Our minds often play tricks on us as we age, which can make us question ourselves and our brain health. Names elude us, words slide away, and memories go misty around the edges. We might even experience increased difficulty multitasking or focusing on one thing at a time. Well, there’s a reason for that.
Aging actually causes physical changes to the brain, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, including to its overall size, vasculature, and cognition. The group found that “the volume of the brain and/or its weight declines with age at a rate of around 5% per decade after age 40 with the actual rate of decline possibly increasing with age particularly over age 70.”
Since our brain health naturally diminishes as we age, it’s vital that we do what we can to give it a boost and keep it sharp. One way to accomplish this is by taking herbal supplements to ensure our brains are getting the nutrients they need to thrive.
10 Herbs to Support Brain Health
Herbs have been used for thousands of years as holistic treatments to improve body functions and brain health. It’s always wise to consult with a nutritionist or other professional healthcare provider before beginning any herbal supplement plan, but the list below will give you a base knowledge about which ones might give you the best boost.
The evergreen ashwagandha shrub is native to Africa, India and the Middle East, and its nutrient-dense roots and berries have been used in medicine to lower inflammation, blood pressure, and stress in the brain, as well as boost the immune system. Taking an ashwagandha supplement daily may help support the body’s ability to exert physical effort, adapt to stress, and retain mental clarity.
Bacopa monniera is an herb that has been used for centuries to address a variety of health conditions, including memory support and reducing symptoms of anxiety. This may be because of its antioxidant properties, which help to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, which can help to improve cognitive health and mood disorders.
3. Ginkgo Biloba
Taken from the dried, green leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree, this herbal supplement has been linked to improved thinking and memory and an increased ability to perform everyday tasks. Research has found it promotes blood circulation in the brain and protects against neuronal damage, improving cognitive function. Ginkgo biloba has also been used to help with symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and is available in capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, powders, dried leaves and teas.
Originally native to Manchuria and the Korean peninsula, ginseng has long been valued around the world for its aromatic properties and health benefits. The chemical agents in ginseng increase the brain’s adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) activity, which means that taking this herb can help with general alertness, improved mental performance, learning, memory and sensory awareness. Supplements are readily available as capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, powders, dried leaves and teas, but you can also cook with the root, if you find it available. Here is a nice recipe for Korean ginseng chicken soup, as a good place to start.
5. Gotu Kola
While the leafy gotu kola plant may lack the name recognition of other supplements on this list, that doesn’t mean you should overlook it. Gotu kola more than lives up to its nickname, “the herb of longevity,” and has shown promise in improving circulation, reducing anxiety and stress, combating depression, supporting symptoms of conditions like Alzheimer’s, and boosting cognitive function.
6. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm has long been used as a traditional cognitive health aid. This member of the mint family has many health benefits for the nervous system including:
• Reducing anxiety and stress symptoms
• Improving sleep for those suffering from insomnia
• Improving thinking
• Reducing agitation in those with Alzheimer’s disease
Lemon balm produces a soothing, anti-stress effect that allows for increased mental focus.
7. Rhodiola Rosea
A perennial flowering plant that grows across North America, Europe and Asia, Rhodiola rosea has stood the test of extensive study and is widely recognized as a stress-reliever and supporter of enhanced moods, better sleep cycles, and increased mental focus. We recommend that this one be taken as a capsule on an empty stomach in the morning, to get the most out of its alertness-boosting properties.
Savory and aromatic, rosemary has been used in cooking for millennia and long been acknowledged as an herb that promotes memory and clarity of thought. In fact, it’s been valued as much for those properties as for its flavor and aroma! Rosemary contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that help keep the mind and body healthy by combating disease-causing free radicals and improving circulation. It can be taken as a capsule or added to food for flavoring, as well as brain health benefits.
Research shows sage can improve alertness, attention and memory because it has anti-inflammatory properties that help protect against free radical damage, bacterial infections, viral infections and more. It is available in supplement form and also as an herb for use in cooking.
Turmeric root, with its active ingredient curcumin, has been known to support brain health, help fight depression, improve cardiovascular health and boost circulation. It also has benefits as an antioxidant. Turmeric is often ground into a powder for easy consumption — it can be added to smoothies, juices, oatmeal, curries and other cooking or meal prep — but turmeric can also be taken orally in capsule form.
Herbs are nature’s natural remedies. They offer an effective and practical way to help improve overall brain health, especially as we age. Including them as part of a daily wellness routine can go a long way toward helping you stay in tip-top mental shape.
Ready to discuss how herbal supplements can help Improve brain function?
Our expert team at Village Green Apothecary is here to help! Contact us to set up an appointment or to speak with a consultant in person, over the phone, or through a virtual appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!