Herbs That Feed the Brain

Because of the ravaging effects of Alzheimer’s disease, there is often fear among the elderly every time they forget something. Children forget, too, to put their clothes on, where they left their jackets and shoes, and what time bedtime is — even though it’s been the same time every night for several years. Teenagers are notorious for forgetting everything they don’t want to remember.

I’ve noticed that as we grow older, there is a resistance to remembering certain details and facts, a selective memory process, and I wonder if this isn’t a natural process meant to draw us into ourselves, away from the mundane, into the inner journey of knowing. Perhaps our inner clock is telling us it’s time to forget those details that seem so important to the world but that are hardly worth thinking about, and to get on with the more important quests of life.

In any event, no matter what you choose to contemplate, it is important to have a mind that’s sharp and clear. The one thing that clears the mind like magic is peace and calm. Even the most confused states of mind are relieved by a few days near a quiet lake, a hike in the great outdoors, a walk on the beach, or a journey into an old-growth forest. If these are not feasible, meditation and yoga provide a similar calming and peaceful experience.


For long-term mental acuity, the following herbs are extremely beneficial and should be used on a regular basis by those who find themselves frequently in “brain fog.”

Ashwagandha. This herb contains alkaloids and steroidal lactones that relax the central nervous system, as well as concentrations of several key amino acids that bolster the brain’s natural  supplies. Ashwagandha has a long reputation for clearing the mind, calming the nervous system, and promoting deep sleep.

Ginkgo. One of the best substances to take for brain function is ginkgo. It has been used for several thousand years and has been subjected to much testing in modern times. Most people will notice a marked improvement, but it must be taken over an extended period of time (at least 4 to 6 weeks) to be effective. Ginkgo increases cerebral blood flow, is a powerful antioxidant, and increases short- and long-term memory. Recent studies confirm that it does slow cognitive
decline in patients with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Ginseng. All varieties of ginseng are longtime brain rejuvenators that increase cognitive function. They are especially useful for brain fatigue, when one just can’t think anymore. Ginseng is restorative and tonic in action.

Gotu kola. This is the most noted herb in Ayurvedic medicine, the ancient healing art of India, for brain function. It is also used extensively in China for memory and mental acuity. It is used specifically for brains that are stressed by deadlines and intense intellectual activity.

These herbal brain nutrients must be used over a period of several weeks or months to be effective. I generally suggest taking herbs on a rotational basis of 5 days on, 2 days off, repeated for up to 3 months. Rest for 3 to 4 weeks, then repeat the cycle again. Here are the usual adult dosages:

Capsules: 3 capsules two times daily
Tincture/Extract: ½ to 1 teaspoon two or three times daily
Tea: 1 cup three times daily

standardized ginkgo
You’ll often find standardized ginkgo products on the market. They are very effective for Alzheimer’s disease and I would recommend them as well as tea and whole-plant tincture. However, for most other problems, it is not necessary to use ginkgo in standardized preparations to be effective. Instead, use products made from the whole leaves of the ginkgo plant.