Herbs for the Mind

When it comes to brain health and mental acuity, few people think of herbs. While Mother Nature’s herbal medicines humbly lay upon the earth in her rain forests, wilderness, and jungles devoid of any slick advertising campaigns, they show tremendous promise in the prevention of brain disease and in maintaining great brain health.Some of the most potent brain health herbs include: sage, turmeric, ginkgo biloba, and periwinkle. And remember: herbs are potent medicine so it is important to consult with your doctor before you start taking any herbs to prevent drug-herb interactions.

A Wise Sage
More than just seasoning for stuffing a turkey, recent research shows that sage is great brain food. A British research team conducted a study of sage’s therapeutic properties on a group of forty-four adults between the ages of eighteen and thirty-seven. Some participants were given capsules of sage oil while others were given a placebo of sunflower oil. Results showed that those who took the sage oil performed significantly better at memory tests than those who took the placebo. The people who were given sage as part of the study had improvements in both immediate and delayed word recall scores, as well as mood improvements.

Additional research by the same scientific team led them to conclude that sage may also be helpful for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Fresh sage is an excellent addition to soups, stews, and chicken dishes.

The Curry Factor
Here’s another reason to enjoy your favorite Indian curry dishes: they typically contain the spice turmeric, a powerful food that helps protect your brain from disease. Research conducted by Greg Cole, PhD, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of California in Los Angeles, showed that, curcumin, the yellow pigment in turmeric, is a potent weapon against inflammation and plaque build up in the brain. Inflammation and plaque have been linked to serious brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Additional studies are having similar positive results.

The easiest way to enjoy the benefits of curcumin is by adding turmeric to your favorite curry dish.

Ginkgo Biloba to Boost Brain Power
Ginkgo biloba has developed a reputation as the brain herb thanks to its many beneficial effects on the brain, including: increasing blood flow to the brain, assisting with memory and in the treatment of dementia, as well as positive effects on depression. Ginkgo also helps improve the availability of energy to brain cells, which may improve feelings of mental alertness.

In Germany, ginkgo is approved as a treatment for Alzheimer’s. A study of forty patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, showed that 240 milligrams of ginkgo biloba extract taken daily for three months produced noticeable improvements in memory, mood, and attention. Since then numerous other studies have shown similar positive effects on early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Opt for ginkgo biloba standardized extract that contains twenty-four percent ginkgoflavonglycosides, also called “flavone glycosides,” the active ingredient which has the capacity to increase blood flow to the brain and lessen symptoms like depression, memory loss, and dizziness, all of which can be the result of reduced blood flow to the brain. For ginkgo’s preventive effects, forty milligrams three times a day is ideal.

Periwinkle: The Blue Flower for Grey Matter
Not just for English gardens anymore, the lovely blue flowering plant, periwinkle may help boost memory. Research shows that vinpocetine, a natural compound in periwinkle, helps transport oxygen and glucose to the brain. Since the brain needs both to function optimally, periwinkle may be beneficial for assisting to ease brain disease.

With around one hundred studies conducted on vinpocetine’s effects on humans, mostly in Hungary, it is not surprising that it has been used by Hungarian doctors to treat senility and blood vessel disorders in the brain for twenty-five years. In these studies it appears to boost memory and cognition in healthy people and in those with mild to moderate forms of dementia.

A double-blind study in 1985 in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers tested vinpocetine’s effect on the short-term memory of twelve healthy women. The women who took forty milligrams of vinpocetine three times per day for two days scored thirty percent higher on short-term memory tests than the women in the placebo group.

Vinpocetine also thins blood, boosts circulation to the brain, and improves the brain’s ability to absorb nutrients, all of which improve brain function. Experts typically suggest dosages of two milligrams daily, taken with food. Vinpocetine appears to be safe for short- or long-term use. The effects tend to be fast-acting, not cumulative.

Check with your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medications or before taking any herbal medicines.

Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook. Adapted with permission from The Brain Wash: A Powerful, All-Natural Program to Protect Your Brain Against Alzheimer’s, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Parkinson’s, and other Diseases.

Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc, CNC is a best-selling and six-time book author and doctor of natural medicine, whose works include: The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, and The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan. Learn more at: www.TheLifeForceDiet.com.


Alicia Nuszloch
Alicia N.6 years ago

As reading the comments I totally forgot about the article, I loved all , I 'll be trying a couple of them, thanks so much for sharing.

Carlotta F.
Past Member 6 years ago

Thanks. I've alway had memory problems. I've never seen Periwinkle but would like to try if I can find it. I am trying feverfew for migraines so don't know if this will thin my blood out too much. I also like the suggestion by Rochelle S. to drink Sage before bed.

Susanne Tyler
Susanne OFFLINE6 years ago

Oh, what a big source of information...Sage seems to be THE plant to grow & take! Thanks ;=) !!

Tung Lei Wong
Tung Lei Wong7 years ago

Erin :
You need to thank Romy who posted the info. But nice to meet you.

Erin Cartaya
Erin Cartaya7 years ago

This is great information. It's nice knowing that simple additions to a diet can promote good health and help our bodies so much. While I think they help dramatically, things like memory exercises and brain challenges, are not as readily available as breakfast-lunch-dinner.

Tung Lei Wong
Tung Lei Wong7 years ago

Romy, Thanks so much for your reply. I shall give it a try.

Romy Carver
Romy Carver7 years ago

Thanks for asking. I use fresh sage leaves. It might work with dried too but I haven't tried that. And they taste great together! I like the taste of sage honey better than regular honey! Have fun!

Tung Lei Wong
Tung Lei Wong7 years ago

I grow sage and my favorite thing to do is pack a small container (rubbermaid or tupperwear-type) with cut sage leaves. Then I pour in raw honey, pack it all down, and pour in more honey until all the leaves are soaked and the container is full. I put on a lid, and stick it in the cupboard for a couple months. The sage honey is great cough syrup and tastes really good.

A month or two ago, in the midst of a really nasty cold, I realized I had used the last of my sage honey, leaving just the honey soaked sage leaves. I crammed a bunch of them into a teaball, and made tea. It was literally the turning point in my cold, and I experienced almost immediate improvement. Plus it tasted great!

Hi, Romy :
I love your idea of above mentioned 'sage honey'. Pls tell me whether it's fresh sage leaves or dried sage leaves that we should use ????


Julie Foutch
Past Member 7 years ago

I do my own remedies also for me and also for my pets and they work fine i am glad to meet others who also know of herbals and i will try the sage as that's one i haven't worked with thank you.

Romy Carver
Romy Carver7 years ago

Rochelle, you might be interested in bee balm. It attracts bees and butterflies and is edible and medicinal. I bought some a couple months ago from a local organic farm, and it's doing great so far. I loved your ideas about sage and fennel tea, now I'll have to try that! I hope you post updates as you learn more about flowers from Greece that may do well here... Thanks!