If you’ve got a lot on your plate and need help concentrating, it’s good to know that herbs may be able to help. Here are a few of our favourites for supporting mental functions such as concentration, learning and memory.
The Ayurvedic medicine bacopa (also known as brahmi) has traditionally been taken to aid concentration, boost learning capacity and address anxiety. Research suggests that bacopa’s long-held reputation as a brain tonic is warranted and that it may be particularly beneficial for people looking to boost their capacity to retain newly learned information.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can take bacopa for a few days while cramming for your exams and expect to go straight to the top of the class. In clinical research, it has taken up to 12 weeks for the herb to cause improvements in learning, memory and information processing.
Korean ginseng belongs to a class of herbal medicines referred to as adaptogens, which are believed to enhance the body’s capacity to perform under conditions of mental, physical or emotional stress. A number of clinical trials support Korean ginseng’s ability to boost mental performance in healthy people, showing improvements in cognitive functions such as concentration and attention, mental accuracy, and some aspects of memory.
As an added benefit, Korean ginseng may also help to improve energy levels and endurance. If you’d like to experience the effects of Korean ginseng for yourself, a suitable dose for most people is 500 mg, taken once or twice daily.
Although Ginkgo biloba is best known as a brain and circulation tonic for the elderly, some studies suggest that it may also act as a memory tonic in people in younger age groups. For example, a six-week randomised, placebo-controlled clinical study measured the impact of taking either ginkgo or a placebo on the memory functions of middle-aged people. This study, which involved 188 healthy people aged 45-56 years old, found that taking ginkgo for six weeks led to improvements in complex memory functions such as recalling lists of appointments.
Ginkgo is believed to work by enhancing blood flow to the brain. Its documented antioxidant properties may also contribute to its actions.
Some herbal medicines can affect the way that certain prescription drugs work, so if you’re taking any prescribed medication, please seek advice from your healthcare professional before commencing supplementation.