10 Best Herbs & Spices for Better Brain Health

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Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Herbs For Brain Power

Battling with brain fog, fuzzy memory, difficulty concentrating, and preventing degenerative cerebral disorders can be challenging. However, some herbs and spices can help improve the brain’s functions and stimulate the immune system.

Today, nootropics are increasingly more popular than ever. People are discovering the benefits of regularly taking Gaia herbs, spices, and other products that support cognitive health, improve cognitive abilities, and prevent ailments like Alzheimer’s disease. Learn more about the ten best herbs and spices to boost your brain, combat mental fatigue and improve cognitive function.

Herbs For Brain Power

Aging, poor diet, high stress, and a lack of sleep can all take a toll on the brain and contribute to adverse cerebral health. However, taking Gaia herbs and spices that have been studied for their cognitive-boosting capabilities can prove helpful and may improve cognitive function. The following herbs are used to boost cognitive performance:

  1. Ashwagandha
  2. Bacopa 
  3. Eleuthero Root
  4. Ginkgo
  5. Gotu Kola
  6. Rosemary
  7. Saffron
  8. Sage
  9. Tulsi
  10. Turmeric

Contributing Factors To Cognitive Decline

It’s not your fault. Natural and human-made contributing factors cause the brain’s health and function to decline over time. As people continue to study the human brain, which readily influences cerebral function and supports cognitive health, it is essential to review common causes of problems in achieving mental clarity and optimum cognitive performance.

The following are significant factors that can severely impact memory, concentration, and other cognitive functions and reduce optimal cerebral health:

  • Aging
  • Poor Diet
  • Stress
  • Not Enough Sleep

Seek methods and products that improve concentration, eradicate fuzzy memory recall, and support better cerebral health.

What Are Nootropics?

The word nootropic commonly describes “smart drugs” that improve cognitive function. However, cognitive enhancers may be natural or synthetic ingredients that positively impact cerebral function and sharpen mental clarity, focus, and memory. Many natural herbs and spices that are also adaptogens are used in popular nootropics. Adaptogens help the body to reduce anxiety.

Why Support Cognitive Health?

Aging, diet, sleep quality, stress, and lifestyle choices impact cognitive health and function. Neurodegenerative disorders like dementia, mental fatigue, depression, and anxiety can reduce cognitive function and make daily tasks difficult to complete. Taking Gaia herbs and supplements that improve one’s mental health, protect the cerebrum against disease and disorders, and boost cerebral health are critical.

Adaptogens[1] help reduce physical and mental stress and influence the brain and nervous system. You can optimize cognitive function and health by taking adaptogens that boost endurance and increase mental alertness, keeping one calm instead of feeling anxious, tired, or depressed. 

Adaptogens may balance neurotransmitters and reduce problems like poor concentration and memory while relieving problematic headaches. Some common adaptogens include Reishi, Lion’s Mane mushrooms, Ginseng, Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, and Rhodiola rosea.

10 Herbs & Spices For Brain Health

Give your cerebrum a healthy boost to improve memory, focus, and protect against neurodegenerative disorders using the following ten herbs and spices.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that helps the body respond to stress and boosts mental clarity, stamina, and energy levels. The herb ashwagandha increases acetylcholine levels within the cerebrum, connected to cognitive function, intelligence, and improved memory. It additionally reduces oxidative stress[2], depression, anxiety[3] and lowers cortisol and blood sugar levels as well.

Suggested Serving: It is safe and recommended to take 1,000 mg to 6,000 mg of this herb as a root powder. The extract should be taken at a dosage of 500 mg to 1,500 mg for health benefits. Beware the risk of developing an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea if you take large doses. It is common for this herb to be combined with lemon balm, which is a plant that also reduces anxiety.

Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri)

Combat degenerative brain disease and protect the brain[4] from aging by taking bacopa. The herb helps improve mental clarity, boosting energy levels, lowering oxidative stress[5] and anxiety. Many nootropics include bacopa because it helps reduce cognitive decline, inflammation[6] and increases one’s memory, attention, and learning capabilities. Bacopa has also been used for the treatment of insomnia, depression, and digestive disorders. It also has anti-fatigue properties.

Suggested Serving: The dosage for bacopa is wide-ranging, with people taking anywhere from 200 mg to 900 mg daily. With 500 mg of the herb, oral capsules can be taken two times daily with water following a meal. However, it is wise to stretch out doses, taking two to three doses daily. Taking too much bacopa may worsen ulcers or block the gastrointestinal tract.

Eleuthero Root (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Eleuthero is an adaptogen[7] that helps manage stress by increasing dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine along with other neurotransmitters. Taking this root herb and stimulant may increase blood flow to the cerebrum, reduce fatigue, and support memory and concentration. The herb may also influence brain-derived neurotrophic factors, reduce stress, and may stimulate the immune system.

Long-term use of eleuthero may cause insomnia, headache, diarrhea, and upset the gastrointestinal tract. 

Suggested Serving: Take 300 mg to 1,200 mg of this root herb daily but no more than three to six grams. It is best to take a dose of eleuthero in the morning, between meals, and to stop use after six weeks if used continuously. 

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo biloba is a popular herb for enhancing memory and reducing cognitive decline due to aging. Because ginkgo helps promote blood circulation[8] in the cerebrum and has neuroprotective properties, it helps improve cognitive function. Take ginkgo for improved focus, memory[9], and mental alertness, as well as to dispel brain fog. 

