3 Herbs to Supercharge Cognitive Function, Brain Health & Memory
Reach Your Full Potential With Herbal Supplements
We all have different definitions of success. For some, it may be achieving a specific title at work or attaining a desired salary. For others, success may come in the form of raising a happy family or maintaining physical and mental health well into old age. Regardless of how you rank the importance of individual accomplishments, we’re all striving to reach our full potential. But how exactly do we do that?
Let’s start with the obvious. There are certain practices that produce meaningful impact across all areas of life. These include goal setting, consistent diet and exercise, getting adequate sleep, maintaining healthy relationships, and exhibiting traits like perseverance and diligence. Most successful people have these strengths in common. But when it comes to tapping into your full potential and truly maximizing what you’re capable of, it’s the little things that might make the difference. In his New York Times Bestseller, Atomic Habits, author James Clear argues that it is actually the tiny, easy changes made to one’s daily routine on a consistent basis that produce the most powerful results in the long run.
Feeling inspired after reading Atomic Habits, I decided to make an effort to implement micro-changes in my life with the hopes of producing big results down the road. I toyed with several aspects of my daily routine and while many of my new habits produced benefits, there was one that clearly generated the greatest positive return on investment: incorporating a variety of natural herbs.
I’ve long been a nutrition geek and consumer of vitamins and supplements, so adding natural herbs into my daily routine was not a completely foreign idea. Yet, I’d always been somewhat resistant due to the difficulty of getting started; navigating a market saturated with misinformation and pseudoscience can be frustrating and overwhelming. I knew that in order to determine what the best herbs are for a beginner, I’d need to do my homework. When conducting research, I focused on the following:
Which natural herbs actually work?
What natural herbs are safe to take on a daily basis?
What is the best way to take these natural herbs?
In doing so, I was able to narrow it down to three herbs that provide substantial benefit in a variety of ways. The focus is on herbs that provide the best bang for their buck, and I based efficaciousness on traditional use as well as modern research. Some of these herbs have been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds or even thousands of years. But that’s not enough to make my list. To get past the snake oil and placebos, I also looked for scientific evidence backed by clinical research. Additionally, this ensures that these herbs are safe for human consumption on a regular basis. Finally, I aimed to find herbs that are easy to source, have a reasonable recommended dosage, and won’t break the bank. No one wants an herb that’s hard to find, unaffordable, or difficult to consume. The result is the following list of three natural herbs that will help you level up your game and reach your full potential.
Discover Your Potential With These Natural Herbs:
1. Bacopa Monnieri for Cognitive Function & Brain Health
Also known as moneywort, Bacopa is an herb native to India. I included it on this list because of its well known classification as a nootropic, meaning that it effectively boosts cognitive function and improves brain health. Bacopa has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 300 years to improve memory and information retention. Modern science supports these claims. Several clinical studies have shown Bacopa to safely enhance cognition and memory formation, and even repair damaged neural networks in aging participants. Another study showed Bacopa to improve performance while multitasking and to reduce anxiety under cognitively demanding tasks.
Adding Bacopa to your daily regimen is a surefire way to increase productivity and focus, with the added benefit of boosting brain health and protecting against neurodegenerative diseases in the long run. I can without a doubt attest to the cognitive boost I get from Bacopa, even when comparing it to other natural herbs like Panax Ginseng and even pharmaceutical level nootropics like Modafinil. Bacopa extract is available in powdered or capsule form and suggested dosage ranges from 350-700 mg per serving a day. I started at the lower end and worked my way up. While many people report a relaxing effect from Bacopa, I found it mildly stimulating at higher doses. For this reason, it’s often recommended to take it in the morning with a light breakfast.
2. Kava Root for Stress & Mental Health
Kava root has been a ceremonial staple for thousands of years in Polynesian culture used for variety of medicinal, religious, and cultural purposes. It’s most notable and desired effect is the ability to promote a state of calm relaxation without reducing alertness. Recent interest in kava has increased due to its beneficial effects on stress and anxiety and its use as an alternative to alcohol. Current research shows that compounds in kava called kavalactones have been proven to reduce anxiety and promote calmness.
For me, incorporating the use of kava has been huge. Whether I’m at work, meeting up with friends, or winding down for the night, kava allows me to take the edge off while remaining fully present and focused. The traditional preparation of kava as a bitter brew has been replaced by an array of tastier and more convenient modern methods. These range from delectable kava candies to kava capsules and even instant tea mixes. Without a doubt the best way to consume kava is in a tincture. I prefer a small spray bottle like 1Hour Break because I can carry it with me, it’s easy to use, and works quickly. In the span of a few seconds, a few sprays provide me with much needed relaxation, yet I retain complete mental alertness. Game changer.
3. Turmeric for Disease Prevention & Health Maintenance
Native to Southeast Asia, turmeric is a plant in the ginger family known for its deep yellow pigment and flavorful punch often used in curries. Its use as both a cooking spice and medicinal herb dates back thousands of years in places like India and Sri Lanka. Modern research has shown that it is actually a compound within turmeric called curcumin that’s responsible for the medicinal properties. These include being a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This means that there is a wealth research-backed evidence that curcumin improves overall systemic health, and can promote the reversal and prevention various pro-inflammatory diseases including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel disease to name a few. Additional studies have found curcumin to help slow the progression of some forms of cancer, alleviate age-related cognitive decline, and mitigate inflammation-related diabetes risks.
I was excited after discovering these amazing health benefits; eat Thai curry a couple times a week, add a little turmeric to my scrambled eggs in the morning, maybe a turmeric tea here and there—unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Despite being present in turmeric, the amounts of curcumin we receive when used as a cooking ingredient are insubstantial. Pure turmeric powder has the highest curcumin concentration, and only averages 3.14% by weight. The amount in most curry powders used for cooking is significantly less. Therefore, to reap the benefits you need to take a supplement that contains amounts of curcumin much higher than those naturally occurring in turmeric. Depending on body weight, a curcumin extract supplement containing 500-2,000 mg is efficacious and safe for continuous use for up to three months at a time. I opt for a product that also includes Bioperine, which comes from black pepper. This substance has been shown to enhance curcumin absorption by as much as 2,000%. Without it, there is a chance that you won’t absorb much of the curcumin due to it passing through the digestive tract.
Honorable Mentions: Other Natural Herbs With Beneficial Effects
After several months of using these herbs on a regular basis, I’ve undoubtedly noticed major benefits in various areas of my life. While the aforementioned herbs are a great starting point, they’re far from the end-all be-all of supplementation. The following natural herbs did not make the original list because they did not meet the requirement of being scientifically proven effective and safe as well as easily sourceable, or had similar mechanisms of action as one of the three herbs already included. If herbal interventions are something of interest and benefit to you, you may want to consider trying these out as future additions to your protocol.
Cissus Quadrangularis (improves joint and bone health)
Rhodiola (adaptogen shown to inhibit stress)
Milk thistle (improves liver function and great for its detoxing effects)
(various) Mushroom mixes (performance, immune, and cognitive boosters)
Panax ginseng (increases energy and enhances immune function)
Ashwagandha (relieves stress and promotes relaxation)
Echinacea (immune booster, shortens duration of colds)
In the end, everyone is different and it will take some self-experimentation to find out what works best for you. Powerful changes in the future are initiated by taking baby steps in the right direction today. Adding these natural herbs to your routine is just one of the many ways that you can commit to improving every day.