Building a Better Brain

These natural remedies may help
you keep your mental edge


January 2016

Ask someone on the far side of 50 about “senior moments” and often you’ll get a laugh. But for many people there’s a nervous edge behind that playful acknowledgment: In one survey, 57% of Americans reported diminished brain function as their biggest age-related concern, compared with 43% who worried about declining physical capacity.

That fear is well-founded. According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Association, that particular form of dementia affects 15% of people between the ages of 65 and 74, a number that goes up to 44% for those between 74 and 85.

Better brain health rests on a base of overall well-being including healthy diet, exercise, sleep and stress relief habits. In addition, a number of herbs and other natural therapeutic agents have shown themselves useful in improving various aspects of brain function, such as by boosting the activity of neurotransmitters, which carry signals between nerve cells, and improving circulation, which brings more oxygen and nutrients to hard-working brain cells.

 

Name What It Is What It Does
Ashwagandha* Withania somnifera, a small shrub found in Africa, India and the Mediterranean; also known as winter cherry Acts as an adaptogen, or stress fighter; helps ease anxiety and depression; has demonstrated
neuroprotective effects in studies on both cognition and motor skills.
B Vitamins
A class of water-soluble nutrients found in a wide variety of foods B1 (thiamin) and B6 (pyridoxine) are needed for neurotransmitter production; B6, folate and B12
(cobalamin) help reduce homocysteine, a substance linked to brain and cardiovascular dysfunction
Coenzyme Q10
A substance found in most of the body’s cells; also known as ubiquinol; meat and fish are among the richest sources Crucial for energy production in all cells, including brain cells; being investigated as a possible
therapy in Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders
DMAE
Dimethylaminoethanol, a substance produced in the brain; found in fish such as anchovies, salmon and sardines Helps increase levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter crucial for improved focus and muscle control; studies suggest it may help reduce memory deficits
Ginkgo* Ginkgo biloba, the oldest living species of tree; often
planted as a long-lived, pollution-resistant street tree
A potent antioxidant that promotes better blood flow within the brain; extracts have reduced
cognitive decline in studies
Huperzine-A* An extract taken from a species of club moss, Huperzia serrata, native to India and southeast Asia Helps boost levels of acetylcholine in the brain; according to one meta-analysis, huperzine-A “could significantly improve cognitive performance” in Alzheimer’s patients
Omega-3 A class of essential fatty acids that includes EPA and DHA, found in fatty fish and small crustaceans called krill Omega-3s fight inflammation and are required for healthy cell membranes; DHA is particularly crucial for proper brain function; low omega-3 levels have been linked to vascular dementia and depression
Phosphatidylcholine* One of a class of specialized fat molecules known as
phospholipids; derived from a nutrient called choline
Required for healthy cell membranes and proper nerve impulse transmission; has been linked to enhanced cognition and memory
Phosphatidylserine* Derived from phosphatidycholine; accounts for about 15% of the phospholipids in the brain’s cerebral cortex Promotes proper binding between neurotransmitters and cell membranes; teams up with the omega-3 DHA to keep brain cells healthy; supplements have improved cognition in test animals
Rhodiola* Rhodiola rosea, an herb native to Arctic and mountainous regions of Asia and Europe Helps the body adapt to physical and mental stress; has shown neuroprotective effects; study
volunteers who took rhodiola have shown improved memory and concentration
Synaptose* A formulation of amino acids, rhodiola, passion flower,
B vitamins, chromium and metallosaccharide complexA formulation of amino acids, rhodiola, passion flower,
B vitamins, chromium and metallosaccharide complex
Designed to reduce cravings by producing a rewarding sense of contentment and satisfaction; has been used by people with addiction problems and those looking to lose weight
Vinpocetine* An extract taken from the lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor), a flowering plant used by landscapers as groundcover Protects brain cells from the effects of ischemia, or insufficient blood flow, making it potentially useful after strokes; has helped seniors with cognitive dysfunction in studies

*Generally available in supplement form only in the US.

NOTE: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner for help in designing a
supplementation program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

 

Additional Brain Aids

Name What It Is What It Does

Bilberry

Vaccinium myrtillus, a blueberry relative native to northern Europe

A potent antioxidant that has supported proper gene function and shown anticancer properties in studies; its ability to promote healthy circulation while fighting inflammation is believed to underlay its neuroprotective abilities

Eleuthero

Eleutherococcus senticosus, a shrubby plant native to the northern Far East

Acts as an adaptogen, a therapeutic agent that helps fight stress and fatigue; has regenerated nerve cells in a lab model of the damage done by Alzheimer’s disease

 

 

 

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