Suggested Serving: The best way to consume ginkgo is oral as a supplement, using a dose between 60 mg to 240 mg daily. It is also good to take a supplement of ginkgo before bed to help reduce stress, relax and improve sleep quality. Taking too much ginkgo can cause headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach ache. People with bleeding disorders or who are pregnant should avoid taking this herb.

Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)

The herb Gotu kola has been studied to treat Alzheimer’s disease, enhance overall cognitive function[10], increase calmness, alertness, and reduce anxiety. For years, Gotu kola has been used in herbal medicine for treating mood disorders and protecting[11] the function of the cerebrum and nervous system.

Take caution as this herb may cause drowsiness when taken in high doses. Other side effects include nausea, stomach irritation, itching, and photosensitivity.

Suggested Serving: It is good to take 500 mg of Gotu kola up to two times a day for no more than two weeks. If needed, it is safe to take as much as 2,000 mg of the herb daily—schedule breaks of two weeks between Gotu kola use. Consume 600 mg of the dried herb as a tea three times daily, a 60 mg extract two to three times daily orally. Capsules may provide between 475 mg and 950 mg of the herb.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.)

The spice rosemary is a native of the Mediterranean. It helps improve memory the fastest via aromatherapy and inhalation. But, rosemary can also be consumed in foods or tea. Modern research surrounding rosemary focus on its ability to increase the neurotransmitter acetylcholine[12] and potential treatments for dementia[13].

Take caution if you consume a large amount of rosemary because it can irritate the stomach and intestines and risk kidney damage. Consider enjoying rosemary tea with lemon balm.

Suggested Serving:

  1. Make a tea using one teaspoon of rosemary leaves to 10 ounces of boiling water.
  2. Do not take more than 4 to 6 grams of dried rosemary.
  3. Inhale a few drops of rosemary essential oil added to a neutral lotion, externally on the skin, or in hot steaming (not boiling) water to boost brain function immediately.

Saffron (Crocus sativus)

Studies on saffron show the herb’s ability to boost mood, reduce depression, and increase dopamine[14] levels in the cerebrum. Additionally, saffron offers neuroprotective properties[15], combating antioxidative stress and neuroinflammation. Consuming saffron may help with memory and learning ability, and it adds a beautiful aroma and flavor to foods.

Suggested Serving: The compounds crocetin and crocin in saffron help fight neurodegenerative diseases. Try drinking saffron water by steeping ten threads of the flower in hot water for a minimum of 10 minutes. This drink is best consumed in the morning on an empty stomach. 

It is safe to take 1.5 grams of saffron daily. However, research suggests that taking 30 mg of saffron or 20 threads is best for gaining substantial health benefits. Be cautious and do not take 5 grams of saffron or higher because of the risk of toxicity.

Sage 

The spice sage has been studied for its ability to improve memory, enhance cognitive function[16], and have antioxidant properties. For individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, taking sage helped with cognitive ability and boosted memory. Taking a high dose of sage may help improve mental clarity, improve mood[17], and make one feel calm. Sage is also a good companion plant with lemon balm.

Suggested Serving: If you wish to drink sage tea, stick to no more than three to six cups daily. It is safe to take up to 1,000 mg of sage as capsules or extracts daily. Do not consume essential oils because of potential toxic responses. Because sage contains thujone, ingesting too much sage may damage the liver and nervous system and cause seizures.

Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)

Tulsi is a herb that contains the compounds Ocimumosides A and B, which help balance serotonin and dopamine in the cerebrum and reduce oxidative stress[18]. Also known as Holy Basil, Tulsi has anti-depressant and anti-anxiety benefits. Taking this herb helps improve cognitive function[19], relieve psychological stress, and improve memory.

Be careful when taking Tulsi, as there is a risk of experiencing diarrhea or nausea. Tulsi is a herb best used for a short period.

Suggested Serving: You can safely consume 500 mg of Tulsi extract between 60 to 90 days. You can eat two to three leaves, but they should be swallowed and not chewed. Enjoy a daily cup of Tulsi tea any time of day for health benefits.

Turmeric

Curcumin, a compound within the golden-hued spice turmeric that causes its distinctive color, also helps improve memory, attention span, and mood. Regularly consuming turmeric may help the brain heal itself, as it may support the growth of nerve cells for brain repair[20]. Curcumin boosts antioxidant activity[21], lowers oxidative stress, and reduces systemic inflammation. The herb may also stimulate the regeneration of stem cells and treat tumors.

Suggested Serving: Studies confirm that it is best to take liquid extracts of 500 to 2,000 mg of turmeric daily, which provides 60 to 100 mg of curcumin. Be careful if consuming large amounts of turmeric for lengthy periods, as it may cause gastrointestinal issues for some and interfere with specific medications.  If you are consuming turmeric tea, feel free to add a bit of lemon balm to give it a boost.

Precautions

It is wise to consult your doctor or a trusted healthcare professional before beginning to take any unfamiliar herbal supplements, herbs, or spices beyond their typical use. Herbs and spices have been prized in traditional medicine for remedying various ailments of the brain, improving concentration, memory, elasticity, and overall health. 

Take caution with the number of herbs or spices that you consume for medicinal benefits to boost cerebral health and function. Watch out for potential adverse or allergic reactions after taking any herbs or spices for cognitive health. Please discontinue use if there are any concerns or adverse outcomes.


+ 21 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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Medically reviewed by:

Alex Smith is a NY-based content writer who enjoys covering natural health, supporting wellness, personal finance, history, and outdoor living. When he is not behind a keyboard living the wordsmith life, he enjoys visiting landmark destinations and bookstores.

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