Many people struggle every day with a common problem: poor memory. This can run across a broad spectrum of problems, from simply forgetting where you put your keys, to having trouble retaining information from a college course, to struggling with mild cognitive decline and memory loss associated with aging.
We’d all love to remember things more readily and accurately, which often leads us to the question: are there any supplements, natural or otherwise, that might help improve memory?
There are actually a range of products and methods that may help people of all ages to improve their memory, from college students to seniors and everyone in between. Some of these are completely natural, and others are far from it.
Natural approaches to the question of how to improve memory can include mental and cognitive exercises, and also certain completely natural herbs that you may even be able to grow in your own backyard.
Although many herbs and plants with medicinal or helpful properties are approached with spiritual reverence by many cultures and peoples, the effects of herbs that help improve memory are backed up by modern scientific understanding.
Many herbs that have been used for centuries to improve memory and promote mental clarity have been discovered to contain naturally occurring chemicals, which the plant produces for its own reasons like warding off pests.
These naturally occurring compounds in herbal teas for memory have biochemical effects in the human body and brain, lending them memory-boosting effects that many people find helpful.
Understanding Memory Loss to Improve Memory
In order to understand how herbal supplements can help improve memory, it helps to understand what can lead to poor memory in the first place. It should be made clear that there are some causes of memory loss for which your best option is actually to consult with a medical professional. This includes memory loss from a stroke or traumatic brain injury, as well as noticeable memory loss if you’re over a certain age.
Although many people experience mild memory decline with advanced age, it can be a sign of bigger problems like Alzheimer’s disease or Pick’s disease. This conditions are caused by neurological problems, and require specialized treatment.
Mood and Memory: An Important Link in the Brain
There are other issues that can contribute to memory loss as well, which may not require pharmaceuticals or extensive neuropsychological therapies, but which can still cause problems. Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are a good example. Even mild psychological depression, which may not warrant strong and potentially harmful antidepressants, can cause a major dip in your ability to concentrate, pay attention, and remember information.
The exact neurological mechanisms that make it difficult for someone with depression to improve memory still aren’t entirely clear to scientists, but one solid hypothesis is that depression may be linked to issues in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is an area in the midbrain, shaped somewhat like a seahorse– which is where it gets its scientific name. This area is a major brain center for both mood and memory.
In many people, depression is associated with lower levels in the brain of a key chemical called serotonin. In the hippocampus, the low levels of this chemical may actually cause the loss of brain cells, leading to pathological changes in both mood and memory.
If you’re struggling with empty feelings, low energy, and a low mood, you may find yourself struggling to remember information on a daily basis. One of the best ways for you to improve memory is to deal with the depression itself. Seeking therapy for depression doesn’t have to involve harsh pharmaceutical antidepressants, which can have serious side effects like low libido and even suicidal thoughts.
Natural approaches like meditation, spiritual practice, talk therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy can help you deal with the biophysical, social, and psychological issues that lead to depression. There are also natural herbal teas and remedies that can help alleviate depression.
When you improve mood, you’ll also find that you improve memory along with it.
Improve Memory for a Cognitive Boost
Not everyone who’s interested in methods to improve memory is actually dealing with a poor memory, or with memory decline. Some people just want that extra boost to help them excel in school or in the workplace. From college students juggling multiple high-level science and mathematics courses, to working professionals dealing with long hours at intellectually demanding jobs, many of us could use an edge when it comes to remembering things quickly.
Most of the current research into supplements and substances that improve memory, from synthetic pharmaceuticals like Aricept and nootropics, to natural herbs like ginseng and guarana, are focused on individuals with pre-existing memory deficits.
However, preliminary research also indicates that certain herbs may help improve memory in healthy people, too.Some herbs, notably ginseng, may even help protect the brain against memory loss later in life. If you’re looking for an extra edge, herbal tea that can improve memory is a safe, natural, and highly effective option to try.
Natural Herbs and Herbal Teas Can Help Improve Memory
So, which natural herbs and herbal tea ingredients can actually help strengthen or improve memory? Believe it or not, there are several herbs and plants with a long history of use, which contain compounds that have real effects on the brain’s memory centers. The right natural tea blend can help you feel more alert and attentive, strengthening working memory to help you learn faster, think more quickly, and get things done.
Here are a few of the different herbs that are best known for their potential to improve memory. By blending these into a nourishing herbal tea, you can enjoy their cognitive benefits for better memory and cognition.
Ginseng, or Panax ginseng, is a perennial plant native to East Asia and parts of North America. The fleshy root of the ginseng plant has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. Grown in China and Korea for centuries, folk traditions attribute a range of medicinal properties to ginseng, including aphrodisiac and stimulant effects. Although ginseng probably doesn’t work to boost sexual libido, modern scientific research has indicated that it may help improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.
In one study, aging lab mice with memory problems were experimentally given dietary food pellets containing 0.12% ginseng extract. Mice without memory impairments were used as the control group.
Researchers found that the ginseng actually helped improve memory in the impaired mice. They measured this by testing the mice with a Y-maze test, which measures spatial memory; novel objective test, which looks for recognition when an object is replaced with a new one; and the Morris water maze, which evaluates spatial learning and memory.
