Support brain health and improve cognitive function with these herbs and spices

Here are some of the herbs and spices that have been scientifically found to support brain health and improve cognitive function.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

The ashwagandha extract used in a clinical study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has been shown to improve executive functioning (decision-making), flexibility, psychomotor speed, reaction time, stress response and visual memory when administered for 30 days at doses of 225 or 400mg.

A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology identified neuroprotective phytoconstituents of ashwagandha with key pharmacological effects in brain disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, bipolar disorders, depression, dyslexia, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)

A study published in the journal Current Alzheimer Research showed that cinnamon potentially has neuroprotective effects against diseases, including Alzheimer’s. A compound in cinnamon known as cinnamaldehyde has been shown to inhibit the build-up of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain – a key sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers who conducted a meta-analysis of 40 studies published in the journal Nutritional Science found that cinnamon significantly improved cognitive function described as learning and memory retention. (Related: Cinnamon beats Alzheimer’s.)

Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)

A study published in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that 750mg and 1,000mg of gotu kola extract per day for six weeks was effective in improving cognitive impairment after stroke.


Researchers reported that gotu kola provided neuroprotection by different modes of action, such as enzyme inhibition, prevention of amyloid plaque formation in Alzheimer’s disease, dopamine neurotoxicity in Parkinson’s disease and reducing oxidative stress. Because of these findings, the study suggested Centella asiatica to be a desired phytopharmaceutical with a neuroprotective effect that emerged from traditional medicine. (Related: Gotu kola is one of the most useful plant remedies found in Ayurvedic medicine.)

Nutmeg (Myristica fragans)

A study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology found that a nutmeg relative, known as black wild nutmeg (Knema laurina, in the family Myristicaceae), offers benefits for the brain and the nervous system. In the tissue-culture study of brain cells, nutmeg extract showed robust anti-inflammatory and protective effects. Moreover, nutmeg promoted the growth of brain tissue following a period of low oxygen and glucose. Researchers concluded that black wild nutmeg has the potential for use as a natural treatment in stroke rehabilitation.

Saffron (Crocus sativus)

A study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology established the protective effects of saffron extract and its active constituent crocin against oxidative stress and spatial learning, as well as memory deficits induced by chronic stress in rats.

A study published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences showed that safranal, an organic compound isolated from saffron, may help improve your learning ability, memory retention and mood, as well as protect your brain cells against oxidative stress.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage can help support your brain and memory in several ways. It appears to halt the breakdown of the chemical acetylcholine, which has a role in memory – levels of which appear to fall in Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior.

In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 39 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease consumed either 60 drops of a sage extract supplement or a placebo daily for four months. Those taking the sage extract performed better on tests that measured memory, problem-solving, reasoning and other cognitive abilities.

In a study published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, sage was shown to improve memory in low doses in healthy adults. Higher doses also elevated mood and increased alertness, calmness and contentedness.

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Watch the following video to learn more about Bacopa monnieri, also known as Brahmi, an effective and powerful herb helpful for memory and combating stress.

This video is from the East West Herbal Apothecary channel on

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