The general health benefits of a plant-based diet are well-documented but did you know that scientific research now shows that plants can have beneficial effects on your brain function? 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 be 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. College-age students and young professionals these days will take just about anything (healthy or not) to stay away and study longer. Once you get into your 40s, many people 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 specific plants can help with this.
Most cognitive boosters target the brain’s memory and attention signal – acetylcholine. Vital to learning and awareness, acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) helps us to maintain attention, think clearly, and remember. Unfortunately, Acetylcholine decreases with age so it is important that our diet and supplement plan include ingredients that boost and hold this memory signal in the brain.
The following plants can make a meaningful difference in cognitive function:
- Clubmoss (huperzine)* — Slow-growing evergreen shown to boost acetylcholine, which positively impacts learning & mood.
- Ginkgo biloba* — Used for centuries to overcome fatigue and mental fog, Ginkgo when combined with Ginseng in the right ratios, has been clinically studied and shown to boost memory.
- Bacopa — Found in marshy subtropical regions, Bacopa supports memory, and mood signals (serotonin and dopamine) and provides neuroprotective benefits.
- Sage — A perennial woody shrub that enhances memory and alertness in adults.
- Peppermint — A perennial plant that helps improve alertness, working memory, and long-term memory.
- Rosemary — Studies show that rosemary enhances blood capillary flow resulting in beneficial effects for the brain and even hair regrowth.
- Walnuts — Consumption by adults improves cognitive test results including reaction time, learning, and reasoning skills.
- Wild Blueberries — A flowering shrub (also known as a flavonoid) shown to improve blood flow and vascular function in adults.
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.
A few of these well-researched plants that have a calming effect include:
- Ashwagandha* — The root of this small evergreen shrub is primarily recognized for its adaptogenic properties, meaning it naturally increases the body’s resistance to physical and emotional stress.
- Gotu Kola — Gotu kola is believed to have antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and memory-enhancing properties.
- Kava-Kava — Kava-Kava's active ingredients are called kavalactones. Studies have suggested it's potential effects on the body to include reduced anxiety, neuron protection, and reduction of pain sensations.
- Holy Basil — Sometimes called "hot basil" due to its peppery properties is believed to reduce anxiety, and stress.
Edible fruits also have been providing calming benefits for hundreds of years, such as:
- Passion Flower — A small amount of research suggests that passionflower might help to reduce anxiety, and support better sleep habits.
- Bitter Orange — Bitter orange has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for indigestion, nausea, and constipation. Some studies have shown positive results in reduced anxiety and mood balance.
- Bergamot — Bergamot comes from the Citrus bergamia plant. Some studies have shown benefits in balancing mood, and decreasing joint pain.
*These ingredients can be found in Procera supplement products.
Also, the 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.
Check out Procera’s full line of plant-based products that are specifically designed to boost your memory, sharpen your focus, increase your energy, stabilize your mood and improve your sleep.