Ayurveda has rich library of herbs – including some of the best cognitive enhancers. These particular herbs are known to improve memory, enhance retention power, focus and willpower, boost creativity and influence motivation power.
There are many studies now available on pubmed and other esteemed journals that confirm the benefits of these herbs for the nervous system. Other than stress, anxiety and depression there are numerous other conditions where these herbs can lend a hand towards healing. I have seen clients at my clinic with Parkinson’s disease, Autism, Dementia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Insomnia and have helped them using many of these herbs.
Here are my most favourite herbs in Ayurveda that boosts brain power. In addition I have mentioned a few herbs used in traditional Western Herbal Medicine as well as a Medicinal Mushroom that I often use in my morning smoothies.
Brahmi (Bacopa monniera): Brahmi is the master Ayurvedic herb for the brain health. It has a positive effect on the hippocampus part of the brain that is responsible for intelligence, concentration and memory. The bio-chemical known as bacosides in Brahmi helps in re-building brain tissues by influencing the brain cells. Brahmi restores zinc and selenium levels in the brain. The herb is best known for its ability to improve memory, sharpen mental acuity, increase concentration, and reduce signs of stress and anxiety. Brahmi aids in recovery from exhaustion, stress and debility with aggravation of Vata dosha. It is an herb that aids conditions such as, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, Autism, Depression and Drug Addiction.
I have given Brahmi in capsules, tablets, tea or tincture to my clients. I also love mixing the powdered herb in ghee for consumption.
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica): Another one of the Ayurvedic gems is Gotu Kola – an herb that is rich in triterpenoids, compounds that can help to decrease anxiety and increase mental function. Gotu Kola is also known as “Thankuni Saag” in Bangladesh and this year was the first time I tried the leaves as “saag” when I was home. It is high in nutrients that improve brain function such as, Vitamin B1, B2 and B6. This Ayurvedic herb is a nervine tonic that rejuvenates the central nervous system of the bran.
Gotu Kola can be consumed as a food or as capsules, tablets, tinctures and tea.
Gingko Biloba: Although not an Ayurvedic Herb but a very popular circulatory and brain tonic in Western Herbal medicine. Gingko is by far the best herb used for learning disabilities. This herb contains flavonoids such as flavonols, quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin. Gingko extracts exhibit neuroprotection by inhibiting membrane lipid peroxidation, anti-inflammatory effects, and direct inhibition of amyloid-b aggregation and anti-apoptotic activities. Gingko biloba increases dopamine and dopamine neuron activity. This increase results in improvement of cognitive function. Ginkgo leaf has been shown to improve circulation to the brain which, in turn, elevates oxygen levels. It also improves mental acuity by boosting the brain’s glucose metabolism.
Kapikacchu (Mucuna Pruriens): Mucuna Pruriens improves memory by raising levels of dopamine in the brain. Taken as an extract – it also promotes brain health. Other compounds found in Mucuna have the ability to scavenge free radicals, chelate heavy metals and provide anti-bacterial protection. Mucuna Pruriens is used as dopamine itself cannot cross the blood brain barrier. L-DOPA also improves learning, works as an antidepressant and helps reduce stress.
Jatamansi/Indian Spikenard (Nardostachys grandiflora): Another prized possession of Ayurvedic Medicine is a herb called Jatamansi. It is called Jatamansi, as its roots resembles the matted hair of the Himalayan ascetics. It has an amazing rejuvenating effect on the mind. It is one of the most sought after herbs for the nervous system (a nervine relaxant). Additionally it is has anti-spasmodic and carminative effect. The herb rejuvenates the mind, promotes better sleep and alleviates mental distresses such as mild anxiety and depression.
I have personally used Jatamansi essential oil for aromatherapy.
Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum): Considered as a sacred plant in Ayurvedic Medicine, Tulsi or Tulasi is herb for Kapha dosha and the respiratory system. However it also has a huge impact on the nervous system. The leaves of the plant can be used as a mild nervine tonic for amplifying awareness and mental clarity. Holy Basil tea is used for tension headaches from high vata or from congestion headaches from excess kapha.
As a practitioner I have used Tulsi for reducing stress, mild anxiety and depression. I love the tea blend from Pukka herbs called the “Three Tulsi.”
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): One of my most favourite herb used in Western Herbal Medicine is known as the St. John’s Wort. This plant can be used in many ways such as tea, capsule, tincture, oil or ointment for depression, insomnia and nerve pain. St. John’s wort is most commonly used in the West for “the blues” or depression. The symptoms of depression go along with mood changes such as nervousness, tiredness, poor appetite, and trouble sleeping. There is some strong scientific evidence that St. John’s Wort is effective for mild to moderate depression.
Ashwagandha (Withaia Somnifera): Ashwagandha is one of those rare herbs in Ayurvedic medicine that has a dual effect of energizing and calming. It is an adaptogenic herb that is used as a tonic as well as sedative. Ashwagandha is useful in all conditions caused by ‘stress’ as it has a specific affinity for the majja dhatu, such as insomnia, anxiety and ADHD.
As Ashwagadha has impact on the hormones I use it carefully for my female clients when using in specific formulas.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): Rosemary is a very popular culinary herb that is used in the West. It has a strong, pungent aroma and it immediately improves circulation. Rosemary has the ability to improve memory and concentration, prevent brain aging and provide neurological protection.
For medicinal uses one can use rosemary as tea, capsule, tincture or infused oil. I have often used Rosemary essential oil in my diffuser for aromatherapy.
Lions Mane (Hericium erinaceus): Last but certainly not the least – is my personal favourite medicinal mushroom. This amazing mushroom protects against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, reduce mild anxiety and depression and help repair nerve damage. Lions Mane can protect the older adults with mild cognitive impairment and protect against memory problems.
It is good to be aware of the herbs that are protective against brain health however one must consult a health care practitioner as they can assess your health condition well and put together a customized herbal formula based on your age, sex, current medical condition and energetics. The customized herbs put together for you will provide faster and better relief.
I have seen clients with Parkinson’s disease (we worked together to reduce tremor and improve sleep), depression, anxiety and autism (we worked towards developing eye contact and reduce hyperactivity). The herbs listed above were used in their treatment plan, along with supplements, diet plans and lifestyle changes.
Check out my Health Consultation page to explore the opportunity to work with me https://conscioushealth.net/herbal-nutritional-ayurvedic-consultation-in-toronto/
Let me know if this blog was beneficial for you or your family and if you have experienced any positive results from using any of the above herbs. Once again please do not use herbs without consulting a qualified practitioner.