Herbs are nature’s drugs.
Hundreds of herbs have been used to treat different diseases, from the common cold to cancer. Even when it comes to better memory or brain health, herbs are very helpful.
Whether it is mental fatigue, short-term memory loss, low concentration or poor recall capacity, there are many herbs that can treat and prevent these problems. Herbs can even slow down cognitive decline and reverse memory loss that often occurs as people age.
Generally, herbs are safer and better tolerated than conventional medications. However, it is important to know which herbs offer the greatest benefits for improving your memory.
Here are 10 brain-boosting herbs for better memory.
Rosemary is a popular aromatic herb that has memory-boosting properties.
Apart from antioxidants like rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid in rosemary, its ability to increase the level of acetylcholine is what makes it an important herb for improving your memory. Acetylcholine is the main transmitter of neural signals.
A 2003 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience highlights the memory-boosting properties of rosemary. The study reports that the olfactory properties of the essential oil can produce objective effects on cognitive performance, as well as subjective effects on mood.
Another study published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology in 2012 reports that the most active chemical in rosemary oil (1, 8-cineole) corresponds to increased cognitive functions. Researchers found that rosemary oil can improve accuracy of memory, speed of processing information and even one’s mood.
Moreover, rosemary is effective at increasing brain-wave activities and protecting against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
To boost your brain power, put 2 or 3 drops of rosemary oil on your handkerchief and breathe in its aroma. Drinking rosemary tea made from fresh or dried leaves also helps.
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera or Indian ginseng, is a rejuvenating herb for your brain.
It aids in breaking down the beta-amyloid proteins that form plaque in the brain, which in turn affects cognitive function. It also promotes neurogenesis to boost brain power. It can improve memory, increase spatial and visual memory, decrease oxidative brain stress and help prevent nerve cell degeneration.
A 2005 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology reports that ashwagandha could regenerate neurites and reconstruct synapses in severely damaged neurons. Hence, it can be used for therapeutic treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
A later 2010 study published in Phytotherapy Research reports that ashwagandha is effective in treating Alzheimer’s due to several compounds in it that help improve the production of acetylcholine, the main transmitter of neural signals. This in turn improves cognitive abilities, including thinking, concentration and memory.
You can take this herb in powdered, dried or fresh root form that can be chewed or brewed as tea.
Brahmi, also known as bacopa monnieri, is popular in Ayurvedic medicine due to its brain-boosting properties. The herb is often prescribed for numerous cognitive conditions, such as brain fog, poor memory and concentration, and even depression.
It works as a brain tonic and has antioxidant and neuroprotective effects.
A 2002 study published in Neuropsychopharmacology highlights the positive effect of brahmi on memory and recall abilities.
Later, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that brahmi helped improve word recall memory and even reduced depression and anxiety. The study was conducted on healthy individuals age 65 and older.
A 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that brahmi can improve attention, cognitive processing and working memory partly via the suppression of AChE activity.
Consume 1 teaspoon of juice extracted from brahmi leaves 2 or 3 times a day. You can also take this herb as a supplement, but after consulting your doctor first.
Sage has been used in traditional medicine for years to improve memory. Its essential oil contains active ingredients like cineole and thujone that provide brain-boosting properties.
Also, sage leaves contain flavones, flavonoid glycosides, niacin, tannic acid and oleic acid that are good for the brain. This herb can help improve concentration as well as increase mental alertness and attention span.
A 2003 study published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior reports that sage essential oil plays a key role in improving immediate word recall. This shows the effect of sage in acute modulation of cognition in healthy young adults.
Sage extract is also effective in the management of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2003 study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics.
A 2006 study published in Nutrition shed light on the positive effects of sage leaves on memory retention and its interaction with the cholinergic system in rats.
To boost your brainpower, drink sage tea as well as include sage in your soups, stews and salad dressings.
5. Ginkgo Biloba
Another herb recommended by herbalists for improving memory and increasing mental sharpness is ginkgo biloba.
Ginkgo biloba has active phytochemicals that help improve memory. It can also prevent the formation of beta-amyloid proteins, which are known to cause Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2000 study published in Psychopharmacology highlights the memory-enhancing effects of capsules containing 60 mg of a standardized extract of ginkgo biloba (GK501) and 100 mg of a standardized extract of Panax ginseng (G115) on various aspects of cognitive function in healthy middle-aged volunteers. The study reflected improvements to a number of different aspects of memory, including working and long-term memory.
A 2014 study published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology showed that ginkgo extracts can improve working memory function in middle-aged individuals.
In addition, a 2016 study published in Toxicology and Industrial Health reports that ginkgo, along with vitamin C, can correct learning and mental deficits caused by chronic exposure to fluoride.
6. Gotu Kola
Gotu kola, a popular herb found in Asia, South Africa and the South Pacific, is high in nutrients that are needed for healthy brain function. These include vitamins B1, B2 and B6.
This herb stimulates blood circulation and works as a brain tonic. It can improve concentration and attention span. The herb can also be used to treat neurodegenerative disorders and to enhance memory.
A 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that gotu kola has neuroprotective properties and can help treat deficits associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and oxidative stress.
A 2013 study published in Ayu: An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda reports that gotu kola, along with other herbs in the Medhya rasayana group, can aid in improving short-term memory faster as compared to yogic practices.
You can take 500 mg capsules of gotu kola once or twice a day to boost your memory, but consult your doctor before taking any supplements. You can also take this herb in tea form.