How to be an ally to our noodle - 10 ways to better brain health
Our brains serve as the control center for our body, navigating complex functions and supervising our bodily functions with a quadrillion neurons and 100,000 miles of blood vessels (woah). This noodly powerhouse is the epicenter of all the things that make us who we are - our dreams, memories, emotions, desires. It defines our identity and how we experience the world (hint: you're using it to read this.. but you knew that 🙃).
We can begin to experience difficulties with memory and cognition for many reasons; lifestyle imbalances, stress, trauma, aging. While some of these things are not always within our control, our cognition and memory are founded on how we take care of our bodies - namely diet, exercise, and sleep. We're stoked to show you more ways to love and care for your brain, but it's important to note that unless these bases are covered, any remedies you employ will only address symptoms and not the core problems. And we want you to thrive... so maybe eat a carrot now and again, will ya??
Here is a quick but mighty compilation of ten herbs, mushrooms and algae that can support our noggins, many of which have been used for millennia across ancient healing traditions such as Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine practices. Each has been praised for its ability to help regain memory, support synapse response, increase neurotransmitter communication, protect against brain and nerve damage, or support mental stamina.
The two brain-boosting mushroom powerhouses we'll mention are both in our 8 Mushroom Superfood mix, along with six other adaptogenic fungi for all-around support.
Brain remedies for everyday resilience
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), also called “herb of grace” or water hyssop, is a nootropic herb found in Ayurvedic tradition that enhances memory and revitalizes brain function. It helps enhance memory in myriad ways. Its antioxidants fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage in the brain while also increasing the levels of natural antioxidants in areas of the brain that are responsible for cognitive functions like information processing, mental skills, and memory. It also supports nerve ending growth, helping them branch out to form more synapses between nerves in the hippocampus and amygdala (responsible for memory formation). This in turn increases the speed and volume of communication between nerves.
2. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola rosea, sometimes known as "the golden root", is an adaptogenic root with a long history of medicine in article and Northern European regions. It has been shown to strengthen mental and physical stress resistance, promoting mental stamina and clear, calm thinking under challenging conditions. It supports your brain by modulating stress hormones that can jeopardize cognitive function. It also helps to optimize brain chemicals norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, providing nootropic effects for fighting mental fatigue and supporting a calm and balanced emotional state.
3. Gotu Kola
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), also known as "the herb of enlightenment," has been revered by Yogis who have used it as a meditation aid, as it has been thought to restore balance to the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This amazing herbal tool activates the release of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that acts like fertilizer for your brain encouraging new brain cell formation. For this reason it has been utilized to treat disorders of the mind including mental fatigue, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and insomnia. Recent studies show it can also help protect the brain from neurotoxins like lead, arsenic, aluminum and MSG, in addition to reducing the effects of free radicals.
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera), commonly known as Indian Ginseng, is considered one of India's greatest botanical and adaptogenic treasures. It's clinically studied to help fight depression, adrenal fatigue, and boost brain health. In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha belongs to the sub-group medhya rasayanas (rasayanas are super-elixirs) revered as deeply healing to the mind and emotional constructs.
5. Lion's Mane
No stranger to us, Lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) is a popular nootropic mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine. A ton of research has centered around this brain-boosting mushroom with regards to the promise it shows in preventing Alzheimer's and brain decay, and the results are nothing short of astounding (and a bit exhaustive).
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry lists the benefits by stating lion’s mane mushroom is “antibiotic, anticarcinogenic, antidiabetic, anti-fatigue, antihypertensive, anti-hyperlipodemic, anti-senescence [anti-aging], cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, nephroprotective, and neuroprotective, and improves anxiety, cognitive function, and depression."
6. Tremella Fuciformus
Tremella Fuciformus, or Silver ear or snow fungus, is a white and gelatinous mushroom that is aesthetically quite different than your typical stem-and-cap mushroom. Typically you hear us harp about Lions Mane and it’s benefits on the brain, but tremella also has evidence showing its benefits. A 2007 study clinically assed tremella & its neuroptotective effects. The results showed that tremella promotes brain-cell growth and thus has potential to support cognition against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
7. Gingo Balboa
Gingko Biloba is a tree that has been used in China and Asian countries medicinally for various health ailments for thousands of years. As one of the oldest tree species on Earth, it has long been studied or its effective anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, platelet-forming and circulation-boosting effects. Current research shows ginkgo biloba benefits include improved cognitive function, positive mood, increased energy, improved memory and reduced symptoms related to multiple chronic diseases. According to a report in the International Journal of Phyotherapy and Phytopharmacology, ginkgo biloba is “currently the most investigated and adopted herbal remedy for cognitive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.”
8. Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis; Melissa derived from the Greek for ‘honey bee’) has been cultivated for well over 2,000 years and has been used historically as a tea to combat mental confusion and to extend lifespan. In the 17th century, French Carmelite nuns dispensed Carmelite Water. This lemon-balm infused ‘miracle water’ was said to improve memory, vision, and reduce fever, melancholy and congestion. While it provides many other benefits, it can be utilized as a nootropic to lower anxiety and boost memory by supporting neurotransmitters such as AcH (acetylcholine) improving memory and cognition and GABA, regulating mood. Additionally, its wealth of antioxidants help protect your brain cells from free radical damage.
Spirulina is a Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that gets its name from its spiral shape and it's green essence from the chlorophyll inside it. Chlorophyll helps to remove heavy toxins or metals from our body, which can help prevent brain damage One of the main ingredients in spirulina is tryptophan, an amino acid that’s also the key to your body’s production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Spirulina has recently been getting attention for being a neuroprotector and could help to treat any disease related to the cognitive system: Akzheimer's, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, complications of severe concussions, however we need more research to help support this.
Rosemary (once Rosmarinus officinalis, now Salvia rosmarinus) an evergreen shrub with needle-like leaves and a woody aroma. According to research outlined in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, the aroma from rosemary can improve a person’s concentration as well as cognitive performance and speed.
Rosemary contains an ingredient called carnosic acid, which can fight off damage by free radicals in the brain.Some studies have suggested that rosemary may significantly help prevent brain aging and the therapeutic ability of rosemary for prevention of Alzheimer’s shows promise, but more studies are needed.
There you have it, ten natural remedies for brain support. Whether you're 19 or 90, it's never too early or too late to start caring for your brain. Show your brain some love by taking care of yourself and maybe integrating some of these useful botanical tools for optimized brain power!