The brain is the information powerhouse of the body. Consequently, several studies have been conducted to find ways to improve memory loss caused by age related changes in memory. The effects of certain herbs and spices have been studied on the mental processes involving motor control, visual processing, auditory processing, sensation, learning and remembering.
This article focuses on 10 herbs (identified from scientific studies) to be beneficial to brain health. Many of them you probably already have at home and use for seasoning like myself without knowing their benefits. A few were also new to me.
Is it Safe to Use Herbs as One of the Ways to Improve Memory Loss?
This question begs to be addressed.
Herbs are obtained from the leafy, green plants of a plant, while spices come from non-leafy green parts (roots, bulbs, bark, seeds). When used in small amounts, as often occurs for cooking, their effects can be beneficial.
The use of larger amounts of spices or herbs for cooking usually gives the food an unpalatable or slightly bitter taste and this can act as a deterrent to doing so.
It must be emphasized that taking either herbs or spices in large amounts or in concentrated supplement form IS NOT RECOMMENDED without medical guidance by a doctor as there could be serious side effects including reaction with medications you may be taking. The brain is a delicate organ and home remedies, or their mixtures should never replace consultation with a doctor. An earlier article features 10 spices that can help to boost brain power.
Ways to Improve Memory Loss. Seasoning Herbs
Surprisingly, using herbs to improve memory has long been practiced in ancient civilizations. The American Indians, Orientals, Egyptians, and Greeks have all used herbs to enhance the mind. Herbs we use may be fresh or dried.
A well known herb – Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is native to Europe and Southwest Asia but grows in almost every temperate climate. It has been traditionally used for brain, stress, and digestive support, but it is also used in a variety of products from mouthwash to jams.
The consumption of fresh or powdered herbs from the mint family in culinary doses can help boost memory. This effect is enhanced if combined with the use of essential oils, topically as aromatherapy, by inhalation, and/or by ingestion (Agatonovic-Kustrin, S. et al. 2019)
Another study by Herrlinger, K.A. et al (2018) reported that supplementation with Spearmint extract enhanced the quality of working memory and accuracy of spatial working memory.
SAGE – Ways to Improve Memory Loss
This is a herb with a long history of culinary and medicinal use. It was used as a fertility drug by ancient Egyptians. Sage Tea or infusion of Sage is frequently used in the delirium of fevers and in the nervous agitations observed in some brain and nervous diseases.
Sage and Rosemary are believed to be similar because of their ability to improve brain function and memory. In a study involving 20 healthy volunteers Sage oil caused improvements in word recall and speed of attention.
The Sage herb may also improve cognition, aid in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, and may contain compounds that beneficial for cognitive and neurological function (Mirmosayyeb, O. et al. (2017)
Although primarily used as seasoning Sage can also be consumed in tea form.
Rosemary was originally cultivated on the shores of the Mediterranean and belongs to the Mint family (Lamiaceae). The herb has long been thought to have strong effects on memory and in strengthening the mind.
Recent studies show that the herb inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine, which is a compound that plays a role in areas of the brain responsible for memory and reasoning. Rosemary may also promote memory function by increasing blood flow to the brain. Commonly used as seasoning and nterestingly this has been my favorite herb. I have cooked with it quite extensively for several years as it adds a distinctive robust flavor to any dish, poultry, beef or fish.
THYME – Ways to Improve Memory Loss
This herb has been used for centuries for various purposes. People in ancient Rome used thyme to treat melancholy and added the herb to alcoholic beverages and cheese.
The plant is perennial and belongs to the Mint family of mint. There are however about 350 species of thyme. Each species has a different scent such as camphor, lemon, orange, celery, tangerine, caraway, pine, and eucalyptus because of subtle differences in the essential oil in each plant. Thyme is known to protect neurons in the brain from premature aging (Mirmosayyeb, O. et al. (2017). As a seasoning, I use thyme sparingly because overuse tends to bring on a slight bitterness.
Ways to Improve Memory Loss. Extracts or Supplements
The herb – Ginkgo biloba (Maidenhair) is the oldest surviving tree species in the world, and is often referred to as “the living fossil”
Ginkgo Bilboa has a long history of traditional and wide usage as a treatment for dementia. Its benefits are well documented in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and it is believed that its benefits to cognitive function may partly be due to its ability to stimulate circulation and promote blood flow to the brain. Many of the modern applications of this herb are derived from research by German scientists and there are proven benefits to the more elderly.
