A herbal tea for the brain.

When your brain isn’t ‘firing’ and is feeling a little ‘foggy’, it can be tempting to have a coffee or tea.  These caffeinated beverages may help initially, however their effects are short-lived quickly making it harder to concentrate, focus and learn.

There is an alternative.  Herbal tea is caffeine free and can be blended to contain specific memory boosting herbs to help you stay focussed.  Even better, the effects of these herbs can increase further when used regularly.

A tea that actually improves memory, concentration and ability to learn without the negative effects of caffeine, may sound too good to be true.  However, clinical trials are showing that many herbs with a long history of traditional use for improving brain function, do in fact have a significant effect on enhancing cognition.  The herbs are Gingko and Brahmi may be beneficial, as well as common culinary herbs Sage and Rosemary.

These herbs function best the longer they are taken, with most trials suggesting best effects after 4 to 6 weeks of daily consumption.  So why don’t you swap your daily coffee for a more healthy and effective herbal memory boost.

Herbs to stimulate mind and body

Gingko (Gingko biloba) is the world’s oldest living tree species and can be traced back more than 200 million years.  It is believed to offer the most benefit to the brain, nerves and blood vessels.  It also assists blood flow by promoting vasodilation and prevents platelet coagulation, a cause of clots[9].  Most notably however, Gingko improves learning and memory.  A 12 week trial comparing Gingko supplementation to placebo in patients with dementia and cognitive impairment found that Gingko significantly improved cognition, as well as the mood and emotions of the patients[1].  Numerous studies have also been done on Gingko supplementation in healthy people, most of which have shown positive outcomes in concentration and memory, generally over a 6 week period[9].  Gingko’s modes of action are thought to be via improving cerebral blood flow, preventing acetylcholine degradation and via its antioxidant properties[4,[9].

Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) has been traditionally used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine since the 6th century for brain function, epilepsy and insomnia.  Brahmi is mostly known for its ability to enhance brain function, which is supported by a number of studies and clinical trials.  One double-blind clinical trial showed that 300mg daily over 12 weeks significantly improved cognitive function, memory and learning rate, as well as reducing anxiety[2].  Another study in mice found positive effects on learning and memory after only 3 days of supplementation[3].  The mechanism by which Brahmi improves cognition has been deduced in studies to be via its antioxidant and anticholinesterase activities[4].

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) acts as an antioxidant, protects the liver and is beneficial for memory function[5],[9].  Adults exposed to rosemary oil for 3 minutes were shown in a study to be more alert and relaxed.  The increase alertness was believed to be due to a measured decrease in frontal alpha and beta brain function, which increased alertness[6]. 

Sage (Salvia officinalis) has been used since medieval times to improve memory and as a treatment for dementia.  A clinical study on Alzheimer’s patients found sage (Salvia officinalis) to be effective for improving cognition[7], whilst two other clinical trials showed that a different species of sage (Salvia lavandulaefolia) improved cognition in healthy young adults[8].  Sage also has antioxidant, antimicrobial, astringent and antispasmodic properties[9]. 

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) was first documented as being used in the 17th century, where it was said to improve the mood and stimulate clear thinking[9].  Clinical trials support these traditional uses, as they show Lemon balm may help reduce anxiety in severe dementia[10] and improve memory performance and calmness in Alzheimer’s disease patients[11].

Disclaimer

The information contained in this article is based on published nutritional research.  It is in no way designed to diagnose or treat specific medical conditions.  If you suffer from any chronic health problem; take prescription medication or are pregnant or lactating, please speak to your health professional. 

References


[1] Birks J, Grimley E, Van Donegan M (2002) Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia. Cochrane Database Syst, Rev.; 4: CD003120.

[2] Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, et al (2001) The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl.); 156(4): 481-484.

[3] Singh H and Dhawan B (1982) Effect of Bacopa monniera Linn. (Brahmi) extract on avoidance responses in rat. J. Ethnopharmocol.; 5(2): 205-214.

[4] Das A, Shanker G, Nath C, et al (2002) A comparative study in rodents of standardized extracts of Bacopa monniera and Ginkgo biloba. Anticholinesterase and cognitive enhancing activities. Pharmocol. Biochem. Behav.; 73(4): 893-900.

[5] Mills S and Bone K. (2000) Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern herbal medicine. Churchill Livingstone. London.

[6] Diego M, Jones N, Field T et al (1998) Aromatherapy positively affects mood, EEG patterns of alertness and math computations. Int. J. Neurosci.; 96(3-4): 217-224.

[7] Akhondzadeh S, Noroozian M, Mohammadi M, et al (2003) Salvia officinalis extract in the treatment of patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a double-blind, randomized and placebo controlled trial. J. Clin. Pharm. Ther.; 28(1): 53-59.

[8] Tildesley N, Kennedy D, Perry E, et al (2003) Salvia lavandulaefolia (Spanish sage) enhances memory in healthy young volunteers. Pharmacol. Biochem. Behav.; 75(3): 669-674.

[9] Braun L and Cohen M (2005) Herbs and Natural Supplements: An evidence based guide. Elsevier, Australia.

[10] Ballard C, et al (2002) Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Melissa. J. Clin. Psychiatry; 63(7): 553-558.

[11] Kennedy D, Wake G, Savelev S (2003) Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of single doses of Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm) with human CNS nicotinic and muscarinic receptor-binding properties. Neuropsychopharmacology; 28: 1871-1881.

1 Comment

  1. Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!