that there is evidence to show that ginko improved attention. Similarly, another study conducted in 2001 and published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology suggested that ginkgo may improve memory.
In a recent study published in Phytomedicine, it was suggested that ginkgo biloba may offer added cognitive benefits among Alzheimer’s patients. For a year, the effects of ginko biloba were studied in relation to cholinesterase inhibitor drugs. It was found that those who took ginko biloba along with cholinesterase inhibitor drugs, to address symptoms of Alzheimer’s, enjoyed a better quality of life. Though it has been shown to improve both memory and cognitive performance, it is not a cure for dementia.
This wondrous herb comes from trees also known as the maiden hair. Since it has survived major extinction events, it is considered a living fossil. The tree can grow as tall as 130 feet and live for over 1,000 years, though some trees in China are believed to be more than 2,500 years old!
A common household name in most Indian households, Tulsi is also known as the holy basil or ocimum sanctum. Worshipped and grown in many Hindu households, this humble, inexpensive herb comes loaded with a host of benefits.
It can be used to increase the level of oxygenation in the brain and simultaneously boosting blood circulation. This herb is beneficial for cognitive function, increasing a person’s overall productivity. It also lowers cell sensitivity to stress and raises the body’s ability to adapt to changing situations and improves working, reference and spatial memory.
It wards off some of the most common ailments, strengthens immunity, fights bacterial and viral infections to combat and treat various hair and skin disorders. From anxiety, cough, allergies, asthma, fever, diarrhea, indigestion and vomiting to heart disease, arthritis and snakebites, Tulsi is a remedy for many ailments.
Tulsi has Vitamins A and C, zinc, calcium, iron and chlorophyll. Its anti-inflammatory properties lower infection and water retention (edema) while the usolic acid in tulsi lowers anxiety and depression.
In the medical system of Ayurveda, Tulsi is consdiered a key herb for household cures and medications. It has so many benefits that it is believed to be the incarnation of Lakshmi, the goddess of abundance in Hindu mythology.
When it comes to brain enhancement, Ginseng is one of the most well known and powerful herbs. Often administered to those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it is believed to improver cognitive function.
In fact, Ginseng is so close to being a natural cure-all that the literal translation of Panax ginseng into English is “all-healing man root”. Ginseng has been shown to reduce fatigue and increase energy in cancer patients. It can also offer protection against different forms of radiation.
The Chinese believe that ginseng promotes longevity because it has the ability of keeping your skin healthy and reducing wrinkles when taken orally. It can also treat male pattern baldness when applied topically and taken internally, concurrently.
This adapt genic herb is also known to help your mind and body cope with stress and improve different cognitive abilities. Furthermore, Ginseng can protect brains cells against toxins that lead to mental decay and decline. It increases circulation, protecting major organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys from aging and damage.
Though not an elusive cure to the common cold or flu, taking ginseng can reduce risk of catching a cold as well as diminish its duration and provide relief from the severity of symptoms.
Known as a herb that can boost longevity, Gotu Kola has been held in high esteems for thousands of years by Daoist masters and Yogis. This herb improves brain health as evidenced by animal and human studies that show that using this herb increases neural axonal density of the brain. Research has demonstrated that enhanced intercellular communication and higher IQs are correlated with increased neural axonal density of the brain.
Additionally, usage of extracts of this plant can potentially promote growth of new neural networks as well as repair damaged neurons. Studies of children who were fed Gotu Kola, over a long-term-period, showed measurable changes in IQ and general intelligence markers. This herb can make people more creative too by facilitating better communication between the two brain hemispheres. It can also increase the occurrence of positive brainwave states.
The herb contains Vitamins A, G, and K and is also high in magnesium. It increases appetite, is good for the heart and reduces edema (swelling with fluid). It is an expectorant and treats the throat. It is diuretic and increases breast milk. When taken in excess, however, it causes headaches and giddiness, and sometimes confusion, skin redness and itching.
When it comes to supporting brain health, thyme is another great herb. Thyme has volatile oils that increase omega-3 fatty acids, one of which is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), in the brain. These omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for protecting our brains against dementia and age-related cognitive decline as well as helping improve our memory and ability to learn.
A substance known as apigenin, which belongs to a food group known as flavonoids, is present in Thyme. Neurons are basic human cells. One of their purposes is to carry messages from one part of your brain to another. Apigenin has been known to enhance brain function by displaying an exceptional ability to form neurons, thus improving cognitive functions and memory. “Strong connections between neurons are crucial for good brain function, memory consolidation and learning,” says researcher and neuroscientist, Stevens Rehen Rehen.
It is not just herbs that can boost brain power, the right foods also greatly help charge your brain to the max. Eat fresh organic food that are as close to their natural state as possible and drink lots and lots of pure, clean water. Since 85% of your brain’s weight is water, drinking water can fight off lethargy and increase alertness. Next time you are feeling sluggish, during the day, stay away from coffee or carbonated drink and have a big glass of water instead.
Also, try doing new things every day because the more you use your brain, the more your brain will be able to create new cells, connections and mental schemas. This will help improve your memory and problem-solving skills.
Audrey Throne is a mother and a professional blogger by choice. She has completed her masters in English literature from university of Birmingham. As a blogger she wrote quite a few posts on health, technology as well as management. Currently, she is associated with Brain Test Team.
Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.