The brain is one of the most important organs in the body. It governs our motor skills, regulates the body’s hormones, controls our thoughts, memories, and emotions, and is involved in virtually every process of the body.
Taking good care of our brain health with our diet and lifestyle allows us to function at our best and keeps our brain healthy into our later years. There are many ways to support brain health—diet, exercise, and good-quality sleep, to name a few. However, one of the best ways to enhance cognitive performance is by supplementing with specific herbs for brain health.
In this article, we will discuss some of the best herbs for brain health.
What Are the Best Herbs for Brain Function?
There are many great herbs for brain health. Some of the top brain health herbs include:
1. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is a tree native to China and is one of the oldest living tree species in the world. The leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Today, ginkgo biloba is commonly used for heart health, brain health, and various brain and nervous system conditions.
Ginkgo biloba is one of the best herbs for brain health because it has been shown to increase blood circulation to the brain. (1) Increased circulation gives the brain more oxygen and nutrients to improve cognitive function. This is why ginkgo is also considered one of the best herbs for focusing. Studies on ginkgo biloba have also found that it increased mental performance and perceived sense of well-being in participants.
Ginkgo biloba appears to be especially beneficial for people suffering from certain neurodegenerative diseases. This is because the leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree are rich in antioxidants that help fight free radical build-up in the brain, a significant contributing factor to various cognitive illnesses. (2)
2. Water Hyssop
Water hyssop (Bacopa monnieri), sometimes referred to simply as “bacopa,” is a very popular herb for brain health. It has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine as an herb to improve brain health and concentration. It was especially popular among ancient meditators as a remedy for improving the quality of their meditations. In fact, the traditional name for this plant is “brahmi,” derived from the word “brahma,” the Hindu name for the god of creation. This shows the great esteem the ancient people of India held for this herb.
Modern research on water hyssop shows that it contains compounds called bacosides, which have been shown to neutralize free radicals and prevent a process called lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, is “one of the major sources of free radical-mediated injury that directly damages neuronal membranes.” (3)
This makes water hyssop an excellent herb for protecting the brain from one of the major causes of neuronal damage. It is also considered one of the best herbs for brain cell regeneration. The bacosides in water hyssop have also been shown to enhance brain function and the ability to retain information. (4)
3. Gotu Kola
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is another important herb for brain health that comes from the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. Interestingly, this herb was also referred to as “brahmi,” and scholars often debate over which herb the ancient Ayurvedic physicians attributed this name to. Nevertheless, both gotu kola and water hyssop share similar properties for supporting the brain and nervous system.
Studies on gotu kola have found that it may improve mood and memory, protect the brain from toxins and free radical damage, and preserve mental sharpness. (5) Gotu kola is another one of the top herbs for focusing and has also been considered helpful for certain mood disorders like stress, anxiety and insomnia.
According to one study, “gotu kola has been reported to have a comprehensive neuroprotection by different modes of action such as enzyme inhibition, and prevention of amyloid plaque formation.” (5)
4. Chinese Ginseng
Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a very popular herb with many uses. One of the important uses of Chinese ginseng is to support brain health and cognitive performance. It is considered one of the top natural herbs for focus and concentration. Several test-tube and animal studies show that components in ginseng, like ginsenosides and compound K, could protect the brain against damage caused by free radicals. (6)
Ginseng is also widely known for its ability to enhance blood circulation, which may also allow the brain to receive more oxygenated blood, potentially enhancing brain performance. (7)
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian ginseng, is a potent herb with many health benefits. It is a popular adaptogen, meaning it helps the body better adapt to stress. It does this by delaying the stress response, allowing the body and brain to experience more clarity and ease during times of stress. (8)
Studies on ashwagandha have also found that it helps reduce the formation of amyloid in the brain and brain cells and reduces the toxic impact of existing amyloid, protecting brain cells from injury and inflammation. (9)
Beta-amyloid is a protein that forms sticky plaques in the brain and can cause brain cells to die. It is a major contributing factor to various neurodegenerative diseases. Since ashwagandha may help reduce amyloid build-up, it may be very useful for protecting brain health, especially as we age.
6. Schizandra Berry
Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis) is a very popular herbal medicine in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is used for a wide variety of ailments and is known to be particularly beneficial for brain health and mood. The berries of the schizandra plant are used medicinally and are rich in antioxidants and beneficial compounds.
Studies on schizandra have found that it has neuroprotective effects and may enhance memory and focus, improve attention and speed of thinking, and act as an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor. (10) An acetylcholine esterase inhibitor is a chemical that binds to the enzyme cholinesterase and prevents it from breaking down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Acetylcholine plays an important role in cognitive function, working memory, attention, episodic memory, and spatial memory function. (11)
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is another beneficial herb for brain and nervous system health. One of the primary uses of skullcap is as a relaxant herb, helping to soothe the nervous system and ease symptoms of anxiety and nervous tension. It also helps to protect against various neurological disorders.
Studies on skullcap show that it positively impacts mood and reduces anxiety by stimulating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps to calm nerves. (12) Baicalin, a flavonoid antioxidant in skullcap, may also help reduce oxidative damage to brain cells caused by free radicals.
Zuma Nutrition’s Brain Flow Tonic
Our Ginkgo Biloba Brain Flow tonic is a natural supplement that combines these beneficial herbs for brain health, using ginkgo biloba as the primary ingredient. Together, these herbs work synergistically to support brain health and cognitive performance.
The high-quality active ingredient extracts in this formula are completely water soluble, so they’re absorbed immediately in the bloodstream and not in the digestive tract. All of the herbs are also exclusively harvested when they are at their peak level of potency. This ensures that the active ingredients are as strong and effective as possible. Plus, they are 100% sustainable and wildcrafted, which means no pesticides, preservatives, chemical fillers, or genetically modified ingredients.
The brain is one of the most important organs in the body, governing all our organs, organ systems, and biological processes. Taking good care of your brain health is important, especially as you get older. One of the best ways to support brain health is with specific natural herbs.
The herbs mentioned in this article are among the top herbs for brain health in the world. With all herbal supplements, however, it is important to ensure you get them from a quality source and avoid purchasing any supplements that may have poor-quality herbs or may be contaminated with harmful chemicals.
Additionally, some herbs may interact with certain medications, so be sure to consult your doctor before using any herbal supplements to make sure that they are a good choice for you.