Herbs To Save Your Brain
Information has never been easier to come by, but life in our increasingly digital world is working against our brains.
By now we all know that late-night texting and midnight Netflix marathons make it harder for us to fall asleep (the bright blue LED lights emitted by our screens suppress melatonin, the hormone that tells us it’s time to go to bed), but what about the effects beyond a groggy morning after?
BROKEN BODY CLOCK
Staying up late disrupts our Circadian rhythm, an imbalance that has been linked to cancer, obesity, depression, and diabetes and has a negative impact on all the inner workings of our bodies, from digestion to cell repair.
Phones aren’t the only culprit. Over the past few years scientists have identified a dozen neurotoxins present in our food and environment, from common agricultural pesticides to ingredients in toothpaste, paint, and metal soda cans, that can destroy brain cells and threaten our overall health.
Inflammation, stress, and imbalance in the brain cause neurons to fire more slowly, slowing down mental recall, dulling our reflexes, and reducing our mental capacity. An inflamed brain leads to a profound shift in our psyche, causing a biological imbalance in our perception, awareness, and state of mind.
Having a sluggish neurological system inhibits our ability to produce cellular energy, meaning that we fatigue easily and lose our ability to focus for long periods of time. No wonder the average attention span is about 10 seconds.
NATURAL BRAIN BOOSTERS
Thankfully nature has provided us with an abundant set of herbs and nutrient-dense brain foods. We can use these to find focus and counteract the effects of artificial light, synthetic materials, and insidious neurotoxins.
Integrate healthy fats, brain foods and brain herbs into your daily ritual. Some of my absolute favorites herbs are:
LIONS MANE (Hericium erinaceus)
Benefits: Has an extraordinary capacity to stimulate the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), the primary protein nutrient responsible for enhancing and repairing neurological disorders. NGF literally rebuilds the nerve network in the brain and the body from the inside out. [1,2]
GOTUKOLA (Centella asiatica)
Benefits: Revered by yogis for thousands of years as an essential longevity staple, Gotu kola has been shown in animal and human studies to increase brain cell dendrite outgrowth, which has been correlated with increased intelligence and psychic ability. Extracts of the plant have also been shown to repair damaged neurons and promote growth of neural networks. [3,4]
Bulletproofing, the practice of adding healthy fats to your morning or afternoon caffeine fix, is an excellent way to get your brain juices flowing. Adding essential fats into your coffee, tea, or matcha prevents a terrible adrenal crash and the shakes, helping you feel uplifted instead of fatigued.
BULLETPROOF MORNING MATCHA RECIPE
- 1/2tsp lions mane powder
- 1/2tsp gotu kola powder (or Brahmi powder)
- 1tsp raw coconut oil (or ghee)
- 1tsp matcha powder*
- 2.5 cups hot water
- plant based milk (coconut, almond, hemp, etc.)
- your choice of low glycemic sugar (stevia or coconut sugar)
Instead of using powders, add 1/2tsp of Brain Tonic extract for a potent dose of brain herbs.
*For those that do not want caffeine, substitute the matcha for a non-caffeinated chai.
Directions: Heat your water until just before it boils. Add the matcha and whisk until no powdery clumps remain. In a blender combine the green tea with the butter and coconut oil. Place a towel over the top of the blender (in case any hot liquid seeps out) and blend for 30-45 seconds on high. The butter and oil will dissolve and the high speed will incorporate some air, giving you a little foam on top (like a latte). Serve hot.
Photo: Lee Tilghman @leefromamerica
 Lai PL, Naidu M, Sabaratnam V, et al. Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2013;15(6):539-54.
 Kawagishi, H, et al “The Inducer of the Synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor from Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceum)” Explore! Vol. 11, No. 4, 2002.
 Soumyanath A, Zhong YP, Gold SA, Yu X, Koop DR, Bourdette D, Gold BG. Centella asiatica accelerates nerve regeneration upon oral administration and contains multiple fractions increasing neurite elongation in-vitro. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2005 Sept;57(9): 1221-9.
 M.V.R. Appa Rao, et. al, The Effect of Mandookaparni (Centella Asiatica) on the General Mental Ability (Medhya) of Mentally Retarded Children, Journal of Indian Medicine (August 25, 1973), p.9-12.
About the author:
- Indigenous Medicine & Culture,
- Nature Conservation,