People have been using herbs for general well-being and treatment of diseases for centuries. Back in the days when allopathic medicine did not exist, using natural extracts obtained from plants and animals was the sole method of treatment and prophylaxis against many diseases.
People used herbs not only for therapeutic purposes but also to enhance their health in general. People have used many herbs for a long since people observed that using these herbs made them live longer.
Herbs to Enhance Cognitive Function
A lot of natural herbs and plants have been shown to enhance brain health. Using these herbs improves not only cognitive performance but also enhances mental alertness and memory. Let us dive right into a list of such herbs:
Panax ginseng, more widely known as ginseng, is a widely used herb throughout Asia for centuries. It is an oval-shaped root herb that has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Ginseng also has shown efficacy in lowering blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that ginseng also has marked effects on brain performance, mental alertness, and memory.
Ginseng contains a lot of compounds. However, compounds like ginsenosides are the most potent agents responsible for granting ginseng its performance and energy-enhancing effects.
Ginseng is the most studied herb responsible for boosting performance and alertness. Scientists have found out that ginseng is responsible for decreasing beta-amyloid levels in the central nervous system.
A specific type of ginseng found in Siberia contains a class of steroids known as eleutherosides. This class of steroids has been found to exert specific effects on the central nervous system. Particularly, they have ergogenic effects, improving cognitive performance in younger and older subjects of the population.
Turmeric is a spice obtained from the turmeric plant, scientifically known as Curcuma longa, from the ginger family. Turmeric is a very common spice used for culinary purposes in Central and South Asian households. But recent scientific research suggests that this seemingly common spice has very potent effects on the central nervous system.
A research review published in 2010 indicates that turmeric has vast neuroprotective properties. Turmeric improves cognitive performance by clearing out the beta-amyloid from the brain and spinal cord. Moreover, the property of getting rid of beta-amyloids also grants it the ability to prevent dangerous neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, which has disastrous effects on the cognitive performance and memory function of the subject.
Turmeric also improves brain health by inhibiting the neurons' age-related and pathologic breakdown, which further adds up to its neuroprotective abilities.
Apart from its neuroprotective properties, turmeric is well known to regulate gut function and enhance muscle and joint health throughout the body.
Supplementing the diet with organic turmeric solutions such as completely organic and ginger supplemented turmeric powder from BeHerbal can help you maintain your brain health and keep your digestive system in perfect working order.
3. Mushroom Extracts
Mushrooms are umbrella-like fungi that grow in moist and damp shadowy areas. Many mushrooms like Ganoderma lucidum, Cordyceps, Lentinus, etc., have been shown to have many potential health benefits. They include anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory effects.
A mushroom Ganoderma lucidum has been extensively studied for its beneficial effects after memory impairment due to various disorders. This mushroom has also been proved to improve the memory retaining ability in healthy individuals.
A study conducted on rats has shown that the extracts obtained from Ganoderma had memory-improving effects after the rats had been treated with scopolamine.
Scopolamine served to impair the cognitive function in the rats for experimental purposes. The extracts obtained from Ganoderma improved the cognitive function and significantly enhanced the learning and retention behavior of the mice.
Completely organic mushroom extracts without any synthetic additives are very hard to come by. BeHerbal has formulated a special formula containing completely organic and natural extracts from over 10 mushrooms. These extracts enhance brain health and help maintain general body health by providing efficient antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral cover to the body against pathogens.
4. Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba, more commonly known as the maidenhair tree, is an ancient plant found on Earth, with some fossils dating back to 200 million years.
The medicinal importance of Ginkgo is vast, and it finds uses in antioxidants, anti-bacterial, and other uses. This plant has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine for enhancing brain health and improving cognitive function.
The active constituents found in ginkgo are the flavonoids and a special class of lipids known as terpenoids.
The flavonoids found in the ginkgo plant extract promote blood circulation, specifically the blood circulation in the cerebrum in the forebrain.
Therefore, the ginkgo extracts can be used to relieve the symptoms of diseases that arise from disturbed blood circulation to the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease, memory loss, and different types of migraines.
Owing to ginkgo's neuroprotective properties, the extracts can also be used to prevent degradation in different parts of the brain and spinal cord. Hence it can also be used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Ginkgo biloba has also been found to stimulate the release of endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF), enhancing the muscle and tissue blood flow due to the improvements in microcirculation throughout the body.
However, ginkgo is associated with some side effects if used improperly. The most common side effects include headache, dizziness, diarrhea, and other digestive problems. Rarely, ginkgo is also associated with interference in the clotting of blood. People who have clotting problems must use ginkgo carefully.
5. Sage (Salvia)
Sage, scientifically known as Salvia, is the largest genus of plants in the mint family. It is most commonly associated with its pungent scent. But, this pungent spice brings along its myriads of benefits for brain and nervous system health.
Many studies have been conducted to investigate the role of Salvia for cognitive improvement. In this regard, in vitro and animal studies on mice subjects have shown that many species of Salvia have potent constituents that are involved in not only improving the cognitive activity of the subject but also play an important role in the protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as the Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.
