Feeling a little fuzzy these days? Struggling to remember things? We chalk up memory loss and declining mental acuity to the aging process, but there is no need to go gracefully. Nature is packed with plants that can help restore your brain acuity, improve your ability to concentrate, and even improve your memory. Of course, with the wide range of such options on the market, it can be challenging to determine which are the best herbs to include in a brain and memory-focused diet. We’ve done the legwork for you and included the top five plants to help support a smart, healthy, agile brain in plant, root, and supplement form.
Ginkgo biloba, or more commonly referred to simply as “gingko”, is an herb that has been used for millennia in China and Iran, as well as throughout much of Europe for its benefits. While one of its traditional uses is for lung health, it has also been used to help improve memory and cognition. Modern science also supports this use, with multiple clinical studies finding that the herb can improve brain health, enhance memory, and even help fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
The authors of one such study noted, “These results suggest that the neuroprotective effects of EGb 761 [gingko biloba extract] are partly associated with its antioxidant properties and highlight its possible effectiveness in neurodegenerative diseases…via the inhibition of toxicity and cell death.” Take gingko daily as a supplement to help restore memory and brain cognition.
Note that this is Asian (panax) ginseng. We are not discussing other related plants. Asian ginseng is one of many traditional Eastern medicinal herbs used to support brain function, memory, and overall health. Much of its ability to improve concentration and memory can be linked to the herb’s ability to combat fatigue and provide an energy boost.
Multiple clinical trials have been conducted over the years that support these benefits, including one in which the authors noted that ginseng extract “may be a promising agent for Alzheimer’s disease, and the mechanism is related to beta-secretase inhibition and protection against Abeta-induced cytotoxicity.” Like gingko biloba, ginseng is easiest to use when taken in supplement form.
It’s in your toothpaste, your chewing gum, and even in essential oils. Peppermint has been used for thousands of years for fresher breath and mental stimulation. It is one of the most popular herbs used in the world today, and can be utilized in several different ways.
One of the simplest options is to just hang dried peppermint plants in your home – the scent alone is enough to boost mental acuity and mood. Peppermint essential oil delivers much the same benefit. The plant itself can be added to teas, coffees, or even chewed directly or added to salads and the like.
Turmeric is a perennial ingredient in many Asian dishes, imparting not just its bold yellow color, but also its unmistakable flavor. However, like many other herbs, turmeric is not just a good option for making meals more enjoyable. The root has a broad range of other benefits, including improving mental acuity and memory. The key to this activity is the plant’s concentration of curcumin.
The authors of one clinical study found that curcumin “can help in the management of oxidative and inflammatory conditions”, which are the leading causes of mental deterioration and memory loss. The authors also found that curcumin was able to support improvements in terms of patients suffering from metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, and hyperlipidemia.
This root can be taken in many ways – capsules of powdered turmeric are perhaps the simplest. However, it can also be added directly to your meals to provide health benefits coupled with improved flavor.
Most familiar to us as a topping for certain types of artisan breads, rosemary has been used as both a culinary herb and one of the most powerful medicinal herbs for centuries. It imparts its signature flavor to any food, and can even be used to scent the air. However, its impact on long-term and short-term memory are also well demonstrated.
One particular study found that just the scent of rosemary in the air was enough to stimulate memory and help study participants remember to do things. This effect is not linked to mood enhancement or stimulation, either, but instead to higher levels of 1,8-cineole found in the blood of study participants in the room where rosemary was infused. Taking rosemary is as simple as making a tea – a single tablespoon mixed with a cup of boiling water. You can perfume spaces with dried rosemary, and rosemary essential oil also includes the active ingredient that enhances memory.
Tips for Using Them
We’ve covered a wide range of herbs, supplements, and plants that can help improve mental function, boost memory, and even fight off the onset of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. All five of the plants listed here are easy to locate in a variety of different forms, but all types may not be right for you.
Supplements: Supplements are generally caplets or capsules and are easy to take at any time of the day. If you go this route, make sure to purchase from a reputable company, as supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
Natural: Turmeric, peppermint, and rosemary are readily available in their unprocessed forms. Even ginseng and gingko can be found whole. In this form, you can crush, powder, or even simply dry these herbs for use in everything from soups and stews and other forms of cooking to sachets to hang around your home.
Essential Oil: Essential oils can be a simple, expedient way to take advantage of an herb’s cognitive and memory-boosting capabilities without dealing with swallowing a supplement, or even handling the plant itself. Essential oils can be vaporized, but can also be applied to the body.
With the help of these five plants, you can support mental health and improve your memory with a smart diet and supplementation.