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Last Updated on April 24, 2021 by Paula Dunbar

In the quest for improving brain health and preventing neurodegenerative diseases, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the best herbs for brain health. There are some great herbs you can add to your cooking and some are available in supplement form. And some you might not have guessed are great for brain health.

Let’s get into it.

1. Sage

You probably know of sage as a savory herb for poultry dishes and soups. It is also known as Salvia officinalis, common sage, and garden sage. A study in 2003 (WebMD) showed sage also helps brain health and memory.

There are over 160 polyphenols packed into sage, giving it its powerful antioxidant properties (Raman, 2018), helping to reduce free radicals, and reducing inflammation and damage to cells. 

Another great feature of sage is it helps to halt the breakdown of acetylcholine (ACH), which is needed for memory functions. Alzheimer’s (AD) patients seem to have lower levels of ACH. It’s important to supplement it as well as maintain levels for better brain function.

 2. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is used to treat AD and other brain issues. It has long been known to help memory and cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain. In 2018, nine countries, including China, Germany, and Singapore included Ginkgo Biloba in their clinical guideline for treating mild cognitive disorder (Liu, Ye, and Guo, 2020).

These authors also state that Ginkgolide B, a major active ingredient in Ginkgo, also helps reduce neurotoxicity of amyloid beta plaques in the brain with Alzheimer’s disease. They also recommend taking Ginkgo Biloba for at least 24 weeks before deciding how effective it is for you. 

 

3. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic remedy used for improving memory. From my article on Ashwagandha here, human studies have shown that this herb significantly improved memory, task performance and attention. It can even regenerate damaged nerve cells. This herb shows great promise in helping treat neurocognitive diseases. And if you have stress or anxiety, as most people do these days, it can help with that too. 

Related Article: The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

4. Rosemary

Another great herb for brain health is rosemary.  Some research shows that rosemary increases cerebrovascular levels in the brain and cognition improved greatly. The participants who ingested rosemary water prior to the cognitive tests showed significantly higher results over the people who drank plain water (Moss et. al, 2018). Putting rosemary on oven-fried potatoes not only tastes amazing, it’s good for you too!

Here is a great organic rosemary tea:

 

5. Thyme

Thyme has many healthy properties as well. It is antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even an anti-pest agent in the garden. The best attribute of thyme is luteolin, a flavone phytochemical, which has many neuroprotectant effects (Nabavi et. al, 2015). Its oils also help increase Omega-3’s, like DHA, which are critical for protecting the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.

For respiratory problems, it is a great treatment for asthma and bronchial infections. Plus it tastes great! Use this savory herb in poultry or pork dishes, potatoes and other veggies.

6. Gotu Kola

Super powerful Gotu Kola, also known as Centella asiatica L. is one of the most powerful herbs for the brain. According to Sari et. al (2019), is known to improve memory, intelligence, and neural protection. Brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is increased when taking Gotu Kola, which is like adding Miracle Grow to your brain cells, helping them grow and proliferate. 

Gotu Kola is advised by Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD for treatment of cognitive decline and prevention of Alzheimer’s. His book: The End of Alzheimer’s is a great read.  You can get Gotu Kola here:  

Where We Are Now

Many herbs we know make foods taste great but you might not have known about the medicinal properties of many of them. While not all of these are used in cooking, they all have beneficial properties for brain health. I hope you try them today! 

Thank you for reading today. If you have any questions, comments, or experience with any of these herbs, please leave them in the Comments section below. Thank you!

You might also like: Cat’s Claw Extract Benefits for Brain Health

References:

Ghosh, N. (2018). 9 Best Herbs And Spices For Brain Health. 9 Best Herbs And Spices For Brain Health – Boldsky.com

Liu, H., Ye, M., & Guo, H. (2020). An Updated Review of Randomized Clinical Trials Testing the Improvement of Cognitive Function of Ginkgo biloba Extract in Healthy People and Alzheimer’s Patients. Frontiers in pharmacology10, 1688. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2019.01688

Moss M, Smith E, Milner M, McCready J. Acute ingestion of rosemary water: Evidence of cognitive and cerebrovascular effects in healthy adults. J Psychopharmacol. 2018 Dec;32(12):1319-1329. doi: 10.1177/0269881118798339. Epub 2018 Oct 15. PMID: 30318972.

Nabavi SF, Braidy N, Gortzi O, Sobarzo-Sanchez E, Daglia M, Skalicka-Woźniak K, Nabavi SM. Luteolin as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective agent: A brief review. Brain Res Bull. 2015 Oct;119(Pt A):1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2015.09.002. Epub 2015 Sep 8. PMID: 26361743.

WebMD. (2003). Herb Sage Improves Memory (webmd.com)