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Top 5 Herbs for Brain Health

Friday February 26, 2021
Top 5 Herbs for Brain Health

Do you know your brahmi from your lemon balm? Or the difference between your ginkgo and sage? Get to know the herbs that support brain health, how they work and the research into herbal supplements.  


Brain boosting herbs


Your brain uses high levels of energy, using 25% of the calories you consume. It is important you provide your brain with a well-balanced diet which may include the use of some herbal supplements. Herbs have a traditional history of use, in the appreciation of food and links to their benefits on health.

The traditional practice of Ayurvedic medicine in Indian and Chinese medicine have included treatments for psychological conditions such as anxiety and cognitive processes such as memory and attention. In addition, the bioactive compounds in herbs have been studied for their effects on brain health. Below are some herbs which have received the most scientific attention about influencing brain health and function.

Brahmi is an adaptogenic herb which is commonly grown in the Asian region, primarily India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam, in wet tropical environments.

What are the active ingredients?
Bacosides are the active ingredient in brahmi, they have been shown to exert antioxidant effects in the brain, supporting performance after the onset of cognitive decline and aiding the function of nerves and neurotransmitters.

How does it work?
Brahmi has been particularly helpful in enhancing memory and increasing cognitive performance in clinical trials. When studies examined the effects of brahmi on brain activity in 60 healthy elderly volunteers brahmi achieved significant improvements in memory and attention tests.

How much should you take?
The individuals from the study responded better to doses of 300mg/day rather than 600mg/day. To maximise absorption and utilisation Brahmi should be taken with food containing fats.

How long should you take it for?
Research has suggested health improvements are most likely to occur within 8-12 weeks of supplementation with brahmi.

Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is a scented herb that comes from the mint family and is often grown in Greece and Rome.

What are the active ingredients?
Some of the active compounds in lemon balm are rosmarinic acid, flavonoids and triterpenes which have all been shown to aid in brain function.

How does it work?
Lemon balm has been well researched for its mood enhancing and stress relieving effects. Lemon balm works by improving brain levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) exerting anti-anxiety and calming effects without making you feel drowsy.

Who will benefit?
A study examined supplementation with lemon balm in individuals who suffer with mild-to-moderate anxiety and sleep disturbances. The lemon balm was beneficial in lowering insomnia and reducing anxiety associated symptoms. In addition, lemon balm supplementation has shown to improve cognitive function and agitation levels in patients aged 65-80 years with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. 

Recent research has revealed that lemon balm helps to improve symptoms of PMS including physical, social and psychological aspects. As well as improving measures of desire, arousal, satisfaction and pain in women experiencing sexual dysfunction.

How much should you take?
A dosage of 600mg has been shown to benefit individuals with anxiety associated symptoms and sleep disturbances.

Ginkgo is a well-known tree native to China, people would often use ginkgo leaves for their ability to support brain health and relieving symptoms of asthma and coughs. The bioactive compounds in ginkgo biloba leaves are flavanol glycosides and terpene lactones.

How does it work?
Ginkgo works on neurodegenerative conditions and overall brain health, including Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, cognitive impairment and mixed dementias. 

How much should you take?
Supplementing with 40-80mg of ginkgo has been shown to benefit individuals with circulatory and vascular conditions.

Sage is a silvery green shrub with fragrant leaves, native to the Mediterranean and North America. Sage contains high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

What are the active ingredients?
Sage contains two key active compounds, rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid.

How does it work?
Sage has been researched in many clinical trials for its cognitive enhancing properties. It has also been studied in healthy, older adults for memory and attention. A study examined the benefits of sage extract in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease in those aged 65-80 years old. The outcome of this research revealed a significant improvement in cognitive function.  

How much should you take?
Individuals have responded well when they supplemented with over 333mg of sage extract.

Ashwagandha is a plant native to India and it has traditionally been used to help balance the body and mind. It is considered a type of ginseng or adaptogen and has shown to benefit a wide range of health effects.

How does it work?
Ashwagandha has proven to be beneficial in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress-related symptoms. More recent research has suggested Ashwagandha as an important brain antioxidant, neuro-protective and memory-enhancer.

How much should you take?
Ashwagandha administered at 300mg has showed encouraging health effects.

Who will benefit?
Ashwagandha particularly supports those over the age of 40 struggling with cognitive decline and managing change.

Herbs have shown to boost various aspects of brain health including, memory, cognition, anxiety and mood.

Herbs have shown to open up the doors for those seeking improved brain function. When choosing herbal supplements always choose high quality supplements which contain 100% active ingredients, no binders or fillers. It is important to keep in mind that herbs can interact with prescribed medications, so it is essential you speak with a healthcare professional before using any of the following herbs.

Alternatively, you may wish to visit to discuss your needs with an independent health store.

Author: Rupinder Dhanjal is a Technical Advisor at Viridian Nutrition. She holds a BSc in Nutrition and Health.


Calabrese, C., Gregory, W. L., Leo, M., Kraemer, D., Bone, K., & Oken, B. (2008). Effects of a Standardized Bacopa monnieri Extract on Cognitive Performance, Anxiety, and Depression in the Elderly: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(6), 707–713.

Tatimah Peth-Nui, Jintanaporn Wattanathorn, Supaporn Muchimapura, et al., “Effects of 12-Week Bacopa monnieri Consumption on Attention, Cognitive Processing, Working Memory, and Functions of Both Cholinergic and Monoaminergic Systems in Healthy Elderly Volunteers,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012, Article ID 606424, 10 pages, 2012.

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


TAGS: Brain HealthHerbs


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