In your private garden or in the spice drawer in your home is a world full of herbs and spices that improve not only the taste of food but can also improve health. Studies have shown that the following 9 plants have medicinal properties that can contribute to the function of one of the most important organs for us - the brain. With a small addition to your daily diet, these herbs will help your brain perform most efficiently in a healthy and nutritious way.
One of the most important vitamins found in parsley which contributes greatly to brain and body function is vitamin K. In 100 grams of parsley, you can find 1,640 micrograms of this vitamin, which contributes to clotting and bone building, with a recommended daily intake of between 90 and 120 micrograms. Many believe that it has the ability to limit nerve damage to the brain as a result of Alzheimer's disease and even help to prevent the degeneration of nerve cells before the onset of the disease.
In addition, Brazilian researchers have found a substance in a parsley called Apigenin that belongs to the group of flavonoids, which have been shown to improve brain function. The material has demonstrated a remarkable ability to contribute to the creation of new nerve cells and improved memory. If all this is not enough, the iron found in parsley is essential to the brain's cognitive functioning and to the formation of Heme - important organic compounds that allow hemoglobin to carry the oxygen in the red blood cells on their way to the brain and all other parts of the body.
For tea lovers, chamomile is certainly a wonderful plant, but beyond its wonderful taste hides an important health trait. Chamomile contains compounds that bind to certain receptors in the brain that help reduce anxiety. In a study of people with anxiety disorders, anxiety medication was given out between two groups randomly, with some receiving chamomile extract and some a placebo. The results showed that eight weeks later, the group using chamomile extract reported a significant decrease in anxiety attacks compared to the second group.
Drinking chamomile tea is recommended not only to soothe the nerves and restore vitality to the body - the soothing activity of the plant is also known as an excellent natural remedy if you suffer from insomnia.
Since ancient times, thyme has had culinary uses alongside medicinal properties and has been used in a variety of traditional kitchens and folk medicine practices. Already in the 18th century, the plant was known as a cure for headaches and migraines, and in recent studies of brain cells, it has been found to contribute to the slowing of the aging process.
Scientists who have carried out studies on aging rats have found that because of the main component of thyme – Thymol, the number of cells that make up the brain, cortex, and skin had increased significantly after dietary supplements with this component were introduced to rats. There was a significant difference in the efficacy of thyme supplemented with the regular diet of young rats compared to adult rats, suggesting that it is best to start using thymol as early as possible.
Thymol is mainly found in the oil of thyme and contains many antioxidants and a variety of flavonoids that repel parasites and bacteria and help the brain and body function effectively. Besides thymol, thyme contains vitamin B6 that affects certain nerve cells in the brain that are directly related to stress and anxiety, it also improves mood and calms the mind. If you want to use thyme, you can find it in plant or powder form, but if you choose to buy fresh thyme, make sure you store it in the fridge, wrapped in a damp towel.
Clove is a spice that usually comes in powder form made from the flower buds of the myrtle tree. Most people use clove powder, which is considered effective in treating headaches, migraines, and reducing stress. If you add a little of the powder to a cup of milk and heat it up, this spice can stimulate brain function.
Besides the powder, clove oil made from the plant's bud is known as an excellent pain reliever that alleviates sleep problems, treats fatigue and also cognitive disorders such as memory loss, depression, and anxiety. Also, clove oil helps prevent age-related degenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's disease). Cloves also help other areas of the body besides the brain, and because of its variety of vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids, it helps relieve toothaches, gastrointestinal pain, and respiratory infections, as well.
If you like garlic, we have great news for you and your brain. Garlic contains compounds that protect nerve cells in the brain by stimulating chemicals that help cells cope with stress. In a study of Alzheimer's disease, it was found that garlic was able to reduce inflammation of the brain that may affect cognitive functioning, helping to protect the brain from changes caused by the disease.
In addition, in a study conducted in 2007, it was found that compounds of garlic are able to kill cancer cells and in further research from 2013, it was discovered that extracts of garlic help to eliminate cancer cells reducing tumor growth. While the results of these studies are still difficult to project on the complex human brain, this is certainly a promising advance in the cure of cancer.
Sage, one of the oldest and most common spice plants in the Middle East, seems to help the brain improve memory. In two studies conducted in 2003, sage oil extract distributed among the participants improved their performance in short-term memory tests compared to those who received a placebo. In another study at the British Pharmaceutical Conference that year, Professor Peter Hutton of King's University pointed out that Chinese sage (dried root called Danshen) reinforces the enzymes responsible for various brain functions, including memory, attention, and learning.
In addition, sage improves the communication of different parts of the brain, be it of an Alzheimer's patient or not. One of the antioxidants in sage – Carnosic, increases the production of glutathione, which improves blood flow to the brain by expanding the arteries.
