“Taking care of our brains is one of the most important things we can do for our bodies, yet, strangely, the brain is often neglected,” says alternative health expert Peter Bedard MA, CHt, author of Convergence Healing. “We diet and exercise because we like the way we look when we’re fit, but we do very little to support the most important organ in our bodies.”
Many natural remedies have been shown to support brain health through improved cognition, memory, and alertness. Some of them have been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda and/or traditional Chinese medicine. Here are seven of our favorite natural brain boosters:
This herb may be a mouthful to say, but it’s the “go-to” choice for many Ayurvedic healers. “If you’re feeling overworked, overwhelmed, or simply burned out from burning the candle at both ends, this herb might help,” says Bedard. “It has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to rejuvenate and enhance brain function and even prevent the deterioration of brain cells.”
A 2017 study concluded that, “Ashwagandha may be effective in enhancing both immediate and general memory in people with mild cognitive impairment, as well as improving executive function, attention, and information processing speed.”
Think of ginseng as the traditional Chinese medicine counterpart to ashwagandha. “This super popular herb can be found in many energy drinks,” says Bedard, pointing out that it’s often used to help support basic mental functioning. “Clarity is often a word associated with this herb. It is recognized as an adaptogen, which means that it can help you better cope with the effects of stress. Furthermore, ginseng may protect brain cells against toxins and beta-amyloid, which is integral to prevent age-related mental decline.”
Omega-3 fatty acids.
One recent study shows that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA may be beneficial to patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease. And when it comes to top picks for natural brain boosters, Barry Sears, PhD, a leading authority in anti-inflammatory nutrition and author of the Zone Diet book series, says that omega-3s are key to increasing brain function and treating neuroinflammation. “You need adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood to provide adequate levels to the brain,” he explains. “The omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks to make resolvins, a powerful group of hormones needed to resolve existing neuroinflammation.”
Sears suggests aiming for 2.5–5 grams of EPA and DHA per day from food and supplements.
The ginkgo biloba tree is thought to be one of the world’s oldest living organisms, so it’s no wonder that its leaves were used as a medicinal herb in many ancient healing practices. Now, modern science is proving ginkgo’s brain-health benefits.
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