Do you want to;
Help your brain work more efficiently?
Improve your memory, concentration & focus?
Protect your brain from cognitive decline?
And would you like to do this naturally?
Welcome to Our Naturally Amazing Brain – featuring Tulsi and a selection of herbal nootropics- a natural and non-toxic class of plants that support brain function and optimise our mental longevity.
Considering that we use our brains 24 hours a day, every day, even when we are asleep, for our entire lifetime, we thought we’d spend some time exploring some of the amazing herbs we can use every day to give our amazing brain some TLC.
Before we get all herbal, what do we already know about supporting brain function?
Here are some of the things we have been commonly taught to take care of that big squishy organ inside of our head (that also runs down our spine);
Don’t skip breakfast! Ensure good nutrition as fuel for our brains.
Physical exercise. For all ages, young, old & in between, exercise is said to enhance neurogenesis (growth and development of our nervous tissue).
Practice positive, action-orientated thoughts. This also assists neuron creation.
Challenge ourselves mentally. Crosswords, sudoku and taking a different road home from work will all do this.
Learn new things. Apparently so long as we keep learning, our brain will continue to develop.
Develop and maintain relationships that stimulate us.
Get good quality sleep and relaxation time.
Prevent brain damaging stress. This is a biggie, so we will elaborate…
Our brains (and bodies) aren’t designed to experience chronic stress. Science indicates the impact of prolonged stress includes depression and increased cognitive decline. High levels of cortisol (one of the stress hormones) block the formation of new neural connections in our hippocampus – the part of our brain responsible for coding new memories. We need time to rest, recover and reset after stressful periods.
There are two classes of herbs that can assist us in this instance: adaptogens and nootropics.
We’ve talked and written a lot about adaptogenic herbs; these guys assist a healthy response to stress, making us more resilient to the damaging effects of chronic stress. They offer our bodies and brains natural protection against high cortisol levels if included in a wellness routine regularly and are found in many of our blends. Tulsi, ashwagandha, turmeric, gotu kola, licorice and moringa all fall into this category.
Nootropic herbs jump on board to collaborate beautifully with adaptogens since nootropics boost cognitive support and enhance our mental wellbeing. These are the herbs we will take a closer look at in this series.
WHAT ARE NOOTROPICS?
What are Nootropics
Did you know, science has proven that production of new connections in the brain can continue well into old age….isn’t that incredible, that while our physical strength and may be declining and we appear to be ageing, our brain continues to regenerate if the conditions are ripe for this.
This is where herbal nootropics can assist.
What an herbalist calls nootropics, the rest of us might call brain boosters or memory enhancers, or “smart pills”.
A nootropic can be of natural or synthetic origin and covers a broad range of medical drugs, herbs and supplements claiming cognitive or neuro-enhancing effects.
While our capability, motivation, concentration, and creativity are all said to benefit from nootropics, a substance can only be a “true” nootropic, according to Romanian psychologist and chemist Dr. Corneliu Giurgea, if it fulfils five criteria.
A true nootropic
Enhances memory and the ability to learn
Assists the function of the brain under disruptive conditions such as lack of oxygen and electroconvulsive shock
Protects the brain from chemical and physical toxins such as barbiturates
Increases natural cognitive processes
Is non-toxic to humans and neither stimulates, nor depresses the brain.
Users of nootropics generally report
Enhanced learning acquisition, interpretation and retention of complex information,
Improved ability to plan, organise, focus, remember (in the short and long term) and spacial awareness
A positive effect on emotions: improved mood, energy mental clarity, motivation and creativity,
A reduction in anxiety levels.
Herbal nootropics: highly effective natural, non-toxic and non-addictive
Every medicinal herb is unique, so each nootropic herb acts slightly differently. Most herbal and plant derived nootropics:
increase the way that the left and right hemispheres of the brain work together to process information (known as coupling)
affect the way the brain changes depending on experiences (known as plasticity)
build the body and brain’s defences against a stressful and toxic environment
protect the brain from damage and degeneration by promoting repair & longevity.
Boost your brain naturally with herbal nootropics found in Ayurveda
Here we dive right into some of the biggest name herbs in Ayurveda and what they can do to support our brain (and body’s) longevity.
