We all know that diet plays an integral role in relation to physical health, but recent studies have found how big of an influence diet has on the health of your brain. It turns out that items in your fridge, spice cabinet, or pantry may be able to reduce your risk of cognitive decline and boost processes involved with thinking, remembering, understanding, and learning. We aren’t talking about processed, calorie-ridden, sugary or salty foods, though; we are talking about herbs and spices.
Diet And Brain Inflammation
Foods in the Standard American Diet are commonly rich in processed ingredients, antibiotics, refined grains & sugars, artificial sweeteners, and other hormones. These foods can lead to general health problems, including poor gut health. Since the gut helps to manage inflammation levels, eating for a healthier gut can also benefit brain health. People with poor gut health often experience lethargy, brain fog, trouble focusing, and have an increased risk of inflammation-related cognitive illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease. Due to higher rates of cognitive disorders, a number of herbs and spices have been heavily researched for their brain boosting benefits. Let’s explore how they can help your brain.
Thyme has a specific flavor and you can almost always identify it in a dish. A lesser-known quality of thyme is that it is responsible for increasing DHA, which is an essential fatty acid in the brain. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are often recommended to intake adequate amounts of DHA for healthy brain development in their children. DHA also plays a large role in brain function, so don’t waste your time, eat thyme!
If you want to help lull yourself to sleep, you drink chamomile tea. If you want to soothe a sore throat, you drink chamomile tea. We know you know these things, but did you know that chamomile works some herbal healing magic on the brain? According to several laboratory studies chamomile contains compounds that bind to receptors in certain brain chemicals, which are responsible for reducing anxiety. A small study, which consisted of a group of people with general anxiety disorder, found that patients who took chamomile extract for eight weeks straight reported huge drops in anxiety, while those who took a placebo reported minimal improvement.
People love to smudge, also known as burning sage, to improve air quality and cleanse a specific space of impure or negative energy. We’re stepping away from that for a second and focusing on the fact that sage may benefit those with Alzheimer’s disease. A 2017 review found that compounds in sage might improve cognitive and neurological function. You can consume sage tea or season your food with sage; it goes great in soups and broths.
Peppermint tea is commonly consumed to reduce nausea or upset stomach, but it also has the ability to improve long-term memory, working memory, and alertness. Research that was presented at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference documented a study with 180 participants, who were divided into three groups. One group was given peppermint tea, one was given chamomile tea, and the other was given plain hot water. The patients had their cognitive function tested 20 minutes after consuming the liquid. The people who consumed peppermint tea drastically improved long-term memory.
Gingko biloba, which has long-since been used in traditional Chinese medicine, has become well known for its ability to help dementia patients. The theory is that this herb works to improve cognitive function by increasing circulation and stimulating blood flow to the brain. According to a 2015 review published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, gingko biloba extract may slow cognitive decline in patients who suffer from dementia or other neuropsychiatric symptoms.
We can’t talk about brain health and exclude turmeric…we just can’t. The active ingredient, curcumin, has been heavily studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, two factors that can improve brain health. A 2010 review noted that turmeric may have the potential to ward off Alzheimer’s disease by ridding the brain of beta-amyloid. The build-up of this protein fragment is commonly responsible for Alzheimer’s-related brain plaques.
Not only does it enhance roasted potatoes, but it may also improve memory. Recent studies found that the scent of rosemary essential oil may improve prospective memory in people over the age of 65. Prospective memory is the ability to remember upcoming tasks, e.g. an appointment, someone’s birthday, or a dinner party. Consuming dried or fresh rosemary has also been known to slow cognitive decline in people with dementia.