When you think of herbs, what comes to mind? Your backyard garden of parsley, thyme, and basil? Although these common herbs offer immense culinary and health benefits, there are hundreds of herbs available which have been to target specific ailments.
We all know how food influences our health and if you do not follow a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, both your body and mind will pay the price. With Alzheimer’s rates now reaching an all-time high, many are focusing on the most important organ we possess — the brain.
From omega-3 fatty acids to choline-rich foods, people are aiming to ‘feed’ their brain in order to protect their mental health in the future. Whether you would like to enhance your memory or implement proactive measures, the following herbs can assist you.
5 Herbs That Improve Memory
Although herbs will not act as a treatment or cure for those with dementia, they do have the ability to enhance cognition in healthy subjects and in turn, memory. The normal aging process directly influences processing speed, memory, and other executive functions. If you would like to improve your memory, welcome these five herbs into your routine.
Ginseng has long been used throughout history, and has been found to enhance memory within modern research. Although there are eleven species of ginseng, the true ginseng plant belongs only to the Panax genus, including both American and Asian ginseng. Currently, researchers are interested in ginsenosides — the unique compounds of this herb.
Offering a wide range of benefits, ginseng can reduce inflammation, reduce stress levels, and improve brain function. In fact, this herb has been shown to benefit those with Alzheimer’s disease. Within this study, participants were assigned to either the ginseng group or the control group.
For those in the experimental group, individuals received 4.5 grams of ginseng daily for 12 weeks. While receiving ginseng treatment, these individuals showed improvements in cognition. Once ginseng treatment for discontinued, improved scores declined to the levels seen among the control group. It was concluded that Panax ginseng is clinically effective among Alzheimer’s patients.
- Gingko Biloba
Gingko biloba is an extract that’s derived from the leaves of the ginkgo tree, which has been found to promote cerebral-enhancing properties. Used throughout Chinese herbal medicine, this herb has been treating a range of conditions since ancient times, including declining memory.
Once again, this herb is not a cure for dementia, but in some cases, it has been shown to improve both memory and cognitive performance. In fact, gingko biloba is the most widely investigated and adopted herbal remedy for cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.
As stated in a recent study, published in Phytomedicine, ginkgo biloba may offer added cognitive benefits among Alzheimer’s patients were are already under conventional anti-dementia treatment. When studying this combination over the course of a year, it was reported that those who took gingko in addition to cholinesterase inhibitor drugs, experienced an enhanced quality of life.
Here’s a herb you more than likely recognize — a common staple in many recipes, rosemary has a distinct taste and aroma, but how does it influence the brain? While studying herbs and their therapeutic value, many turn to aromatherapy, utilizing the plant’s potent essential oils.
Within one study, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, the aromas of rosemary and lavender were tested to better understand their effect on cognition. What they found, was that unlike lavender, which reduced cognitive performance, rosemary significantly enhanced performance for overall memory and secondary memory tasks, in comparison to a control group.
It’s believed that various compounds, such as 1,8-cineole, increase acetylcholine levels — a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory. In fact, the compounds in rosemary act in a similar way to dementia drugs — as rosemary reduces the breakdown of acetylcholine.
This small evergreen herb has long been a part of the Ayurvedic medical system. While studying mice, it was found that ashwaganda extract may reverse memory loss and support cognition among those with Alzheimer’s. Researchers reported that initially, mice with Alzheimer’s were unable to learn or retain the new information they learned. After receiving ashwaganda for 20 days, however, significant improvements were observed.
Amazingly, after 30 days, the behavior of these mice returned to normal. In addition to these effects, a reduction in amyloid plaques was reported, as well as improved cognitive abilities. Instead of influencing the brain directly, it appears that this herb increased a protein in the liver, which then entered the bloodstream before reaching the brain.
- Lemon Balm
For centuries, this herb has been used to soothe nervous agitation and has also been regarded as a beneficial memory aid. This is based on lemon balm’s ability to stimulate acetylcholine receptors. Although this connection has been well-documented throughout history, studies are now reporting its benefits and effect on patients with Alzheimer’s.
One study, published in Neuropsychopharmacology, found that when giving healthy young adults lemon balm capsules, they performed significantly better when completing computer memory tests, in comparison to the placebo group. They found that the higher the dose, the greater the effect on memory and mood.
More specifically, it was found that lemon balm had a positive effect on pieces of brain tissue, as well as the chemical receptors that are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers stated that it was only the dried leaf that enhanced memory, which is closest to the traditional way of taking lemon balm.
Whether you have recently been diagnosed with dementia or would like to enhance proactive efforts, the above herbs are some of the most effective when targeting memory. If you have been noticing issues regarding your memory and are concerned about Alzheimer’s, please be aware of the early warning signs — ensuring that you seek a professional opinion to increase peace of mind.