Have you ever gone all the way down (or up) the stairs only to realize that you completely forgot why you made the trip in the first place? This small lapse in memory can be extremely frustrating, but it's nothing in comparison to how upsetting it can be to actually lose track of your thoughts (especially as you get older). In order to prevent—and combat—forgetfulness and a decrease in cognitive function, it may be worth considering herbs for memory improvement. You may be asking yourself, Can I really eat my way to a better memory?
And the answer is yes.
We've long known that herbs have healing properties like calming anxiety, working as anti-inflammatories, and clearing skin, so it's no surprise that we can now add improving memory to the list. And when it comes to treating any condition, opting for natural solutions is always a great way to test the waters. In fact, you may be surprised just how effective they can be. So go on, keep reading to see the eight herbs for memory improvement that are worth keeping in the house.
We already know that turmeric (aka Indian saffron) is good for your skin and helps lessen heartburn. But curcumin (a key ingredient in the spice) can actually improve your memory as well since it reduces inflammation. But how does inflammation play into how we remember things? Well, it all has to do with our blood-brain barrier and how it works. When your brain's immune system has to work extra, the brain can become inflamed. Research has found that people who consumed more curry (a food that contains turmeric and therefore reduces inflammation) reported better scores on cognitive function tests than those who did not eat the food.
This herb has actually been referred to as "sage the savior." It's been used since the medieval times, even at one point to help fight off the bubonic plague (yes, it's been used for that long). Sage contains flavonoids—natural substances that are known for their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. By adding a pinch or two to your dishes, you can actually ward off Alzheimer's disease. In fact, a 2017 study found that sage has the ability to "enhance cognitive activity and protect against neurodegenerative diseases," which includes both dementia and Alzheimer's.
Also known as moneywort, Bacopa is often used in Ayurvedic medicine. Since it is a nootropic (which enhances cognition, memory, and learning), it's able to help heal damaged neurons and improve how your brain works. "Bacopa helps balance neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin and adds benefits to delayed word recall for healthy older adults," says Elizabeth Lombardo, MD, psychologist, and author of Better Than Perfect. "It decreases forgetting new information and may even have a positive impact on depression."
It's likely that you already have rosemary in the pantry (it pairs beautifully with roasted potatoes), so this herb is one of the easiest to incorporate into your diet. Rumor has it that the herb is also a great way to boost your memory and concentration. So much so that students in Ancient Greece placed garlands of rosemary around their necks while taking exams. "Memory can improve up to 75% by simply inhaling rosemary due to its primary constituent, 1,8-cineole [eucalyptol], according to recent studies," says Mariza Snyder, MD, and author of The Matcha Miracle.
"It has the ability to inhibit the enzymes that break down acetylcholine in the brain, allowing more to remain and aid the brain in its function."
Peppermint has always been applauded for its calming properties, most specifically in the form of tea. Research has shown that when it comes to your brain, having a cup of peppermint tea significantly increases your working memory, long-term memory, and alertness. In fact, a study that gave 180 people peppermint tea, chamomile tea, and hot water showed results of the peppermint tea helping with memory.
This herb that resembles parsley is beloved in Chinese, Indonesian, and Ayurvedic medicine and is called the "herb of longevity." A study has shown that mice who were given Gotu kola water extract had improved learning and memory, no matter their age group. "Gotu kola extract may be able to improve memory at the molecular level by enhancing the activity of a pathway that is associated with long-term memory formation," says Josh Axe, MD. Believe it or not, some people think that elephants' long lifespans and impeccable memory are due to the fact that they munch on this particular herb.
This potent adaptogenic herb is also known as Indian ginseng. A 2017 study found that of the adults given ashwagandha root extract versus a placebo, those that consumed the herb had a longer attention span and also processed information at a faster rate. The results also proved that the plant improved both immediate and general memory in those suffering from mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is a decline in memory and other cognitive skills.
This herb is the root of a slow-growing plant and is one of the most well-known herbal medicines worldwide. "Ginseng is used to improve thinking, concentration, memory, and physical endurance," says Axe. It stimulates the cells in your brain so that everything functions better. Research shows that when people with Alzheimer's disease take Panax ginseng root every day, their memory improves.
Now that you're familiar with these herbs for memory, they may be worth incorporating into your diet. After all, it's never too soon to start preventing memory loss and a decrease in concentration.