Tulsi (Holy Basil), Ayurveda’s Queen of Herbs
The most sacred plant in the Hindu religion, valued for thousands of years by Ayurveda offers benefits for the mind, body and spirit and is deservedly regarded “The Incomparable One”. There is much documented about Holy Basil’s ability to relieve stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, boost mood, improve memory and offer neuroprotection.
How does Tulsi benefit our brains?
Tulsi increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine which plays a role in our unique human ability to think, plan and experience pleasure. In addition to helping us feel good about ourselves, dopamine helps us to strive, focus, and find things interesting.
Tulsi improves our response to stress by reducing spikes in cortisol levels (induced by chronic stress). As an effective herbal stress reliever, studies reveal that Tulsi is particularly beneficial for any stress and particularly stress caused by loud noise.
Tulsi offers many psychological benefits including anti-anxiety and anti-depressant activity and positively effects memory and cognitive function.
Studies indicate Tulsi has a protective effect against memory deficits induced by ageing.
Studies also indicate significant improvement for general stress scores, sexual and sleep problems and symptoms such as forgetfulness and exhaustion.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) one of Ayurveda’s most powerful healing herbs
Well-regarded as an herbal adaptogen, the ability to relieve stress is one of the main benefits of Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha has been shown to benefit the brain by:
repairing and reversing damage to the brain caused by chronic anxiety and stress, through reducing cortisol and blood sugar levels,
protecting the central nervous system and serving a role in treatment of degenerative brain diseases,
assisting the regeneration of brain nerve cells and reconstruction of synapses and therefore inter-cellular communication,
offering antioxidants that seek out and destroy the free radicals that are implicated in many age-related diseases,
supporting memory, learning and cognition.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Ayurveda’s King of Spices
A classic, well known healing spice for brain health and one of the most studied spices in Ayurveda, Turmeric is well documented for its effect on Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) levels, the brain growth hormone that enables new neurons to grow. Our mood, our intelligence, our memory, and our productivity all depend on the production of BDNF.
Low BDNF levels have been associated with major depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia and dementia.
Curcumin, a chemical component of the curcuminoid group, is the primary and most studied component of Turmeric. Curcumin boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters responsible for our mood, our cognition, libido and focus, and functions similarly to western medical anti-depressant medication.
As a powerful antioxidant Curcumin offers the brain protection from inflammation and therefore has a role in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as depression and dementia which are linked to chronic inflammation.
More herbal nootropics that boost our brains and support mental health
We now know that both human and animal studies have well documented the impact of long-term exposure to cortisol, the stress hormone, on our cognitive function and age-related mental decline.
We’ve looked at how the amazing class of herbal nootropics can support and protect our brains, and we’ve talked about Tulsi, Ashwagandha & Turmeric as classic must-have herbal nootropics.
Now we unpack five more awesome herbal nootropics and some of their own incredible features, highlighting how a variety of nootropic herbs can have a place in your wellness routine.
Promoting intellect with Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)
The Gotu kola leaf is a fine example of the ‘doctrine of signatures’ whereby the features of plants resemble, in some way, the condition or body part that the plant can treat. Gotu kola leaves look like the brain’s cerebellum and in Ayurveda “Gotu kola is traditional renowned for its intellect-promoting, nervous system soothing and general mind enhancing properties” (S. Pole, 2013).
Gotu kola has a long history of use in Ayurveda as a rejuvenating tonic for vitality and memory. Through relaxing the central nervous system Gotu kola is used in nervous conditions where stress, insomnia and emotional turbulence are present- these factors can directly impair our memory! A general health prompter, gotu kola can be used to slow the ageing process. By offering protection for the brain, Gotu kola can assist with reducing stress and promoting longevity. Improved concentration, intelligence, memory, and alertness are key features of this incredible Ayurvedic herb. Oh, Gotu kola is also called brahmi which can be confusing!
Brahmi (Bacopa monniera) The Memory Herb
Brahmi or Aindri, has been shown to help regulate dopamine and serotonin production (helping us to feel good) and works to relieve stress naturally. Nicknamed “the memory herb”, brahmi reduces anxiey and depression as well as supports focus, attention, learning and recall.