The extract has also been shown to significantly improve long-distance vision and may reverse damage to the retina of the eye. Studies have also confirmed its value in the treatment of depression in elderly people. The ginkgo extract may provide relief for those who suffer from headaches, sinusitis, and vertigo. It may also help relieve chronic ringing in the ears known as tinnitus.
This herb extract must only be used as directed by a doctor because it can interfere with platelet aggregation and may cause issues for people taking blood thinning medications.
ASHWAGANDA – Ways to Improve Memory Loss
Ashwagandha is an age-old Ayurvedic herb and traditional medicine of India
In preliminary research, this herb was found to inhibit the formation of beta-amyloid plaques. The same studies indicated that ashwagandha may be beneficial to the brain because of its ability to reduce oxidative stress which may be a contributor to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease) (Ven Murthy M. R, 2010)
Consult your doctor for use.
This herb – Melissa officinalis also belongs to the Mint family, and is a culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal herb.
Extracts of this herb have been shown to bind directly to both nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in human brain tissue,” which play a role in learning and memory processes. (Kennedy, D. O, & Andrew B. S.,2006)
BACOPA- Ways to Improve Memory Loss
The Herb – Bacopa monnieri is commonly referred to as water hyssop, Indian penny wort, and herb of grace. It is viewed in Ayurvedic medicine as nootropic – a herb that supports mental performance.
Studies demonstrate that Bacopa can support learning as well as help maintain short-term and long-term memory. Significant studies highlight its potential to support cognitive performance in the aging population as well as memory free recall (Pase, M.P. et al. 2012).
Another study using Bacopa on adults between the ages of 40 and 65 showed the retention of new information. Consult your doctor for use.
The spiritual herb Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) belongs to the Parsley family and is believed to look like the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It is used to improve meditation, develop the crown chakra (energy center at the top of the head), and in Ayurvedic medicine is known for its rejuvenative properties.
As a rejuvenative nervine, it is recommended for nervous disorders, including epilepsy, senility, and premature aging. As a brain tonic, it supports intelligence through healthy neurotransmitter function, memory, and mental alertness. Consult your doctor for use
GINSENG- Ways to Improve Memory Loss
This is a popular plant in herbal medicine. Ginseng contains anti-inflammatory chemicals called ginsenosides which have been reported as being able to help reduce brain levels of beta-amyloid in preliminary lab studies. (Zheng M et al 2018). Consult your doctor for use.
There are various ways to improve memory loss. Herbs and spices have been used. This article highlights 10 herbs that can be used to boost memory loss. Most can be used as seasoning while extracts should be recommended by a doctor to avoid complications. Which herbs do you currently use and which ones are unknown? Leave a comment.
Snezana Agatonovic-Kustrin et al. (2019) Essential oils and functional herbs for healthy aging. Neural Regen Res. 14(3): 441–445. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334595/
Singh, S.K (2019) Neuroprotective and Antioxidant Effect of Ginkgo Biloba Extract, Neurotherapeutics 16(3) 666- 674 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6694352.
Mirmosayyeb, O. et al. (2017) Possible Role of Common Spices as a Preventive and Therapeutic Agent for Alzheimer’s Disease – Int J Prev Med. 8: 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5320868/
Agatonovic-Kustrin,S (2019) Essential Oils and Functional Herbs for Healthy Aging. Neural Regen Res 14(3): 441–445. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334595.
Herrlinger, K.A et al. (2018) Spearmint Extract Improves Working Memory in Men and Women with Age-Associated Memory Impairment, J. Altern and Complement Med 24(1): 37-47. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5779242/.
Kennedy, D.O & Scholey, A.B (2006) The Psychopharmacology of European Herbs With Cognition-Enhancing Properties. Current Pharmaceutical Design 12 (35): 4613-23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17168769
Kongkeaw, C. et al. (2014) Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials on Cognitive Effects of Bacopa Monnieri Extract. J Ethnopharma 151(1): 528-35. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24252493.
Calabrese, C. (2008) Effects of a Standardized Bacopa Monnieri Extract on Cognitive Performance. J. Altern Complement Med 14(6): 707-13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18611150.
Matthew P. Pase, M.P. et al. (2012) The Cognitive-Enhancing Effects of Bacopa Monnieri: A Systematic Review of Randomized, Controlled Human Clinical Trials. J. Altern Complement Med 18(7): 647-52. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22747190.