The health benefits of a plant-based diet are well-known and scientific research now shows that plants have a positive effect on the mind too. Many leaves, roots and berries contain ingredients that boost cognitive skills and alleviate common problems like stress, fatigue and mood swings - without the side effects of conventional drugs.
Taking plants for health is not new; it's just that we're starting to understand more about it. As early as the first century Hippocrates said, "Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food" and in 1906 Okakura Kakuzo wrote in The Book of Tea "tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage." Our experts in herbal medicine and neuroscience recommend the following plants to boost your cognitive function and alleviate stress:
Plants That Boost Cognitive Function
For many of us, we are looking for ways to boost concentration, attention, comprehension and memory. Students will take just about anything (healthy or not) to stay away and study longer. People reaching middle begin to notice that don’t remember events and facts quite as well as they use to and are looking for ways to boost their memory and protect their brain. Retaining information and experience is a vital part of our identity and the good news is there are plants that can help with this. Most cognitive boosters involve the brain’s memory and attention signal – acetylcholine. Vital to learning and awareness, this stimulator neurotransmitter helps us to maintain attention, think clearly and remember. Unfortunately, Acetylcholine decreased with age so it is important that our diet include plants that boost and hold this memory signal in the brain. The following science backed plants have been shown to make a meaningful difference in cognitive function: sage, peppermint, rosemary, ginkgo biloba, bacopa, clubmoss (huperzine), gotu kola, ashwagandha, turmeric, walnuts and wild blueberries (flavonoids).
Plants That Promote Calm & Alleviate Stress
We're all familiar with the idea that plants provide our bodies with nutrition but less well known is the fact that many plants also contain chemicals that reach our brain cells and affect different pathways linked to being calm, sleeping well, and feeling positive. They do this by increasing or reducing neuron activity, more specifically mimicking, boosting, or blocking transmitter signals between brain cells. Calming plants often influence a brain signal called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA prevents brain cells from firing too often and is essentially the brain’s main calming signal. Well researched plants that have a calming effect include ashwagandha, gotu kola, kava-kava and holy basil. Edible fruits such as passion flower, bitter orange and bergamot also have been providing calming benefits for hundreds of years.
Also key to maintaining brain health and cognition are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant ingredients that many plants manufacture for their own survival. The good news is you get these added benefits when you start including more plants into your diet and supplement routine.
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