17 Herbs for Memory Retention


Today we’re going to talk about herbs, and some of them you may even find growing in your garden. A few of these earthy little babies harbor a gold mine of brain-boosting abilities and may just be the ticket to a better memory. Go grab your gardening gloves so we can start digging into our list of 17 herbs for memory retention.

17 Herbs for Memory Retention

1. Asian Ginseng

Asian ginseng is one of three commonly used herbs in the ginseng family and is known for its memory boosting abilities. The use of Asian ginseng dates back well over 5,000 years and has earned its spot as a staple in many medicine cabinets across the world. The list of its uses is rather long, but it is definitely touted as the herb to take if you’re in need of a mental boost as it is reported to relax the nervous system, increase mental cognizance and stimulate the brain as an aid to memory.

Research has shown a positive increase in cognitive function when Asian ginseng is taken. This herb is credited with increasing concentration, memory and mental arithmetic. Another study found this form of ginseng to aid in abstract thought among subjects tested despite a lack of change in response time or their ability to concentrate.

The long-held views of Asian ginseng’s positive impact on memory were further supported by a double blind study performed using the Cognitive Drug Research (CDR) testing method. The subjects who received ginseng extract did indeed show marked improvement in their secondary memory and those receiving a 400-mg dose produced the best CDR results.

2. American Ginseng

American ginsengginseng for memory is very similar to its cousin, Asian ginseng, since they share a similar chemical structure. They are even quite similar in appearance with their root color and shape sharing many of the same characteristics. We see the real difference between these two herbs when we take a look at their ginsenosides, the substances responsible for all the health benefits offered.

Having different ginsenosides and in different concentrations enables both American and Asian ginseng the ability to be used for a variety of medicinal purposes. This is evident when we see the laundry list of ailments and disease American ginseng is reported to help, such as, common colds, HIV, fibromyalgia, ADHD and memory.

As a result of its many medicinal uses, American ginseng has actually become rather difficult to find in the wild. Some states have even gone as far as adding the herb to the endangered plants list in an attempt to preserve what is left and prevent more people from harvesting it.

Many researchers default to Asian ginseng when trying to determine the herb’s effect on memory. However, there are still some solid studies focusing on the different ginsenosides in American ginseng that show promising results in terms of memory improvement and an increase in mental performance.

3. Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero)

The last member of the ginseng family is commonly known as Siberian ginseng, but is also at times referred to as eleuthero. Siberian ginseng is only similar to America and Asian ginseng in name, actually. The active substances in Siberian ginseng are called eleutherosides, which are quite different than the active substance in American and Asian ginseng, ginsenosides.

The eleutherosides in Siberian ginseng offer up unique health benefits, which have garnered it a spot on the adaptogen list of herbs said to improve overall physiological well-being. This herb is often used to reduce the length of colds, decrease the outbreaks in those with herpes simplex virus type 2, aid in muscle strength/performance and ramp up mental performance.

Much like it’s kin, Siberian ginseng is frequently used to aid in concentration and memory, especially when used in conjunction with Gotu Kola. There isn’t as much research performed in the United States to verify these claims as of yet, but that hasn’t stopped herb lovers from adding it to their supplement list.

4. Gotu Kola

gotu kola boosts memoryGotu Kola may grow far away in the Himalayas, but that hasn’t hindered the people in China, India and Indonesia from using it to cure what ails them for thousands of years. The use of gotu kola hasn’t changed too much over the years as it is still used for varicose veins, venous insufficiency, wound treatment, uninary tract infections, mental health issues and so much more.

Don’t let this little herb’s relation to parsley fool you, though. Gotu kola is far from being a garnish on a plate as it is also well-known for it’s memory and intelligence improving abilities. One study performed at Kasturba Medical College found there to be rather sizable improvements in the memory of rats treated with the herb. These same rats were also reported to have a memory retention when it came to learned behaviors anywhere from 3 to 60 times greater when compared to the control animals in the study.

5. Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis)

Green Tea for MemoryWe’re fairly certain you’ve heard some of the chatter surrounding all of the great things green tea can do for your body. This tasty tea is the product of  lightly steaming the Camillia sinensis leaves, which is said to then allow the health benefits to truly be utilized to the max. It takes very little time at all to load up on the antioxidant polyphenols, tocopherol, vitamin C, zinc, chromium, flavonoids, amino acids, selenium and manganese.

All of these active substances have been said to help reduce the risk of getting certain cancers and heart disease. Green tea is also beneficial when trying to lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and is even noted to be helpful to those dealing with chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes and kidney stones.