Brahmi is non-addictive with almost no side-effects and is often used to help manage mental and mood-related health concerns from anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
Shankhpushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis), improving memory while we sleep
Shankhpushpi, as a specialised tonic for the brain, is used in Ayurveda to rejuvenate, maintain and potentiate our mood, intellect and memory. Shankhpushpi regulates stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and assists to calm the brain and relieve stress and anxiety. By assisting the secretion of dopamine neurotransmitter, Shankhpushpi helps us to feel good. Various phytonutrients found in Shankhpushpi stimulate the brain and boost our ability to concentrate. It reportedly slows the aging process in the brain and offers neuroprotection and is commonly found in herbal formulas that support good sleep, such as Tulsi SLEEP.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): adrenal nourishment & neuroprotection
Yuastimadhu, or sweet stick as it is called in Ayurveda is a nourishing tonic for our nervous system and adrenals and a handy herb to use in times of stress and anxiety. There are approximately 300 bioactive compounds found in licorice root, many of which offer neuroprotective, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Glycyrrhizic acid can help prevent depression and nervousness by promoting adrenal gland function while carbenoxolone helps maintain normal cortisol levels and nourishes the adrenal glands. Licorice will support blood circulation to the central nervous system and blood sugar balance (high blood sugar levels affect our ability to think straight). The antioxidant content in Licorice protect brain cells from oxidative stress, resulting in improved neuronal function and memory.
Licorice should be taken with caution since glycyrrhizin, the major bioactive compound found in licorice, can raise blood pressure and heartbeat.
Improve long term memory with Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Pudina, or Peppermint, is a vibrant Ayurvedic and a time-tested mood-enhancer that supports all constitutions. Our brain’s ability to learn from and to remember our experiences depends on a cellular mechanism called long-term potentiation (LTP). LTP creates long-lasting increases in signal strength between the neurons on our hippocampus – the area of our brain vitally important for long-term memory. Signal strength is strong when the neurons are subjected to LTP for longer, resulting in easier and faster learning and recall.
One study of peppermint’s effect on LTP showed a direct link to increased LTP after inhalation of pure peppermint essential oil, an indication of improved cognitive function. Simply inhaling the aroma or peppermint oil or drinking a good quality cup of Tulsi peppermint tea, could improve memory, reasoning, concept formation, attention span and problem solving.
Moringa (Moringa oleifera), The Miracle Tree
Considered by some to be The Tree of Life, Moringa or “drumstick” is traditionally used by tribal women in India and Africa to supplement nutrition for their family – this is their traditional herbal superfood! All of the essential amino acids, plus many of the B vitamins and a host of other vitamins minerals are found in Moringa. Nutrition plays a crucial part in wellbeing across our whole lifecycle, supporting healthy growth, development and ageing.
Moringa can nourish our brains and our bodies. Studies are finding that Moringa has the following to offer us as a herbal nootropic;
Supports neuroprotection & reduces neurodegeneration
Reduces memory impairment
Antioxidant rich, offering protection from oxidative stress (implicated in age-related dementia)
Provides nourishment where there is anxiety and depression.
Studies suggest Moringa could be beneficial in prevention of age-related dementia.
Here we have explored a very special class of substances that helps the brain to function more efficiently. We’ve unpacked how to use herbal nootropics to improve our memory, increase our concentration & focus and reduce the risk of, and protect ourselves from cognitive decline.
These herbs are all directly linked to our ability to pay attention, to focus, recall and our ability to cognitise and relate. Regardless of the path we take in life, these are the herbs that support a good brain function and memory power, enabling better connections with ourselves, with others and with whatever we choose to spend our time on.
Adaptogens: considered some of the best nootropics
Not surprisingly, some of the adaptogenic herbs are said to make the best nootropics. Adaptogens assist a healthy response to stress, making us more resilient to the damaging effects of chronic stress. They offer our bodies and brains natural protection against high cortisol levels if included in a wellness routine regularly. Tulsi, ashwagandha, turmeric, gotu kola, licorice and moringa belong to both herbal groups and are paired with Tulsi in the ORGANIC INDIA range of herbal teas.