Salvia has been studied on animal subjects such as mice to investigate its role in neurotoxicity. Studies show that extract obtained from Salvia protects the central nervous system from amyloid-beta neurotoxicity by slowing down the release of tumor necrosis factor-α, which is an important tissue factor in the body responsible for neurodegeneration, resulting in memory impairment.
Studies conducted on animal subjects have also demonstrated that adequate administration with Salvia decreased the memory deficits in the central nervous system.
Acetylcholine, an important chemical in our body responsible for signaling within the central nervous system, is significantly associated with cognitive features of a person such as emotional behavior, retention of memory deposits, and motivation towards a particular task.
A study has also revealed that several Salvia species contain constituents such as flavonoids that are effective inhibitors of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme that exists naturally in the body for degradation acetylcholine.
Therefore, by inhibiting this enzyme, Salvia served to increase the cholinergic deposits in the central nervous system, thereby improving the brain's cognitive and memory functions, particularly improving the process of forming memories.
Neurotrophins are important factors in the nervous system that regulate neural survival, affecting the development and function of many nervous components.
Particularly, a flavonoid named 'luteolin' was highly potent in regulating the neurotrophic factors, increasing synthesis and secretion of nerve growth factor and glial-derived neurotrophic factor, both of which involved deeply with the healing and regeneration of damaged parts of nerves.
Sage can be consumed in any way you like. It can be taken along with tea, added to it in powder form. Or it may find culinary uses in foods such as butternuts, roasted chicken, and turkeys.
Guarana, scientifically known as Paullinia cupana, is an important medicinal fruit plant that is found primarily in the Amazon basin in Brazil. The importance of this plant lies in its fruit.
The native tribes of the Amazon basin have been using its fruit for therapeutic purposes for centuries.
Like ginseng, guarana also contains potent nervous stimulants, which exert significant effects on a person's cognitive performance.
Being common in energy drinks, guarana is known to have several chemicals that stimulate the nervous system towards better focus and learning.
Studies have shown that guarana has six times more caffeine as compared to coffee.
Caffeine, being a nervous system stimulant, greatly enhances focus by binding to adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a chemical that helps the brain to relax. Thereby, by suppressing the effects of adenosine, caffeine helps the brain stay fresh, thereby greatly increasing the brain's learning and memory producing capabilities.
Animal studies conducted on rats using guarana have also shown that the rats improved memory formation and retention. No significant side effects were observed even after a long term treatment of 23 months.
Guarana is proved to be slightly more potent than ginseng in improving cognitive functions. It was shown through clinical trials that people who used guarana were able to pay more attention and thereby learn faster and retain more memory than people who used ginseng.
Withania somnifera, commonly known as ashwagandha, or Indian ginseng, is a small evergreen shrub. This small shrub is considered to be an ancient medicinal herb. Ashwagandha is known to be a potent adaptogen, which means that it has been shown to help the body cope with external stresses.
Several studies have shown that ashwagandha possesses potent antioxidant properties. The antioxidant properties enable it to protect the vital cells within the central nervous system from harmful free radicals, which cause rapid neurodegeneration by degrading the neurons.
The neurodegeneration resulting due to the free radicals is associated with the symptoms of dementia and memory loss.
A study conducted on mice has shown that ashwagandha in subjects affected due to epilepsy completely recovers the memory function previously impaired due to epileptic causes.
Another clinical trial conducted on human subjects shows that men who took 500 milligrams of ashwagandha daily showed significantly improved task performance and memory function than those who took a placebo.
The use of ashwagandha also resulted in improved memory performance in the long term.
A study showed that regular administration of 300 mg of root extract of ashwagandha over 8 weeks to 50 adults significantly improved memory functions.
8. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is a flowering plant that grows in the wild and cold Arctic regions of Europe. This plant has long been used for medicinal purposes worldwide, particularly to enhance brain functions.
Rhodiola has been shown to increase both animals and humans' cognitive functions over a wide range of clinical trials. It has wide use as an adaptogen, which means that it helps the body cope with stress in non-specific ways.
Rhodiola use shows quick and significant reductions in the symptoms of exhaustion, stress, and anxiety. The effects are visible in just three to four days of regular use.
A clinical trial conducted by physicians showed that Rhodiola improved the memory formation and performance on the work-related tasks of the persons who were administered Rhodiola compared to the persons who were given a placebo.
9. Gotu Kola
Centella Asiatica, commonly known as Gotu kola or Asiatic pennywort, is a herbaceous flowering plant found commonly in Asia's wetlands. It is known as the 'staple' of the Chinese, who considered it the 'herb of longevity,' owing to its wide range of therapeutic benefits.
A small study conducted in 2016 compared the effects of Gotu kola and folic acid in boosting cognitive function and memory formation and retention in subjects after a stroke.
The results showed that although both improved cognitive function, Gotu kola was more effective in enhancing memory formation and retention.
A separate study on mice showed that Gotu kola extracts' administration indicated improved memory by using the Morris Water Maze test. It was also found to be useful in Alzheimer's disease, as it can enhance the memory and nerve function in subjects.