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Total Recall

Three top memory-boosting botanicals.

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As our population ages, losing one’smental faculties often takes first place on the list of health concerns. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect some 25 percent of all people over 80. General “forgetfulness”? The percentage is much higher.

Some types of mental decline develop when we are exposed to toxins and to oxidizing chemicals in our environment. All of these appear to contribute to brain inflammation, brain scarring, and mental decay. These symptoms may also result from allergies, stress, or low levels of certain nutrients. The process of inflammation creates free radicals that cause damage, and can be particularly damaging when brain tissues are deficient in antioxidants and other nutrients that ease the effects of chronic inflammation. Antioxidant levels in the brain have been shown to decline with age, and the lower the levels, the greater the damage to nerve cells. Antioxidants should top your list of brain nutrients. Fortunately, many time-honored herbs turn out to be potent antioxidants.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).Herbalists use this herb for general debility and exhaustion, memory loss, and nerve diseases. Modern clinicians are most likely to employ it for chronic fatigue and anxiety, as well as insomnia. Ayurveda considers it a “grounding” herb, one that nourishes and regulates metabolic processes and stabilizes mood.

Ashwagandha improves memory and test performance. In a 2014 study, healthy men received either ashwagandha or a placebo for 14 days. Those who took ashwagandha had significant improvement in a wide range of memory and cognitive tests. Another study indicated that the herb reduced brain damage caused by stress by 80 percent.

A typical dose of ashwagandha is about 1 gm per day, taken over long periods—up to many years—as a rejuvenator, but larger quantities are often used short-term. In India, it is given with pungent, heating herbs (ginger, pepper, etc.) to improve absorption.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is a favorite food of elephants, and we all know about their memories! It has a long history as a brain-building herb, and is widely considered a superior herb for the nervous system. It’s used to strengthen memory and concentration, and to treat age-related senility. One study showed that constituents in gotu kola have potential for treating Alzheimer’s disease.

Fresh, it’s a delicious salad vegetable. The juice of the fresh leaves is available at some juice bars. Since gotu kola is basically a mild salad vegetable, the dose can be high. Many people use a modest dose of 1 gm per day in capsules. Or try a daily cup of gotu kola tea, sweetened with honey if desired, to boost memory.

Brahmi (Bacopa monniera). An indication of the respect for this herb is the name: “brahmi” means “god-like.” It’s used in Asia for nerve diseases, mental exhaustion, and to improve memory. Meditators use itto increase comprehension, concentration, and recollection. It is often found in herbal formulas to prevent stress.

With nearly 300 studies in the scientific literature, brahmi has a solid base of scientific support. Australian researchers recently gave it to 98 healthy adults aged 55 and over, then tested and measured various memory functions. Numerous memory tests before and after taking brahmi showed that the herb significantly improved the retention of new information. Follow-up tests showed that the new information had not been lost, suggesting brahmi reduces the rate of forgetting of newly acquired information.

Take 2 gm of the whole herb, in capsules or tea, twice a day with warm water.

Prevagen: A Unique Memory Booster

You may have seen Prevagen next to other supplements on the shelf, but this memory booster is in a class all its own. Why? It’s the only supplement with an active ingredient from jellyfish—yes, jellyfish. We put together the following short Q&A to uncover just how this popular brain health supplements works.

Q: What exactly is Prevagen?

It’s a supplemental form of Apoaequorin, part of a family of proteins found in the human brain and nervous system—and also jellyfish. Prevagen is designed to help replenish this specific class of proteins, which declines naturally with age.

Q: What are the top health benefits?

Prevagen has been shown in clinical studies to help improve cognitive function and mild memory problems associated with aging within 90 days, including learning and word recall. In other research, Prevagen helped extend sleeping time by an average of 37 minutes among subjects who got seven or less hours of sleep a night. Researchers also noted that those taking Prevagen experienced fewer wake-ups during the night.

Q: What’s the best way to use Prevagen?

Prevagen (one capsule daily) can take up to 90 days to produce effects. Take daily for best results. According to the manufacturer, Prevagen is very well-tolerated and does not appear to interact with any medications. Although adults of all ages can take Prevagen, studies on the supplement have mostly involved people over age 40.

Good Buys:

Himalaya Herbal Healthcare: MindCare

Paradise Organics: Ashwagandha

Organic India: Memory