Green tea is also being given a two very enthusiastic thumbs up from researchers who have conducted multiple studies on its positive effects on cognitive function. A 2014 study performed at the University of Basel found solid evidence of the awesome effects green tea has on the brain.

The study reported that there is a “ beneficial effect of green tea on cognitive functioning, in particular, on working memory processing at the neural system level by suggesting changes in the short-term plasticity or parieto-frontal brain connections.”

6. Bacopa Monnieri

The use of Bacopa monnieri has been common among people practicing Ayurvedic traditional medicine due to the herbs natural and vast medicinal uses. Bacopa has the ability to provide relief for those suffering from a wide array of conditions from asthma to ulcers. The antioxidants and enzymes in the herb provide a boost to the immune system by way of aiding the body in producing more antibodies and immunoglobulins, which are super handy when your body is in need of repair.

The antioxidant goodness is said to hike its way up to the hippocampus where the real magic happens. Brains love bacopa for it’s amazing ability to “improve attention, cognitive processing, and working memory partly via the suppression of AChE activity.”

Bacopa has also been found enhance the “higher-order cognitive processes” which are pretty important to how we receive external information from our surroundings. Researchers believe the effects of this herb will become apparent when the proper dose is taken consistently for two months and beyond.

7. Ashwagandha

This hard to pronounce herb is a pro at aiding in the fighting against diseases, cancer, infertility, high blood pressure, anemia and depression. Ashwagandha is also useful in lowering cholesterol levels, stabilizing blood sugar, providing relief from inflammation and calming anxiety. It’s no wonder some in the medical community are calling Ashwagandha a “wonder herb.”

The benefits of this “wonder herb” really start to get interesting when we look at the research done on Ashwagandha’s impact on memory and cognitive functioning. Researchers at the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) found this to be true when a study was performed on rats with impressive results showing “the remarkable therapeutic effect of ashwaganda.”

8. Rhodiola Rosea

Your neurons will become super fans of rhodiola rosea once the herb works it magic by increasing their sensitivity. This increase in sensitivity will make your neurons extra aware of the dopomine and serotoin neurotransmitters. Both dopamine and serotonin play a part in one’s ability to focus as well as impact memory, pleasure and mood.

The brain responds in a pretty positive way to the introduction to rhodiola beyond improving your mood and depression as well. One study reported a notable increase in memorization and the ability to focus over extended periods of time when taken consistently. This boost in brain power is due to an increase in bio-electrical activity and an increase in the levels of acetylcholine in the brain.

9. Periwinkle

Periwinkle for memoryMany of us probably think of periwinkle and an image of cute little flowers comes to mind. This isn’t entirely inaccurate except for the fact that periwinkle is actually an herb that happens to flower. The periwinkle power comes from its seeds and leaves as they provide many health boosting aids to those coping with inflammation, high blood pressure and toothaches.

More notably, periwinkle is frequently used as a means of increasing blood flow in the brain since it acts as a natural blood thinner and helps get oxygen moving around efficiently. As a result of the increased blood flow, memory and cognitive function are greatly improved. Scientists have also noted an even larger increase in brain function when periwinkle is used with its brain boosting buddy, Ginkgo biloba.

10. Huperzia (Chinese Club Moss)

Huperzia is a native of China and has been used in its entire mossy state for centuries for its vast medicinal purposes. These days huperzia isn’t used in it’s full form like it once was. Instead of using the whole moss, only part of the isolated alkaloid, huperzine A, is used. It still packs a powerful punch even though its in a slightly different form.

Scientists have found a mega memory booster in this mossy herb thanks to the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. This inhibitor kicks the brain into high gear with increased levels of the important neurotransmitters responsible for forming new memories, memory recall as well as cognitive functioning. There’s also the added bonus of receiving a bit of brain protection from huperzia as it is reported to stave of the memory stealing progress of Alzheimer’s.

11. Tumeric

tumeric for memoryThere’s good news for those of you who enjoy a nice curry dinner on occasion! The most prominent spice used, turmeric, which gives curry its warm, slightly peppery and bitter taste is actually really good for your memory. The cool thing about turmeric is that it really doesn’t take a whole lot to start improving memory, especially in those who are diabetic and cognitively impaired.

In fact, studies have shown that a mere gram of the vibrantly colored spice will start you on the right path to a better working memory. Improving and preserving your working memory is crucial as it is the key to “critical cognitive abilities such as planning, problem solving and reasoning,” according to Professor Mark Wahlqvist of the Monash Asia Institute at Monash University.