Did you know that in India, the risk of developing Alzheimer's is 25% lower than in the US? It may not be a random figure because India is a country where turmeric is consumed on a daily basis, and turmeric is one of the most important medicinal herbs in East Asia, with one of its components being curcumin, which helps to stimulate and create immune cells called macrophages.
Macrophages, along with curcumin, protect blood vessels against the accumulation of amyloid plaques –plaque that clogs blood vessels and nerve supply tubes to the brain causing brain death. Different curcuminoid compounds stimulate macrophages and help eliminate plaques from the brains of people with early signs of Alzheimer's.
The only question that remains unanswered is what is the precise dose of curcuminoid compounds that positively affects a quarter of India's population and prevents them from developing Alzheimer's disease?
Oregano leaves are a common spice in the Middle East, and beyond their wonderful taste, they also contain natural and healthy oils, such as thymol oil (also found in thyme), which also gives it medicinal properties. A study conducted at the University of Aristotle in Thessaloniki found that this spice contains antioxidants that protect against nerve damage in the brain just like the antioxidants in rosemary and vitamin E.
In addition, Oregano increases the efficiency of brain function and improves the mood and mental feeling of the person. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition and presented at the International Society of Neuroscience Conference showed that a group of men who received capsules of oregano extract at a different dosage for 5 days showed a marked increase in brain waves that measure relaxation and concentration. There were also signs of an increase in brain waves that measured the brain's cognitive alertness and function.
Wasabi, also called Japanese horseradish, is the spicy spice that appears regularly alongside sushi or sold as a root in various stores. It is important to know that beyond its culinary use, Wasabi has wonderful medicinal properties that can do wonders for our brain. Studies have shown that eating wasabi helps to develop cells, improve memory and strengthen learning by producing axons and dendrites - nerve cell extensions that take in information.
In addition, in a recent study on chemotherapy and its effect on brain cancer cells, it was found that when combining the treatment with eating wasabi, one of the substances in wasabi (Isothiocyanate) stimulates healthy cells, and thus the treatment successfully isolated and destroyed brain cancer cells from the healthy cells more efficiently. The result stunned the researchers because chemotherapy usually can’t isolate the cancer cells from the healthy cells, and most of them are damaged as a result of the process. This important breakthrough is not yet well established, but it is certainly a significant springboard for understanding the medicinal benefits of this wonderful spice.
Rhodiola Rosea has long been used to treat various kinds of illnesses. But, Rhodiola is best known for enhancing memory. In fact, it is considered to be one of the best herbs to do so. Studies have also discovered that Rhodiola not only has the ability to improve one's focus and memory, it can also relieve depression. Furthermore, researchers believe that this herb contains adaptogenic qualities that stimulate the central nervous system of the body, resulting in enhanced memory and concentration. Another study also found that taking Rhodiola regularly increases memorization abilities.
Bacopa has a long history. It was used in Ayurveda (a 5000-year-old ancient system of natural healing) to enhance learning, concentration, and memory. Numerous studies conducted on bacopa found it to be an effective herb in improving one's memory and mental function. In one study, conducted in Australia, 46 volunteers aging from 18 to 60 were divided into two groups. In one group, each volunteer was given 300mg of bacopa every day. After 12 weeks, the subjects' verbal learning abilities, speed of information processing, and memory significantly improved.
Gotu Kola shows promising results in enhancing memory and improving brain function. In traditional Chinese and ayurvedic medicine, Gotu kola has also been used in rejuvenating the mind and the body. In fact, it is considered to be an anti-aging herb. Studies have found that Gotu kola contains certain substances that increase brain power and improves blood circulation to the brain, resulting in better memory, concentration, intelligence, and attention span.
This herb is best known for its antispasmodic, antibacterial, anti-cancer and sedative effects. It is also a great herb to use to enhance memory. The seeds and leaves in periwinkle contain a blood thinner that improves the circulation of the blood to the brain, promoting better oxygen use. It also prevents any damages to the blood vessels, preventing dementia and senility. Furthermore, it encourages the brain to absorb more nutrients, significantly improving its functions. By increasing oxygen supply to the brain, cognitive and memory abilities are significantly enhanced.
Modern science has discovered that blueberries contain powerful compounds like flavonoids, believed to be effective in enhancing learning ability, cognitive functions, verbal comprehension, numerical ability, decision making, reasoning ability, and more importantly, memory. Eating foods rich in flavonoids regularly helps in slowing down the decline in cognitive ability, offering protection against diseases like dementia, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Moreover, a study conducted at Harvard University found that eating blueberries helps in boosting brainpower. It has also been found to stave off cognitive decline and prevent memory loss, which is normally associated with aging.
image source: OakleyOriginals, Cherrie Mio Rhodes
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