As we age it’s important we keep our minds active. This can help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson and Dementia. But what herbal remedies are available to help improve our neurological function and keep our minds healthy?
I will share five herbs that you can add to your daily routine to help keep your wits sharp and slow the effects of aging on your mind.
Ginkgo is associated with Chinese medicine but the tree can be found growing throughout the United States.
One thing ginkgo is associated with is improving memory, alertness, and the ability to focus. It is also thought to help patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. This could be because of ginkgo’s positive effects on blood flow to the brain. Studies have shown that ginkgo can help increase blood flow to various parts of your body. This can have a positive effect on heart and brain health and lower stroke risk.
Probably the easiest way to identify ginkgo is by the leaves. The leaves have a distinctive fan shape that is similar to the maidenhair fern and so it is often referred to as the maidenhair tree. Ginkgo is a deciduous tree and in the fall the leaves change to a beautiful yellow.
There are many different ways to consume ginkgo, but most commonly people use the leaves. These can be purchased as supplement in capsule form, drank as a tea, or taken in extract form as a tincture.
Ginkgo Biloba Tincture
You can make a tincture easily in your own home with materials you likely have already.
- 3-4 ounces of yellow ginkgo leaves harvested in fall
- Vodka (or other alcohol at least 80 proof)
- Mason jar
- Coffee filter
- Tinted bottles for storage
- First, crush the leaves to increase the surface area
- Place the crushed leaves in the mason jar
- Cover the leaves with vodka to a minimum of two fingers above the top of the roots. If you are using dry leaves add more vodka as the material will absorb the liquid. Do not exceed double the height of leaves or your tincture will not be as strong.
- Seal the jar and leave it in a cool dark place for at least two weeks
- When your tincture is ready place a coffee filter inside a funnel and strain the liquid into a tinted bottle for storage.
- Store in a cool dark place
Use a little as a few drops to start and no more than a teaspoon daily.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant native to the tropics of SE Asia. It is best known for containing curcumin. It is thought that the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant qualities of curcumin are what contribute to turmeric’s over health benefits and benefit your brain.
In the same family as ginger, both are rhizomes, which means that the fleshy rootlike part is what is consumed in foods and medicines.
Not a small plant, the leaves can grow to be three feet tall. It produces a lovely flower that is usually a greenish-white color but occasionally is pink.
While turmeric thrives in hot jungle climates don’t despair if you live somewhere that experiences frost. It is possible to grow turmeric at home in a container.
Found in many traditional Indian foods, turmeric is responsible for the distinctive yellow color in curries. What’s great is that no matter how you choose to add turmeric to your diet it will help improve brain function.
Turmeric can be used fresh or dried as a seasoning in foods. Dried it can be ground and put into capsules. It can be used to make teas, turmeric lattes, and golden milk.
Try adding this recipe for Golden Milk to your morning routine.
- 2 cups of coconut milk (or other non-dairy milk of your choice)
- 2 tsp ground turmeric (you can grind the rhizome fresh or dry with a mortar and pestle)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp of cardamom
- ½ tsp of cinnamon
- ¼ tsp of nutmeg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pinch of black pepper
- Honey or another natural sweetener
Heat all the ingredients in a saucepan until they are warm. Then transfer the mixture to a blender. Blend until thick and frothy.
Ginseng has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine to help improve mental clarity. Modern studies have shown that ginseng can improve mental clarity, focus, and memory. It is a great herb for brain health.
There are two main varieties of Ginseng, American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng). A flowering plant, American ginseng grows wild in deciduous forests in the northeastern US and eastern Canada.
However, high demand has led to over-harvesting and wild ginseng foraging is now heavily regulated.
If you have patience, the plant can also be cultivated in your backyard. While not difficult to grow it takes between five to ten years for ginseng to mature and be harvestable.
Ginseng can be purchased in supplement form or be made into a tea or tincture.
You can make ginseng tea by adding fresh or dried roots to boiling water.
Add ½ – 1 ounce of sliced or grated ginseng to 16 ounces of boiling water. Let steep for 5-10 minutes depending on how strong you want it.
If you don’t want to be making tea all the time, you can also use alcohol to extract the beneficial qualities of ginseng by making a ginseng tincture following the same method used for the ginkgo tincture.
If you are looking for herbs that are a little more common, rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, has long been associated with improved memory.
Studies have shown that rosemary can be beneficial can aid people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Rosemary can be drunk as a refreshing tea or added to your food to enhance flavor.
Related: DIY Rosemary Memory Elixir
Another common culinary herb that can help improve cognitive and neurological function is sage, Salvia officinalis. Sage can also be consumed as a tea or added to food. It mixes well with poultry, in stuffing, or even in pasta.
Healthy eating can lead to a healthy mind. By adding these herbs to your routine whether in tea, tincture or in your meals you can help ensure that your mind stays healthy and active even as you age.
Remember you are as only as old as you feel.
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