We could all use a little brain power boost during the day—especially when that afternoon slump hits.
Many people turn to coffee or energy drinks, but those make you crash after an hour.
Drinking water or tea, meditating, or taking a walk are better ways to clear your head for clearer thinking afterwards.
You can also take herbal supplements in addition to other ways to center yourself and gain mental clarity.
A good supplement will have several natural ingredients that benefit your health, so let’s go over some that improve brain function.
Bacopa monnieri, also known as brahmi, water hyssop, Bacopa monniera, and Herpestis monniera, is a creeping perennial with small oblong leaves and purple flowers that grows in wetlands in Australia and India.
It’s actually considered a weed when it’s growing in rice fields, but it’s also an herb that has been used traditionally to enhance memory, learning, and concentration.
A neuropharmacological review of Bacopa, published in Rejuvenation Research, states that “chronic and moderate administration of BM appears to nourish rather than deplete neurons, an action compatible with 1400 years of Ayurvedic study.”
It adds that bacopa was initially described around the 6th century A.D. in texts such as the Charaka Samhita, Athar-Ved, and Susrutu Samhita, taken to sharpen intellect and attenuate mental deficits.
It was used by ancient Vedic scholars to memorize lengthy sacred hymns and scriptures.
Now we can take it in supplement form to enhance our memory.
Mucuna pruriens is also called the dopa bean or “velvet bean,” but it’s actually a legume and not an herb or bean.
It grows in the tropics, and while it’s healthy to eat, it’s not a good idea to touch it because it can cause itching. That’s why the English call it “Cowitch.”
You can bypass any rashes by taking a supplement; it won’t cause adverse side effects that way.
Mucuna Pruriens is known for supporting the nervous system and the body’s ability to handle stress. It also improves energy and endurance as well as supporting brain function.
“Mucuna pruriens has an almost magical ability to improve motivation, well-being, energy, and sex drive along with decreasing the tendency to overeat,” says acupuncturist Karen Kurtak, LAc, co-author of “The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Living Forever,” and department head of Longevity Nutrition at Grossman Wellness Institute, in Denver.
The dopa bean has an active compound called as L-dopa, which is a non-protein amino acid, in high concentration. It’s also a precursor to dopamine.
L-dopa boosts dopamine levels in the brain, so it’s used to treat Parkinson’s disease, ADD, anxiety, and depression in Ayurvedic medicine.
With so many benefits and brain-boosting power, it’s a “no brainer” to take for your brain!
Panax ginseng improves thinking, concentration, memory, depression, Alzheimer's disease, fatigue, work efficiency, physical stamina, and endurance.
(Note that Panax ginseng is different from American ginseng, Siberian ginseng, or Panax pseudoginseng.)
Some people use Panax ginseng to help them cope with stress and as a general tonic for improving well-being.
The root has an active component called ginsenosides that provides the energy and stamina boost.
Ginsenosides affect the central nervous, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems, improving immune function and stress responses.
The article “Improve Your Focus with Ginseng” on thrivous.com states that Panax Ginseng is the most studied of all ginsengs, and goes on to list multiple peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies on humans that showed this ginseng increases focus.
One such study is titled, “Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults.”
This study found that Ginseng "improved calmness and improved mental arithmetic". Supplementation was effective on the first day and remained effective on the eighth day.
Many modern day studies are reinforcing what people have known for centuries, but it’s nice to learn about the science behind how and why herbs help us so much.
Research shows L-theanine can increase attention span and reaction time in people who are prone to anxiety.
It can help improve accuracy too—one study shows that taking L-theanine reduced the number of errors made in a test of attention.
Evidence from human electroencephalograph (EEG) studies show that it has a direct effect on the brain.
L-theanine significantly increases activity in the alpha frequency band which indicates that it relaxes the mind without inducing drowsiness.
In an article titled, “Three Step Approach to Happiness,” Michael T. Murray, ND said, “If you are having trouble focusing because of stress, you may want to try a product that contains L-theanine.”
He quotes author and holistic pharmacist Sherry Torkos as saying, “In addition to helping alleviate stress, L-theanine has been shown recently in clinical studies to significantly improve the ability to concentrate and think clearly."
L-theanine is a natural way to increase your focus and feel more alert.
That’s because it elevates levels of GABA, serotonin, and dopamine—and all three of these are neurotransmitters that regulate emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, sleep, appetite, energy, and cognitive skills.
These three neurotransmitters are calming to the brain.
This herb is usually considered a calming herb, but also it rejuvenates the brain. It helps the nerves, prevents deterioration of brain cells, and boosts brain performance.
Ashwagandha also regulates cortisol levels, reduces inflammation, repairs oxidative damage to cells, and promotes restful sleep.
Those benefits will definitely help you think better during the day.
Many herbs can calm us and help our concentration because we feel more peaceful.
Oat straw and rhodiola give calm energy and mental clarity.
Passion flower, chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender are calming and centering herbs too.
You can find many of these herbs in blends such as Nutrition Blend’s Inner Peace formula. It combines the power of 18 natural ingredients to help you feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
Learn more at www.nutritionblends.com.
Neuropharmacological Review of the Nootropic Herb Bacopa monnieri. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746283/
“Mucuna Pruriens: The Mood-Boosting Productivity Pill You’ve Been Looking For.” https://blog.bulletproof.com/mucuna-pruriens-dopa-bean/
The Magic Velvet Bean of Mucuna pruriens. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942911/
“11 Herbs that Boost Your Brain Power.” https://www.foodmatters.com/article/11-herbs-that-boost-your-brain-power