4 Herbs for the Brain

Need a mental tune-up? You can invite nature’s subtle intelligence into your meditation practice with some of ayurveda’s mind-enhancing herbs. You may find that using these herbs will help you overcome the anxiety, lethargy, and chatter that can surface in the mind during meditation. As you consider the short list below (drawn from The Yoga of Herbs by ayurvedic experts David Frawley and Vasant Lad), choose the herb that offers you the benefits with the strongest appeal, and experiment with taking it daily. Later, you can try a combination herbal formula–herbs often have a synergistic effect when taken in concert.

The Brain Tonic
The Sanskrit name brahmi is loosely translated in The Yoga of Herbs as that which “gives knowledge of Brahman, or Supreme Reality.” This herb promotes mental calm and clarity while improving memory and concentration. According to Frawley and Lad, “brahmi helps awaken the crown chakra and balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain.” Add 1/2 teaspoon of brahmi powder to a cup of hot water, then add honey to taste, and drink the tea just before your meditation practice.

The Mental Soother
For an anxious, agitated mind, jatamamsi can soothe your nerves. This Himalayan-native herb has similar calming properties to its relative valerian, but without the dulling effects. It’s also a powerful brain tonic and memory booster. Boil 1 teaspoon of jatamamsi in 1 cup of milk for five minutes and drink in the morning.

The Devotion Potion
The Sanskrit name for hibiscus, japa, literally means “mantra repetition.” Frawley and Lad write that the delicate flowers of this plant “strengthen devotion in japa, help make mantras fruitful, and enhance attention in meditation.” Set 1/4 ounce of the flowers in 1 pint of cool water, and drink a cup of this refreshing summer tea to encourage devotion to your spiritual practice.

The Mind Rejuvenator
According to Frawley and Lad, shankha pushpi enhances overall intelligence and creativity by increasing circulation to the brain. The ancient treatise on ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, reports that the herb promotes learning, memory, and recall, making it a favorable meditation aid. Prepare an infusion by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of the powdered herb in a cup of hot water.

Natalya Podgorny is the editor of Yoga+ Joyful Living

For an additional herb, prep tips, and a list of ayurvedic suppliers, read Herbal Tips for Meditation

Find additional herbs that lengthen the life of your dog and you, read Longevity Herbs for Dogs

Yoga+ is an award-winning, independent magazine that contemplates the deeper dimensions of spiritual life–exploring the power of yoga practice and philosophy to not only transform our bodies and minds, but inspire meaningful engagement in our society, environment, and the global community.

By Natalya Podgorny, Yoga+


Mary T.
Mary T4 years ago

thanks will have some hibiscus tea tonight

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Thank you.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Maria A.
Maria A.7 years ago

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Eliza D.
Past Member 8 years ago

There are a number of tonics, tablets and other medications that have been proved to be very good to improve the memory of a person. Daily exercise helps in increasing flow of blood to the brain and in turn increases the oxygen level enabling the brain to process articles at fast speeds.
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Ram B.
Past Member 8 years ago

The article has a misconception that Japa : keep on repeating a mantra helps brain. In fact, such repetitions cause monotracking tendency in mind which avoids fresh thinking. The Japa was preached by enemies of humanity to facilitate establishing their rule over the people engaged in japa.

Unni Krishnan Atiyodi

How these herbal plants work should be scientifically analysed before using them. Heresy is not enough. Ayurveda has the obvious disadvantage of mere propoganda

George B.
George Butel8 years ago

That's why they invented the internet:) Just type "Brahmi," for example, into Google, and you will find all kinds of companies that will send some to your door for a small fee, slightly larger, though, for international shipping. Brahmi is from bacopa monnieri, and, as such, is found as an ingredient in many "modern" so-called memory enhancing products.

Karen U.
Karen U8 years ago

Please check out potential side effects carefully!
Some of these herbs are also blood thinners. Be very careful if you are on aspirin or a prescription blood thinner.
There is also a warning about taking Brahmi if you have high estrogen or are taking estrogen. It can cause temporary blindness in some women.

Shirley Higgins
Shirley Higgins8 years ago

One of the best things to do for proper brain health is to clear candida from the system. If you feel foggy in the brain it is often an overgrowth of candida in the bowel. Most illnesses or improper functioning of the organs directly relates to the colon...better to clear the cause. Cut out sugars in the diet & processed foods. Then the herbs will work better I believe. Candida absorbs many vitamins & minerals from the body as does any parasites, worms or fungi.

Many health blessings