By Jennifer O’Brien, Certified Herbalist
The increasing prevalence of various types of neurodegenerative diseases may have much to do with our modern, industrialized way of life and the many environmental toxin exposures it presents. The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in particular is up to seven times higher in some industrialized countries compared to non-industrialized countries. Research shows that following certain lifestyle guidelines and the well-guided use of specific herbs can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Get Regular Exercise
There is a well-established link between a lack of physical activity and increased risk for developing some form of dementia. Recommended exercises are:
- Brisk walking for 30 minutes, 5 days per week
- Burst exercise like sprints or climbing stairs for 20 minutes 3x/week
- Push-ups done in proper form
Eat A Nutrient-Dense, Clean, Organic Diet
It is key to eat a diet high in fresh organic vegetables, seasonal fruits, fiber, and healthy fats like grass-fed butter or ghee, clean rendered animal fats, coconut oil, and unheated olive oil. Adequate intake of high-quality pastured meats and cold-water fish is a cornerstone of a nutrient dense diet. It’s important to explore the possibility of food sensitivities (which are on the rise). It’s possible that peptides from foods that we are sensitive to play a part in the make-up of beta-amyloid (BA) plaque, which builds up in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Reduce Chronic Stress
Research shows that long-term elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol
can actually cause atrophy to areas of the brain involved in memory and recall. So relax, drink some tea, take a walk, and get adequate sleep.
Herbs of Interest
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) – Standardized extracts improve circulation to the brain while helping to protect it from BA plaque build-up. Studies indicate that Ginkgo stabilizes cognitive function in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)- Ashwagandha can protect nerve cells from accumulating BA plaque, improve memory, and increase healthy branching of nerve cells in the hippocampus (an area of the brain damaged by chronic stress).
Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)- This ground-cover plant is often eaten as a food or even blended with citrus and honey for a cold drink throughout Southeast Asia and India. Gotu Kola supports connective tissue, is wound-healing, acts as a cerebrospinal circulatory stimulant, and is a traditional brain tonic.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)- A potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Turmeric can powerfully lower systemic inflammation, inhibit the formation of BA plaque and help the body’s clearance of this toxic peptide. A powerful combination is Turmeric + Vitamin D + Fish oil. Turmeric is best absorbed when taken in combination with Black Pepper, which contains a constituent that enhances its absorption. Traditionally, this herb was heated in oil (e.g., in curry sauce), or taken as a honey-paste. Standardized extracts and CO2 concentrates are good convenience forms.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)- This historical memory-enhancing culinary herb is aromatic, antioxidant, and relaxing at the same time. It is a cerebral circulatory stimulant as well as being a premier liver relaxant herb.
Compiled by Jennifer O’Brien
- Nutritional Medicine By Alan Gaby MD
- The Brain Diet By Dr. Mijid Fotuhi
- Herbs for Memory: Maintain Your Brain By Dr. Linda White