The Hidden Healers In Our Herb Garden

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Here at Juicy Lucy’s Kitchen, we like to research ways to make things better. Anything I can add to a dish to either enhance flavour or to aid performance is a winner for me.

Adaptogens, Brain Function And Hormone Control

As you clever lot already know, our brains play a massive part in how we deal with stress and situations, right from the beginning of the day through until we close our eyes to go to sleep. The brain especially plays a role in how we sleep, it quite literally works 24/7 for us day in, day out. It really is an amazing piece of human machinery; so why wouldn’t we try to find ways to keep it running at optimum health and in perfect condition? Exactly – that’s what I thought…so here is my list of Herbs to aid the Brain’s, memory, stress levels, clarity and all-round performance.

Hold on, hold on, wait a minute…Before you rush out to the Health Food Shop or go online and order a load of new supplements, it is very important to note that some herbs may interact with or inhibit the absorption and potency of some pharmaceutical drugs you may have been prescribed by your Doctor. Also, some herbal medicines are contra-indicated when taking other drugs so PLEASE, PLEASE check with your GP or Nutritionist before beginning any new regime of supplements or adding anything to your diet.

1. ASHWAGANDHA

If you are feeling overwhelmed, overworked, stressed-out, burned-out or mentally exhausted Ashwagandha might just be the herb you need.

Recent studies suggest it may help the nerve cells within the hippocampus to branch correctly. It has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to rejuvenate and enhance brain function.

Ashwagandha may offer the additional benefit of supporting your immune system, which is likely to be a little run down if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends. This herb is also believed to help treat nervous exhaustion and prevent the deterioration of brain cells. Like most other brain-boosting herbs, Ashwagandha may assist with mental clarity, information processing and overall cognitive performance.

2. BACOPA (Bacopa Monnieri)

Bacopa (also an Ayurvedic Herb) has been recognised for providing protection against Alzheimer’s Disease. This may be due to its potential ability to reduce beta-amyloid in the brain and lower inflammation.

It has been hailed as an effective overall brain-boosting aid. In particular, Bacopa may increase learning ability and improve mental function, enhance memory and reduce stress.

3. BRAHMI

Brahmi is believed to work by supporting the nervous system and brain. In particular, Brahmi may help the left and right spheres of our brain to work together more synergistically. This has been found to increase memory, intelligence, focus and capacity for learning. Brahmi may also offer a secondary benefit of reducing stress. It is believed to provide adrenal support and assist anxiety, insomnia, and emotional resilience.

4. GOTU KOLA

Gotu Kola, native to Australia, India and South East Asia, is mainly recognised for its ability to support memory function and to enhance blood circulation.  It can be used generally as a tonic to balance overall brain function. It is also an adaptogen, meaning it can assist your body to ‘adapt’ to stress more effectively; Something which can also help with mental clarity.

5. GINKGO BILOBA

This herb has been used for many centuries within ancient healing practices and is believed to offer numerous cognitive benefits. Some research suggests that Ginkgo Biloba may help to heal and regenerate the cells in your brain, which is clearly good news for your mental function, especially as we age! Further studies suggest that this potent plant may also enhance memory, attention and even intelligence.

Important: Ginkgo is a recognised blood thinner and should not be used in conjunction with NSAIDs, ibuprofen, aspirin, warfarin or any other blood-thinning medications.

6. GINSENG

No brain-boosting article would be complete without an honourable mention of this popular herb! Ginseng is famously used to increase vitality and improve all-around mental function. It is also a recognized adaptogen, meaning that it can also help your body and brain to better cope with the effects of stress. Furthermore, ginseng may even protect brain cells against toxins and beta-amyloid, which is integral to prevent age-related mental decline.

7. HUPERZINE-A

Research suggests that Huperzine-A may block an enzyme within the brain that destroys acetylcholine; a neurotransmitter that transmits information between brain cells. A derivative of a unique Chinese moss, Huperzine-A has received attention as a potential preventative measure against Alzheimer’s Disease. Even within healthy individuals, Huperzine-A may boost brain function and enhance memory.

8. RHODIOLA (Rhodiola Rosea)

Technically a root, this ancient plant has been used for centuries within traditional natural healing therapies. Rhodiola is believed to be particularly helpful during periods of stress and may help to improve both brain and physical performance when we are feeling burned out. Furthermore, Rhodiola may also help to modulate our mood by reducing anxiety and depression. It may also help with mental fatigue and memory retention.

9. ROSEMARY

Rosemary essential oil may help with memory retention (extremely beneficial for students or anybody learning a new skill). This aromatic herb isn’t just a major star in Mediterranean cooking; Rosemary is also a brain-booster, particularly when used as an essential oil in aromatherapy. Smelling rosemary essential oil is believed to improve efficiency and proficiency at mental tasks.

10. TULSI

Tulsi has been found to help oxygenate the brain and boost circulation, which may provide many benefits to our overall cognitive function. Our brain is a vascular organ and cannot function optimally without an adequate blood supply. Some people who use Tulsi also report that it lifts their overall sense of well-being, so it may be helpful for mood as well.

11. VACHA

This herb has been traditionally used to help treat nervous system disorders. It may further assist with clear-thinking, focus and mental concentration. Some people who use Vacha report that it has a lightly stimulating effect and is therefore often recommended to people with low mood or ‘sluggish thinking’. Vacha is also popularly believed to help with the detoxification of brain tissue.

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