Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve mentioned the possible benefits of supplementing with Quercetin and Selenium when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders. Following on this week I thought it appropriate to write about herbs which also may help with memory and concentration. Whilst we often relate the cause of memory loss to ageing, it is also important to note memory loss and lack of concentration can often be caused by stress, anxiety, and depression. It is therefore logical when looking for a natural supplement to assist with memory and concentration, we should also look for herbs which not only address memory but also stress and anxiety.
Brahmi also known as Bacopa is an Ayurvedic herb used by ancient monks and scholars as a nerve and mind tonic. Brahmi is believed to increase the effects of serotonin and other certain neurotransmitters in the brain. These effects plus its antioxidant and neuroprotective actions in the brain are thought to be the reason why Brahmi may be effective in enhancing mental function and relieving stress and anxiety. Often, we find supplementing with Brahmi can be beneficial for those studying for exams as well as those suffering from memory loss due to ageing.
Gingko Biloba is another herb which has been used for centuries to support healthy brain function, concentration and alertness. We understand now, this effect is partly due to Gingko’s powerful antioxidant properties which help protect the brain from free radical damage. Gingko is also known to assist with peripheral circulation. This means it may be beneficial by not only supporting blood flow to our hands and feet, but also to our brain which in turn helps support memory and concentration.
Gotu Kola is an additional herb which has been long recognised by naturopaths for helping memory. This herb once again has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, its Chinese name means ‘fountain of youth”. A Sri Lankan legend believes the reason elephants live remarkably long lives is because they eat gotu kola. Maybe this is why they are said to have such good memories! Gotu kola apparently grows profusely in many Asian countries. It has a particularly long list of health benefits however in the case of memory and concentration it has been used to help with mental fatigue, anxiety, memory loss and insomnia. Gotu Kola which is grown in some areas of the Himalayas, has been used by Yogis to aid in meditation, believing it can restore the balance of the left and right hemisphere of our brain.
Other herbs which may also be helpful and are sometimes included in herbal memory formulations are Siberian Ginseng and Schisandra.
When it comes to brain health it has also been discovered supplementing with MCT Oil may be beneficial. We know our brain requires a steady stream of energy which is usually supplied by glucose. However, when our blood sugar drops, we often find our memory and concentration begin to wane. Fortuitously supplementing with MCT oil can provide a back up for our brain. MCT oil contains naturally occurring fats known as medium chain triglycerides. In contrast to long chain triglycerides found in vegetable oils, MCTs are smaller therefore enabling easier absorption and metabolisation which in turn makes them an excellent source of fuel to the brain.
It's believed, by providing extra fuel to repair brain cell damage, MCTs may in fact impede brain ageing. There is some belief, because of MCT’s neuroprotective benefits, this oil may well be helpful for brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s, stroke and epilepsy.
MCT oil can easily be included in our diet, whether it be in a smoothie, salad dressings and sauces, breakfast muesli as well as chia puddings etc. It can be added to most beverages including our coffee. It does have a low smoke point so shouldn’t be used for high temperature cooking. Of course, it can also be taken direct from the spoon.
Below are a couple of simple, tasty recipes incorporating MCT Oil.
MCT BRAIN HEALTH SMOOTHIE
Ingredients: 2 tsp Niulife Coconut Clarity MCT Oil, 2 cups Organic Road Coconut Milk, 1 cup frozen berries, ½ cup frozen banana, 2 tsp Go Vita Organic Cacao Powder, 1 heaped tsp Go Vita Peanut Butter.
Method: Add to blender and blend until smooth.
Ingredients: 2 cups MilkLab Almond Milk, 8 Tbsp Power Superfoods Organic Chia Seeds, 1 Tbsp Niulife Coconut Clarity MCT Oil, 1 tsp Carwari Light Agave Syrup.
Method: Place almond milk, chia seeds, MCT oil and agave syrup a bowl. Combine and stir well until chia seeds are separated and mixed well. For best results, leave overnight, adding extra almond milk if mixture becomes too thick. When pudding is ready to serve add toppings eg fresh Blueberries or other fresh fruit, Organic Road Shredded Coconut, chopped Go Vita Walnuts.