We all slow down as we grow older, but it’s not necessary to accept memory loss as inevitable. We can keep involved with activities and games that stimulate brain activity. And we can eat “brain foods” and use herbal supplements which help with clear thinking and memory.
Ginkgo biloba has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and has received a lot of attention in the medical community as well as in the popular press in recent years. But just how does it work? Over fifty scientific studies concluded that ginkgo stimulates blood circulation, helping the blood to clean out toxins and free radicals, and improving the flow of oxygen to the brain. But its benefits don’t end there.
Many people who suffer dementia as they grow older do not have Alzheimer’s disease. They have arteriosclerosis — what used to be called “hardening of the arteries” or what we would think of today as plaque buildup and oxidation. Ginkgo helps to keep blood vessels clear and elastic. It contains elements that protect nerve cells and inhibit blood clotting and plaque.
Depression can also affect memory, and some people are starting to take ginkgo to relieve depression, similar to St. John’s Wort.
Naturopaths may advise you to buy ginkgo leaves in bulk and brew it as tea rather than taking pills or capsules. It usually takes about three months of regular use to notice effects.
Like ginkgo, many claims are made for green tea, some of them rather improbable. But researchers are looking into the properties of green tea as a memory improver.
The chemistry of green tea includes several antioxidants — free radical scavengers which prevent deterioration of nerve and brain cells. It significantly inhibits the activity of enzymes such as cholinesterase that destroy neurotransmitters. Thus, green tea could be effective in treating not just ordinary memory loss, but the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
Green tea is ordinary tea which has not been fermented. Everyday black tea has the same elements, but green tea’s effects last up to a week longer.
Green tea is a shrub that does well in a container garden and has beautiful white flowers. Buy seeds on line or at a nursery or natural grocery. The plant will need to grow for about three years before using the leaves.
“Rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”
Shakespeare did not make that up. Rosemary was known to the ancients not just as a symbol of memory, faithfulness and inspiration, but as a medicine for “brain weakness”. In medieval days healers advised cooking it in water or wine and breathing the steam. This is no mere superstition — the very scent of rosemary is not only uplifting but memory enhancing! A study by cognitive neuroscientists in England found that the essential oils of this beloved plant had actual, measurable effects on both mood and memory.
The active ingredient in rosemary is carnosic acid, a powerful antioxidant which may also stimulate nerve growth. If it does, it might be useful as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s fairly easy to grow your own rosemary from cuttings. It needs a well-draining sandy soil and full sunlight. Ask your local nursery or garden store for details.
Drink blueberry juice! Preliminary studies published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry show that older adults who drank a cup of blueberry juice daily showed improved memory and ability to concentrate. Blueberries are full of antioxidants which protect neurons and stabilize cells. They also have polyphenols, especially those called anthocyanins, which improve the brain’s ability to send and receive information. Besides helping memory, these chemicals help with balance and coordination.
If you want to try blueberries, drink a cup or two of juice an hour before breakfast as milk reduces their effectiveness. Eat blueberries as a snack throughout the day.
You can grow your own blueberry bushes if you have a spot with full sun and moist acidic soil.
Consult a naturopathic physician on how much of these herbs and foods you should take. The recommended daily dose may be too little or too much for you. Remember that you have to keep using these things consistently for up to three or four months before you notice any real changes.
These really can be the golden years. Make the most of them by respecting the changing needs of your mind and body.