Food for Thought or Medicine? 5 Plants to Improve Brain Function

Food for Thought or Medicine? 5 Plants to Improve Brain Function

The brain makes up only 2% of your body weight, but it requires 20% of your total oxygen supply and 10% of the energy used by your body every day. Herbs and plants have been used by humans to improve cognitive health since ancient times, with each culture having its own unique set of herbal remedies. Here are some of the top 5 brain boosting herbs from around the world.

1) Ashwagandha
The medicinal properties of Ashwagandha have been known to traditional Ayurvedic practitioners for thousands of years. Not only is it a highly effective anti-inflammatory and anxiety-reducing herb, but it's also thought to improve mental cognition and memory as well. In India, where Ayurvedic medicine is often first-line treatment for depression and anxiety, Ashwagandha has been used in conjunction with other herbs such as Bacopa Monnieri or Withania coagulans to reduce symptoms of stress or PTSD. It’s also an adaptogen herb that can help your body better deal with stressful situations by regulating hormones like cortisol, helping you become less emotionally reactive. Adaptogens are perfect for treating hormone imbalances like low testosterone or cortisol and reducing symptoms of menopause like night sweats, hot flashes, etc. There are even some cases of people who took Ashwagandha who experienced slight improvements in their athletic performance (specifically endurance athletes). When taken daily it can improve all aspects of brain health, from mood to memory function to general cognitive ability. Like many adaptogenic herbs, however, Ashwagandha should be cycled so there are times when you take a break from it; otherwise blood levels could get too high over time leading to negative side effects—thereby negating any positive benefits at all!

2) Kava Kava
Kava kava is a flowering shrub that grows in tropical climates, particularly in Hawaii and Australia. One of its primary compounds is called kavalactone, which may help to reduce anxiety and induce relaxation. Kava is also believed to improve brain function by improving blood flow and oxygen circulation throughout your body’s organs, which may make it a helpful supplement for those experiencing memory loss due to old age or brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. It can be taken via capsule, tablet, tea or tincture. Kava has been shown to have powerful anti-anxiety effects; however, it can cause drowsiness so use caution when operating machinery or driving after taking kava supplements.

3) Lion's Mane Mushroom
The lion’s mane mushroom, scientifically named Hericium erinaceus, is popular in Asian countries and has been used for its health-promoting benefits as well as to treat nerve damage. The presence of neuroregenerative compounds such as hericenones and erinacines have been identified in lion’s mane. It is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help treat nervous system disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

4) Ginkgo Biloba
The oldest living tree species, ginkgo biloba was one of only two plant species to survive a global mass extinction period 252 million years ago. It’s known for improving memory and concentration, but some experts also believe it has anti-depressant properties. Although Ginkgo Biloba doesn’t contain THC—the ingredient in marijuana that gets you high—it does interact with cannabinoid receptors in your brain to enhance cognitive performance and mood. There is little evidence of its effect on anxiety, however. However, we do know that high doses (more than 240 mg per day) can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Taking Ginkgo Biloba supplements is relatively safe if you have no health conditions or allergies, as long as you get it from reputable brands, stick to recommended dosages and take it as directed by your doctor. Side effects of taking too much may include headache, stomach pain or heartburn; dizziness; drowsiness; insomnia; nausea; vomiting or rash. If you experience side effects when taking Gingko Leaf supplements always consult a doctor before taking more doses.

5) Cordyceps Sinensis
While there are a number of herbs and plants that help enhance brain function, Cordyceps sinensis is one of my favorites. While it isn’t always easy to find (it’s rare), Cordyceps has been used for centuries in Chinese herbal medicine. Cordyceps is well known for its mood-enhancing properties. In fact, research on mice shows that daily supplementation with Cordyceps improves memory and learning ability. However, studies also show benefits such as reduced anxiety and depression as well as increased self-awareness. I recommend adding cordyceps to your diet if you want to try boosting brain health naturally but haven’t yet found an effective solution!

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