As scientists learn more and more about the brain, your list of ways to keep yours healthy continues to grow. Adequate sleep, mental puzzles, losing weight or even just working on complex projects for your business all help. But common plants you can get at any grocery store or online can give you a cognitive edge, too. These are the top three you should experiment with.
Sage contains well over a hundred polyphenol compounds, as well as flavonoids, terpenoids and polysaccharides. These substances can have many positive effects on the brain, including serving as antidepressants and anti-inflammatories. Experts believe these compounds can protect against the accumulation of amyloid-β peptide, which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Various species of sage also can inhibit the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, which can improve cognitive function. Sage also can influence neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is important for keeping neurons healthy and getting new neural connections to develop.
Sage is a favorite cooking seasoning, such as on chicken or in stuffing. But you also can enjoy it as a tea, tincture or in capsules.
Rosemary stands as a symbol for remembrance for good reason. Researchers from Northumbria University, Newcastle looked at the effects of smelling rosemary essential oil. They found that it can increase your odds of remembering to do things in the future-;for example, fix that typo in your presentation when you get a moment later-;by 60 to 75 percent. People performing memory tasks in rooms with the scent of rosemary also did better on those tasks than those without the scent available. Researchers believe this might be because of compounds such as 1,8-cineole, which, like the compounds in sage, prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine.
Inhalation is a good way to get rosemary’s beneficial compounds-;or any drug-;to the brain because it allows them to pass into the bloodstream and bypass breakdown by the liver. Satchets around the house or even rosemary-salt body scrubs are fun, creative ways to enjoy the aroma. But don’t be afraid to throw rosemary into your cooking oils, marinades and butters, or into a pan with a delicious steak, either.
A main ingredient in curry powder, turmeric can reduce inflammation and serves as an anti-oxidant, similar to sage. And like sage, it is thought to inhibit amyloid-β buildup and protect against Azlehimer’s and dementia. The main focus on these benefits is on the curcumin in the turmeric. But another study found that rats that were injected with high concentrations of aromatic turmerone, another turmeric compound, enjoyed an 80 percent increase of brain self-repair and recovery. More research is needed to figure out exactly how aromatic turmerone could influence the human brain in the same way, but experts believe it could hold the key to preventing a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases.
Turmeric is wonderful in rice, stews and soups. But it also can offer a new take on smoothies, mac and cheese (who doesn’t love mac and cheese?!), hummus and even pancakes.
Even though the herbs and spices above are totally natural and have plenty of advantages for brain and general health, they’re still like any other drug in that you also should be aware of side effects. Sage, for example, can influence blood pressure and isn’t considered safe in very high doses because it contains thujone. And because everyone’s physiology is unique, you might need a different amount than your buddy to see benefits. Lastly, remember that fresh spices and herbs are the most vibrant and potent, and that there can be some difference in compound densities based on factors like soil nutrition and specific species. Chat with your doctor to figure out what’s best for you, and to ensure you’re getting the highest quality, most consistent products you can for your specific needs.