This and other studies provide some solid initial evidence for ginseng’s effectiveness as a natural way to improve memory. Researchers theorize that ginseng’s memory enhancing and neuroprotective effects may stem from interaction on a particular signalling pathway in the hippocampus, a key memory center in the brain.
Ginseng is a great component in herbal teas and supplements designed to improve memory, but it’s important to take it safely. Ginseng can interact negatively with drugs like warfarin and phenalzine, and may cause mania when mixed with certain antidepressants.
Before trying teas or supplements containing ginseng, ask your doctor or pharmacist about any drugs you’re currently taking.
Guarana is a climbing plant native to the Amazon basin, and is in the same family as maple trees. Along with other naturally occurring chemical compounds, guarana contains a significant amount of caffeine. For centuries, if not millennia, the guarana plant has played an important role in the cultures of the Tupi and Guaraní peoples native to Paraguay.
The Guaraní would traditionally shell and wash guarana seeds, which were ground into a powder and kneaded into a dough. The dough was immersed in water to make a naturally stimulating herbal tea.
Along with caffeine, guarana contains other mild natural stimulants, including theophylline and theobromine. You may recognize theobromine as one of the key active chemicals in tea. Guarana is generally quite safe to use, and when combined in a tea with other ingredients that improve memory, the mild energy boost from guarana can further sharpen your cognition and attention.
Studies have suggested that ingesting a multivitamin containing guarana may help improve memory and cognitive speed by increasing brain activation in areas important for working memory. Other studies have corroborated that the ability of guarana to improve memory goes beyond what could be attributed to caffeine alone.
Gingko biloba is a fascinating plant, partly because it’s one of the last of its kind. Although plants related to gingko were widespread in prehistoric times, today’s gingko trees represent the last of their entire biological clade.
Gingko has a very long history of use in ancient Chinese culture, with evidence of their cultivation reaching back up to 1,500 years. The gingko tree produces reproductive structures called “gametophytes,” which are similar to seeds, but evolutionarily quite distinct. These gametophytes have long been used as a culinary delicacy.
Modern research has suggested that gingko may actually have properties that help improve memory and cognition, making it a common ingredient in many supplements and herbal teas.
One very recent study found that gingko, combined with hyperbaric oxygen, helped ameliorate memory problems in model rats with Alzheimer’s, as evidenced by the rats’ improvement in Morris water maze tests. This may stem from gingko’s ability to reduce cell death in areas of the hippocampus.
Gingko is safe to take in herbal teas for memory improvement, but it’s important to be aware of safe dosages and drug interactions. Gingko can interact with blood thinners like warfarin and aspirin, and high doses can cause stomach and digestive problems.
Green tea is a beverage with a long history of use, and recently, its many health benefits have gained considerable attention in the medical community. Green tea comes from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis, as other varieties like black tea. The difference is that green tea undergoes very little oxidation during processing, leading to its green coloration and comparatively high caffeine content.
Green tea consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol, and other positive health effects.
Along with its many other benefits for clean, healthy living, green tea may also help improve memory. Specifically, a 2014 study published in Psychopharmacology evaluated green tea’s effects on working memory.
Researchers found that green tea improved connectivity in the brain between two key areas, the right superior parietal lobule and the middle frontal gyrus. These neurological changes were associated with improved performance on tasks that evaluated working memory and attention.
We’re all familiar with rosemary. This hearty herb will grow in almost any climate, making it a staple of backyard gardens all over the world. Rosemary is primarily valued for its pleasing scent and flavor, and is used in a culinary setting for a wide variety of dishes from many global cuisines.
But rosemary is more than just a kitchen ingredient: research has also demonstrated that rosemary extract can have effects that help improve memory.
In one recent 2015 study, rats were fed varying doses of rosemary extract, with a control group given only distilled water. The rats that were given the rosemary extract showed increased activity in the hippocampus, along with better spatial memory.
Rosemary tea consumption may help improve memory and alleviate underlying neurological causes of stress, anxiety, and depression.
The lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor) is a flowering plant native to Europe, and found in flower gardens worldwide.
This plant contains dozens of alkaloid chemicals, including a chemical called vincamine. Vincamine acts as a cerebral vasodilator, meaning that it increases blood flow to the brain. In many regions of the world, drugs containing vincamine are actually prescribed by physicians.
Vincamine falls into a category called “nootropics,” a term for chemical compounds that help enhance memory, learning, attention, and brain function. Vinpocetine, a semisynthetic derivative of natural vincamine, is also used for its nootropic and neuroprotective effects to help improve memory. Vincamine and vinpocetine have been shown to help protect the brain against neurochemical processes that can lead to memory loss and cognitive decline.
Finding the Right Herbal Tea Blend to Improve Memory
Combinations of these and other completely natural herbs, prepared into pleasant-tasting teas, may help you improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.
Herbal teas for memory improvement are safe and surprisingly effective, and unlike many harsh synthetic pharmaceuticals, they rarely come with any negative side effects like insomnia, anxiety, or jittery feelings.
You can find great herbal tea recipes that will help improve memory, enhance attention, and make it easier than ever to learn and retain new information on a day to day basis.
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