7 Best Herbs and Spices for Brain Health
Several herbs and spices may help improve your brain health, and some of them may be already sitting in your fridge or pantry.
Several of these herbs and spices have been studied for their effects on Alzheimer’s disease, while others have been tested for their overall effects on cognition (i.e. the mental action or process involved in thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering).
Here’s a look at some of the herbs and spices found to benefit the brain in scientific studies.
Spice is known for its pungent scent, sage might also improve cognition and aid in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. A research review published in 2017, suggests sage contains compounds that may be beneficial for cognitive and neurological function.
Try adding sage to butternut squash, roasted chicken, turkey, tomato sauce, or in a white bean soup. Sage can also be consumed in tea form.
Turmeric is a spice long used in Ayurveda.
It contains a compound known as curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, two factors that may benefit brain health and overall health.
According to a review published in 2019, preliminary research suggests that turmeric may boost brain health and stave off Alzheimer’s disease by clearing the brain of beta-amyloid (a protein fragment).
The buildup of beta-amyloid is known to form Alzheimer’s-related brain plaques.
Also, turmeric may shield brain health by inhibiting the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.
Turmeric is a key ingredient in curry powder, which typically also includes such spices as coriander and cumin.
To increase your intake of turmeric, try adding curry powder or turmeric to stir-fries, soups, and vegetable dishes.
Include a couple of dashes of black pepper to enhance the absorption of turmeric.
3. Ginkgo biloba
It has been long used to treat dementia, thus ginkgo biloba is a commonly used remedy in Chinese medicine and is widely recognized for its immense benefits.
Ginkgo biloba is believed to help improve cognitive functions by improving circulation and enhancing the flow of blood to the brain.
Signs have emerged that ginkgo biloba may promote cognitive function in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.
Also, a research review made available in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2015 suggests that a ginkgo biloba extract called EGb761 may be particularly helpful in slowing deterioration in cognition among patients experiencing neuropsychiatric symptoms in addition to cognitive impairment and dementia.
A core sign of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, neuropsychiatric symptoms include depression and other non-cognitive disturbances.
Ashwagandha is another Ayurvedic herb known to prevent the occurrence of beta-amyloid plaques in preliminary research as reported in a review study published in 2018.
This herb is beneficial for brain health by reducing oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a significant factor that contributes to the formation and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Ginseng is one of the most well-known herbs in herbal medicine.
It contains anti-inflammatory chemicals known as ginsenosides.
The ginsenosides are useful for reducing the levels of beta-amyloid in the brain.
6. Gotu Kola
Gotu kola has been used from time immemorial to improve mental clarity.
Interestingly, this herb may also help the brain by fighting oxidative stress.
Gotu kola may inhibit Alzheimer’s-associated oxidative stress and improve cognitive function.
7. Lemon Balm
This herb is mostly taken in tea form and regularly used to relieve anxiety and insomnia.
Lemon balm may help improve the cognitive function of the brain.
Should You Use Herbs and Spices for Brain Health?
While certain herbs and spices may have beneficial effects on your brain, no natural remedy should be used as a substitute for standard care in the treatment of a condition affecting brain health.
It is vital to note that while adding herbs and spices in the small amounts used in cooking can be healthy and beneficial, using them in larger amounts should not be seen as better.
Taking herbs and spices in a more concentrated form, as found in supplements, carries more risk of adverse side effects.
Seizures have been reported in children taking sage supplements; cheilitis in adults. Concentrated (supplement) forms of turmeric, ginseng, and ginkgo have a blood-thinning effect thereby increasing the risk of bleeding, especially in people taking other blood thinners or anticoagulants.
Ginseng can cause changes in blood pressure (higher or lower), interacts with many medications, and can cause a severe allergic reaction or liver damage in rare cases.
Gotu Kola has been linked to damage to the liver in rare instances.
There is no FDA regulation of the content and purity of supplements.
Therefore, always consult your physician for more clarifications before you take any medication whether orthodox or folk medicine.