This amazing article was written by Peggy Seaflon, a personal development coach, speaker, and author of the best-selling book Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. We encourage you to check out her website here and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!
Brain fog, memory challenges, and feelings of overwhelm are symptoms that are spreading in our culture faster than the speed of a Google search. As humans, we have a biological instinct for survival with an innate ability to instantly recognize threats and dangers.
However, with our sped-up digital surroundings and hectic lifestyles, our brain circuits are overloaded. Witness the rise in diagnoses of Alzheimer’s or dementia (AFA — Alzheimer’s Foundation of America–estimates that as many as 5.1 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s disease). Or the staggering increase in mental illnesses, especially cognitive impairments.
Modern technology may be partial to blame as we’re unable to be attentive long enough to process and store incoming information into long-term memory. Not surprisingly, one study showed that millennials are even more forgetful than seniors.
Solution: Natural Herbs
One solution is to begin boosting brain function by introducing the use of natural herbs, a few of which can even be grown at home. (One caveat is that if you’re taking other medications, please pursue the herbal path under the guidance of a health care practitioner.)
Most herbal benefits are experienced in the form of calming the nervous system and quieting stress. When tense or anxious, we release stress hormones that activate a “red alert” response in the body and the brain and physiologically certain unnecessary functions for our immediate survival are shut down.
This response mechanism was meant for short bursts after which we’re supposed to have periods of recovery where everything in the brain is functioning optimally. But in our stressed-out, exciting lifestyles, our stress—and our brains—are in unrelenting patterns that compromise our thought processes, our memory, and our health. To counter these detrimental effects, consider introducing any one of these four herbs.
4 Natural Herbs to Improve Brain Health
Shown to improve cognitive function and improve mood, this herb has been used as a substitute for pharmaceutical medications that treat ADHD and ADD (especially when taken in conjunction with Gingko Biloba). It also reduces inflammation.
Studies have shown increased mental performance in Alzheimer’s patients who used the herb daily for a minimum of 12 weeks. The Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) contain the most beneficial compounds. Panax Ginseng is usually taken in doses of 200 to 400mg daily for general ‘preventative’ medicine.
2. Gingko Biloba
Extracts of this ancient herb—which is known to have existed 270 million years ago—have been used for treating memory loss, mental confusion, depression, anxiety, concentration issues, and headache. It is thought to boost neurotransmitters by increasing blood supply.
A 240 mg daily dose of standardized ginkgo extract was found to work as well as 10 mg of the Alzheimer’s medication Aricept, but with virtually no side effects. However, Ginkgo should not be taken with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) antidepressants such as Prozac or Zoloft. So once again, check with your health care provider!
Linked to enhanced brain function, this fragrant evergreen herb is a stress reducer, a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Rosemary oil features a compound which may be responsible for improvements in memory.
This 1,8-cineole is thought to increase a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine which acts in a similar way as pharmaceuticals that are used to treat dementia. It also contains carnosic which according to a study published in Cell Journal, this ingredient “may be useful for protecting against beta-amyloid-induced neurodegeneration in the hippocampus.”
Inhaling the aroma is one of the quickest ways to transmit effects to the brain. Another way is by consuming rosemary tea or using the herb in recipes as it is an excellent source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B6.
To grow your own rosemary, it’s best to start with a small plant from an organic greenhouse (to avoid all pesticides). It can be grown as a container plant (or outdoors in warm climates). It needs plenty of sun and occasional watering.
To Make Rosemary Oil:
- Cut sprigs, remove the leave, smash the sprigs to release the oils.
- Place the sprigs in a jar with the leaves and cover with pure cold-pressed olive oil.
- Let the jar sit in a sunny window for a few weeks and move the rosemary-infused oil to a clean jar for your use.
To make rosemary tea, steep a few sprigs in a pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes.
The menthol scent of peppermint has a direct link between improved concentration, cognition, and enhanced mood. Studies have shown that peppermint can also improve long-term memory and alertness.
The pleasing scent travels quite rapidly to the limbic system in the brain where it can improve mood and focus so you immediately feel clearer, more refreshed and rejuvenated. You can either drink peppermint tea, use fresh or dried leaves in recipes or dab a few drops of its essential oil onto your skin or utilized in a diffuser.
Peppermint is best grown in full sun with plenty of water in a container (or its roots can spread too rapidly). Use light soil and make sure it has good drainage. Frequent harvesting is beneficial to keep the plant pruned, and young leaves are better for medicinal purposes than older ones.
Use the leaves for brewing tea (steep for 2-3 minutes).
To Make Peppermint Oil:
- Crush or chop the leaves and place them in a glass jar covering them with pure olive or grapeseed oil.
- Store for 3 to 5 days, then strain off the leaves and add fresh leaves and repeat the process until you have the amount you desire.
To feel mentally healthier, take time out for your brain. Incessant mental chatter may prevent you from being present in your life. If you’re always evaluating, thinking, analyzing, interpreting, you’re chronically sending the brain into high alert. It’s exhausting. Instead, consciously take a break. A few times a day, practice what I call “Productivity Pauses.” Simply take a few minutes to close your eyes, breathe deeply and use some of these natural herbs to relieve tension and quiet your mind. You’ll feel more relaxed and restored.