Posted on Aug 04, 2020, 6 p.m.
With all the things that are on your mind troubling you these days, it is understandable if you let some things slip such as brain health. However, it is important to remember that the rate of dementia is on the rise in America, and it’s most prevalent form being Alzheimer’s disease is now the 6th leading cause of death, to which there currently is no known cure.
While we don’t want to add to your list of worries that cause stress and keep you awake, it is important to keep brain health in mind during trying times, and there are easy little steps that you can take to help that can’t hurt, such as ever so slightly tweaking your diet to be more brain healthy.
Eating more plants is probably one of the easiest steps, and this includes herbs and spices. Research may still be in early stages but some experts suggest that the existing studies thus far indicate that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of certain plants can positively affect brain health.
Polyphenols are plant based compounds that are effective antioxidants, and when it comes to the brain oxidation is not a good thing at all when it creates damaging free radicals that can mess around with cellular functioning. After it was discovered that certain anti-inflammatory drugs can help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in older populations researchers became very interested in other more safer and natural ways to exert those effects via plants to avoid the side effects that most drugs tend to have.
According to research in addition to looking to the garden for fruits and vegetables, you can also look there for herbs and spices with respect to brain health, some of which you can even curate in a small container garden for those tight on space.
Epidemiological evidence shows that the rate of Alzheimer’s disease is lower in some parts of the world, such as India. One popular hypothesis is that spicy foods contribute to the decreased risk, particularly curry which is made from curcumin, and curcumin comes from the spice turmeric.
A double blind study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychology put this hypothesis to the test, findings showed that curcumin did have a significant effect on memory and attention in adults aged 50-90 with mild memory complaints. Over a period of 18 months memory was observed to improve by 28% in this population, along with mild improvements in mood. The exact mechanism by which the effects happen is not known, but it may have something to do with curcumin’s anti-inflammatory benefits.
According to neuroscientist Nan Wise, PhD, the curcumin in turmeric has been shown to make Docosahexaenoic acid more available in the brain; DHA is a form of omega-3 fatty acid that is critical for maintaining brain health in which decreases are associated with cognitive decline and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Higher levels of DHA are associated with lowered anxiety and other mental health benefits.
The extremely delicious but rather costly saffron spice has been used medically dating back to at least the 7th century, and modern day science is showing it to have neuroprotective benefits. One study showed that high doses of 15 milligrams helped to significantly improve cognitive function compared to placebo, but the effects disappeared after 22 weeks. Another study found that saffron was comparable in efficacy to Alzheimer’s drugs, and after one year of use another study found that it helped to protect mice from neurotoxins.
Rosemary is a popular herb, and it may be one of the best for brain health. This fragrant spice has been shown to help improve the memory of older adults, and it has been shown to inhibit brain cell death while protecting against neurodegenerative diseases among other benefits which is likely due to it’s potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Sage has been used traditionally for its brain health benefits, and modern science is showing that there is wisdom in the sage approach. This herb has been shown to help improve learning and cognition in older adults with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally some research has noted improved memory in healthy individuals as well.
Extracts made from cinnamon have been long used to help improve circulation, to potentially help with regulating blood sugar levels, and it was observed to help protect rats from cognitive impairment. Some experts believe that cinnamon extracts may also have neuroprotective benefits for those with Parkinson’s disease.
Ginger has been studied frequently as such it boasts numerous health benefits, like being great for digestion and fighting inflammation, and it has specifically been demonstrated to be useful in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Although not studied highly some research suggests that a nutrient found within nutmeg may help to improve cognition and memory. Nutmeg stimulates the nerves in the brain, and it was commonly used during Greek and Roman ancient times. Even today it is said to be an aphrodisiac in certain circles, and it is known to be helpful in treating depression and anxiety as its essential oil tends to ease fatigue and stress.
Perhaps one of the most common spices with good reason not to be overlooked is ordinary black pepper which may have a few antioxidant brain boosting effects such as it has been shown to help improve memory deficit and fight inflammation. Research suggests that the primary component piperine may help to improve brain function and lower the symptoms of depression.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement