01 Sep Top 4 Natural Memory Boosters
4 Natural memory boosters
There are several “sub-species” of sage. The most common are Salvia miltiorriza, a form used in many Chinese medicines, Salvia officinalis, most commonly used in the West for medicinal and culinary uses, and Salvia lavandulaefolia, or Spanish sage (Salvia divinorum is another sub-species of sage found useful by shamans, but not researched as a memory-preserver or Alzheimer’s preventer.)
The more common forms of sage listed above are frequently used to treat digestive disturbances, relieve colds and fevers, and as antibacterials and astringents. They can be used to relieve hot flashes in menopause, to reduce heavy menstrual bleeding, and to slow milk production during weaning. Salvia officinalis and Salvia avendulaefolia have long had a reputation as memory boosters and have exhibited some actions that may be useful in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies are being conducted to determine just how useful they are and what elements of the plants are responsible for their Alzheimer’s fighting effects. In one example, Salvia lavandaefolia has been shown to inhibit acetylcholinesterase—the enzyme that breaks down the major neurotransmitter acetylcholine—both outside of living organisms (in a test tube or culture dish), as well as within living organisms (“in vitro” and “in vivo”).
This is important to Alzheimer’s research because inhibiting acetylcholinesterase is a major target of many patent medicine therapies used in the treatment of the disease. It’s not yet known what components of sage are responsible for this effect. It may be the essential oils and some of its monoterpinoid constituents.
Side-note: Sage’s benefits don’t end with Alzheimer’s prevention. Elements of sage have also been found to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and estrogenic abilities (alpha-and beta-pinene, 1,8cineole, thu-one and geraniol.)
But anyone who studies how Nature works might expect, in contrast to patent medicines, a study assessing the actions of these monoterpinoid constituents found that no one element of the sage is more potent and that all of them may be working together to achieve the anti-cholinesterase effects in the brain. Essentially these various elements may be working synergistically to create a memory boosting effect. Spanish sage has also been found to calm the central nervous system, and may be helpful to Alzheimer’s patients experiencing the agitation and mood disorders so common to the disease
In one animal study, oral doses of essential oil from Spanish sage were found to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (the major enzyme which breaks down the major neurotransmitter) in two areas of the brain that are important to memory formation and cognitive function, functions which decline dramatically in Alzheimer’s disease. These areas are called the striatal and hippocamal areas. This essential oil also improved cognition in a human trial involving healthy volunteers. In another open label trial in patients who already had Alzheimer’s disease, improvement in attention span and reduction in neuropsychiatric symptoms were observed.
In another research project, this one a four month placebo-controlled trial, 42 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease were given specific doses of Salvia officinalis extract (60 drops a day) over the course of 16 weeks and assessed for symptom relief. In those given the sage extract, a definite improvement was observed in cognitive function when compared to the group not receiving the herb. In addition, there appeared to be a reduction in agitation (a common symptom of Alzheimer’s) experienced by the patients taking the Salvia oil. When the active ingredients of leaves of Salvia officinalis were studied in rat cells (PC12 cells), toxicity from amyloid-beta peptide—one of the materials that accumulates to excess in the neurons of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease—was reduced. Many other types of neuronal damage were reduced too. These included lipid peroxidation, formation of reactive oxygen species, DNA fragmentation, caspace-4 activation, and tau protein hyperphosphorylation, all of which may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
This data suggests that sage is likely neuroprotective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. In yet another study of sage’s effects on cognitive performance, study volunteers over the age of 65 received extract of sage at one of four doses—167 milligrams, 333 milligrams, 666 milligrams, and 1332 milligrams, or a placebo—and then were assessed for response. The 333 milligrams dose showed the greatest benefit to thinking (“cognitive processing skills”) and recollection (“memory consolidation”), as compared to recall (“the ability to find stored memories”). Attention accuracy was also improved.
Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis, is a memory-improving food that you might commonly find in the kitchen. Traditionally, the herb has been used as a mild diuretic for edema, to improve kidney function, and as a detoxifier. However, research shows that it may also be useful in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
One active ingredient in rosemary is carnosic acid, which, like sage, may have neuroprotective benefits in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies suggest that the rosemary activates a pathway that protects neurons from oxidative stress and excitotoxicity (toxins which cause harm by significant overstimulation), and reduces damage from reactive oxygen species.
Unlike many other plant constituents and patent medicines, carnosic acid crosses the “blood-brain barrier.” No harmful effects in the brain have been found. It also has the interesting property of being what is called a Pathological-Activated Therapeutic or “PAT.” This type of naturally occurring therapeutic only activates when there is potential damage to the cell, such as when free radical damage is occurring. Otherwise, it is inactive when not needed, making it a very safe and well tolerated therapy. As one of the first substances recognized for this unique ability to activate only when needed, it is on the leading edge of therapies that are safer and with fewer side effects.
Carnosic acid does two other things of significance for the brain. As we age the arteries to our brains narrow and carnosic acid helps prevent this, particularly in the left and right middle cerebral arteries. It also increases the body’s levels of glutathione, which is an important antioxidant and detoxifier in many metabolic processes.
Rosemary has a reputation as a memory booster. Researchers are looking at it for its benefits in preventing cognitive decline. In one short-term randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study using dried rosemary leaf powder, 28 volunteers were assessed for the herbs impact on cognitive function. Study participants were given doses ranging from 750 to 6000 milligrams daily and assessed at regular intervals after receiving the herb. The most effective dose was 750 milligrams daily, closest to what a culinary intake might be, whereas the highest dose seemed to actually impair cognitive performance. The aroma of rosemary’s essential oil alone may be effective in improving mental function. When 20 healthy volunteers were exposed to the aroma of rosemary’s essential oil containing 1,8-cineole, they performed better and with more speed and increased concentration on cognitive testing.