12. Ginkgo Biloba

Unless you’ve made yourself a cozy home under a rock, you’ve more than likely heard of the brain boosting benefits associated with Ginkgo biloba. This herb has certainly made a name for itself as study after study has done the job of proving its rightful place on the shelf with all the other brain boosting aids.

Ginkgo biloba is a pretty powerful memory improving aid as it increases the blood flow in the brain and acts as a body guard for nerve cells in the brain that are damaged due to disease or trauma. The increase in blood flow is cited to really improve the health of the nervous system, which results in a high functioning brain. Ginkgo’s protective abilities are also reported to improve learning and behaviors, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

13. Holy Basil

This herb isn’t the same type of basil you’d typically use in your favorite marinara sauce recipe, but after reading about the awesome memory improving abilities of Holy Basil you may consider swapping it out. It may be a little hard to get your hands on since it hasn’t caught on in America yet, so perhaps a vacation in the name of herb hunting is in store.

Holy Basil is native to tropical Asia and has been used for hundreds of years in India due to its many health benefits. Many people use Holy Basil to kick pesky colds, congestion and the flu. More notably, this herb has been found to really do its job by improving cerebral circulation and bettering memory as a result. There are reports of ADHD/ADD sufferers really benefiting from the Holy Basil as well.

14. Vacha

Vacha is a very revered herb in Chinese and Ayurveda medicine for its great ability to improve memory, concentration, clarity of mind and as a detox for the brain. Terpenoids and essential oils are found in the roots of the herb, which are then used as a means of strengthening the body’s nervous system.

The result of the nervous system strengthening comes in the form of an improved memory and productive skills. Studies have shown a significant increase in improvement in people experiencing amnesia and/or other memory disorders when Vacha is used on a regular basis.

15. Peppermint

peppermint for memoryPeppermint is good for much more than candy canes, my friends. In fact, peppermint is now considered to be on the list of natural substances used to help improve memory when it is applied topically, used for aroma therapy and even ingested in its natural, leafy form.

The oil has noted qualities similar to caffeine in the sense that it is capable of waking your mind, increasing focus and aiding memory. A 2008 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information reported a pretty notable increase in both enhanced memory and alertness when subjects were exposed to peppermint aroma prior to cognitive testing.

Perhaps it’s time to wake up and smell the peppermint rather than the coffee if it means you’re in for a better memory and improved alertness. It may not be so hard to kick the caffeine habit either since peppermint just so happens to aid in the process of ditching the coffee, thanks to its natural herbal super powers.

16. Sage

Sage (Salvia) is another favorite among herb and essential oil enthusiasts for its ability to stimulate your senses in a way that will get you up and moving without your normal dose of caffeine. You can eat sage, apply the oil topically or ingest oil capsules to benefit from the kick to your senses and focus offered by this ancient herb.

This herbal oil is making a pretty big name for itself in the medical world as scientists are giving it the thumbs up for its memory boosting ability. Studies have shown a significant memory improvement in the people who were administered even a small dose of sage oil.

A 2003 study from Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, noted “The 50 microls of Salvia essential oil significantly improved immediate word recall in both studies. These results represent the first systematic evidence that Salvia is capable of acute modulation of cognition in healthy young adults.”

17. Rosemary

Rosemary for MemoryMost of us are familiar with the awesome smell of rosemary when it’s used in the kitchen with our favorite meals, but the power of this herb doesn’t stop at its smell and taste by any means. It turns out that oil produced from the aromatic little sprigs is said to increase memory retention by up to 75% as well as decrease cortisol levels and lower anxiety in some people.

Apparently, Ophelia was really onto something when she said, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance,” in Shakespeare’s Hamlet!

Rosemary oil can be helpful when applied to the palms when you need to study, work on a concentration heavy project or really any task requiring you to tap into your memory skills. You can use a nifty oil diffuser to put your rosemary oil to use for aromatherapy if you’d rather not apply it directly to your skin. Breathing in its herbal goodness is said to be just as helpful to the memory.

No, we haven’t been sniffing the oils too much. Your memory really can be improved simply by breathing in the diffused rosemary oil, according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The study says, “Volatile compounds (e.g. terpenes) may enter the blood stream by way of the nasal or lung mucosa. Terpenes are small organic molecules which can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and therefore may have direct effects in the brain by acting on receptor sites or enzyme systems.”

One more thing before you go…

We’re sure this goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway. Definitely check with your doc before going too crazy on the herbs…no matter how bad your memory is. Check with him/her to ensure any health issues and/or medications you’re currently taking will jive with anything you may decide to try on this list.

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