June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. You can show support by wearing purple and/or donating to causes that are helping to find a cure for this devasting disease that affects 55 million people worldwide. In addition, scientific studies have shown that certain herbs and spices can help you boost your own brain health.
According to Verywell Mind, several of these herbs and spices have been studied for their effects on Alzheimer's disease, while others have been researched for their overall effects on cognition.
Editor's Note: Worried About Forgetting Things? Try Dr. Blaylock's Brain Boosters
• Sage. A research review published in 2017 suggested sage contains compounds that may help cognitive and neurological function. The pungent spice might also aid in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Use sage on roasted meat, in soups or in tea form.
• Turmeric. This Indian spice contains a compound called curcumin, which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may benefit brain health and overall health. There is some research that found turmeric may stave off Alzheimer’s disease by clearing away beta-amyloid protein to prevent the formation of plaque in the brain. It also may protect brain health by preventing the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Use turmeric in stir-fries, soups, and vegetables dishes.
• Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo is widely touted as the “brain herb,” according to Mount Sinai. Some studies have shown that it helps improve memory in people with dementia. It is not clear whether ginkgo helps boost memory in healthy people who have normal, age-related memory loss. Some scientific reports found that it does improve memory and thinking in young and middle-aged people who are healthy. The research reflects results using purified ginkgo extract of about 120 to 160 milligrams (mg) divided throughout the day.
• Ashwagandha. This ayurvedic herb has been found to inhibit the formation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. It may also benefit the brain by reducing oxidative stress, a risk factor for the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Dosing recommendations range from 250 mg to 1,250 mg daily but check with a healthcare professional to ensure that ashwagandha supplements are right for you.
• Ginseng. This is one of the best herbs for memory, says Verywell Mind, due to its potential ability to prevent memory loss and reduce age-related memory decline. It’s one of the most popular plants in herbal medicine and contains anti-inflammatory compounds called ginsenosides. A review published in 2018 found that these ginsenosides may help reduce the level of beta-amyloid in the brain. According to Healthline, ginseng root can be eaten raw or steamed in water as a tea.
• Gotu kola. In alternative medicine, gotu kola has been used for ages to improve mental clarity. Animal-based studies suggest this herb may also help the brain by fighting oxidative stress. Gotu kola extract has most often been used by adults in doses of 60 to 450 mg by mouth daily for several months. It’s also used in creams, gels, and ointments, says WebMD.
Important: Experts say that using these herbs and spices in small amounts especially in cooking can be healthy and beneficial for the brain but beware of highly concentrated amounts found in supplements, which can have adverse side effects.
Sage supplements, for example, can cause seizures in children. Concentrated forms of turmeric, ginseng and ginkgo have a blood-thinning effect, notes Verywell Mind, increasing the risk of bleeding and should not be taken by people on blood thinners or anticoagulants. Ginseng can trigger a change in blood pressure and can cause an allergic reaction or liver damage in rare cases. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking any herbal supplements.
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