The brain needs nourishment to function properly. Certain herbs have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, transporting oxygen and nutrients and improving cellular health. Some herbs improve memory by stimulating the brain's neurotransmitters. Others contain antioxidants that prevent free radical cell damage.
The 4 Gs
The four “Gs”–gingko biloba, Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng and gotu kola--are believed to improve alertness, concentration and intelligence. Gingko biloba improves blood circulation, boosting alertness and memory, and contains antioxidants to maintain healthy cells. Gotu kola also improves circulation, improving brain performance and memory.
Calaguala and samambaia, rare rainforest ferns, are made into extracts in Europe to treat dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Several clinical studies showed the plants protected against brain cell degeneration and promoted repair of damaged brain cells.
Hawthorn cleanses the brain of toxins and strengthens tissues and blood vessels. Bacopin repairs neurons, increasing activity in synapses and improving memory, alertness and cognition.
Green tea contains large amounts of catechins, a potent antioxidant compound. A recent Israeli study showed green tea restored damaged brain cells.
The scent of rosemary acts to stimulate brain activity. You can rub a leaf of rosemary into your temples or make a cup of tea. Schisandra improves memory as well as mood.
Tonic herbs, including gingko, yerba mate and peppermint improve brain function. Tonic herbs should be combined, not with non-tonic herbs, for best effect.
Herbs can be consumed in a cup of hot tea purchased in packaged tea bags or loose leaves. If loose, pour boiling water over a teaspoon of herbs and steep for 15 minutes.
Herbs can also be combined in a liquid extract or tincture. Thirty drops taken a half hour before an exam, study period or interview can increase your level of alertness. Take a half dropper full two or three times a day.
Or you can take herbs in tablet form. One product, Neuro-Natural Memory, balances Siberian ginseng and schisandra, minerals, vitamins and amino acids to improve memory and awareness.
Herbs taken together act more effectively than a single herb, but they need to be be balanced. None of these herbs are toxic and can be taken safely for several weeks or months. Unlike caffeine, herbs won’t tax the adrenals.
In some studies, ginseng has had insomnia as a side effect. If you are taking other pharmaceuticals, check with your doctor for possible interactions.
Hardening of the arteries, which slows blood flow and therefore oxygen to the brain, is the primary reason why mental abilities decline with age. Gingko has been prescribed for Alzheimer’s, strokes, memory problems, strokes and dementia. A dose of 120 mg twice a day takes about two months to notice improvement.