Best Memory Enhancers

Aug 23, 2012 by

Best Memory EnhancersWe live in an era of quick fixes that demands the best of everything for improving our health, productivity and life satisfaction with a minimum of personal effort. Too often, people think of the best memory enhancers in terms of powerful, focus-enhancing pharmaceuticals meant to treat people suffering from ADD (attention deficit disorder) or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). However, for healthy people the best memory enhancers long-term are more likely to be a combination of brain-healthy habits and herbs with bonafide positive effects on memory and concentration.

The most surefire way to improve your memory lies in cultivating a healthy lifestyle, starting with five habits that will increase your recall ability, concentration and energy levels. First of all, get enough sleep: a restful sleep is the best memory enhancer, and a key part of good health besides! To ensure that you get a high quality of sleep, try to avoid caffeine and alcohol for the few hours before bed, as these substances can keep you awake and result in a lighter quality of sleep. So can going to bed hungry: hunger causes your body to produce adrenaline, which prevents you from falling into deep sleep. Create a bedroom environment conducive to restful sleep by blocking ambient light and noise from your room to make it as dark and quiet as possible. Alternatively, use a night-light or white noise machine if you sleep better with a bit of ambient stimulation. Using sleep-promoting herbs such as valerian, chamomile or passionflower can also be beneficial if you often have problems getting to sleep.

Effective memory-enhancing activities include maintaining an active social life and taking up new hobbies or skills. Especially as you age, keeping in touch with family and friends can reduce your risk of depression and contribute to your overall well-being; older adults who are socially isolated are at higher risk for memory problems and even primary dementia. Also, make an effort to learn new things! After we graduate from school, we don’t spend nearly as much time learning, and taking the time to do a puzzle, engage in a new sport or hobby, or learn a new game can greatly increase your brain’s flexibility and recall ability.

You can also enhance your memory by engaging in regular exercise and eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables. Plant foods, especially dark purple fruits, leafy greens, and orange vegetables like squash and yams, contain anti-oxidants that preserve cell structures against damage, not to mention essential compounds we need to function at our best, such as vitamins A, C, E and the B complex, and minerals like magnesium and calcium. You’ll also want to incorporate “good fats” into your diet—that is, primarily unsaturated fats and vegetable oils. Omega fatty acids, which are found in fish and also available in supplement form, may preserve brain structures and improve heart health.

Then there are the herbal memory enhancers or nootropics, which are defined as compounds that can enhance cognitive functions such as memory, reasoning ability, and concentration. Nootropics can work either directly—by increasing the availability of crucial neurotransmitters, increasing blood flow to the brain, or stimulating nerve growth—or indirectly by reducing mental stress and anxiety, improving mood, or increasing a person’s overall energy levels. Although many so-called “smart drugs” have been discussed in the media as the new tools of productivity, most of these pharmaceuticals work by increasing a user’s concentration and suppressing fatigue perception, rather than by actually enhancing their brain function. In contrast, many herbal nootropics do seem to enhance memory and cognition through direct effects, or indirectly by improving the body’s response to stress.

You’ve probably heard of Ginkgo biloba, an herb first used in Chinese medicine and later in commercial herbal supplements to improve memory. Rather than increasing the brain’s supply of neurotransmitters, ginkgo seems to work by increasing circulation of blood in the body, especially within small capillaries that ferry oxygenated blood around the brain.

Stress and anxiety also vastly impact your ability to concentrate and remember new information, so calming and anxiolytic herbs can be among the best memory enhancers for people suffering from stress overload. Anxiolytic herbs like rhodiola and kava kava can go a long way to helping you regain your ability to focus on the moment and gets things done while feeling much less overwhelmed. An adaptogenic herb such as Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) may also be a useful stress-buster: as an adaptogen, ashwaganda regulates your body’s response to stress, reducing high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and decreasing hypertension (high blood pressure).

Two herbs that seem to have direct effects on memory enhancement are brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) and celastrus seed (Celastrus paniculatus). Together, these herbs work synergistically to enhance the formation of memories and help you retain that information longer. Although its exact mechanism is unclear, celastrus seed has been shown to enhance memory formation by increasing the brain’s supply of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that facilitates memory and learning. When celastrus seed is taken in a tea, pill or herbal tincture such as Cognihance, it seems to inhibit acetylcholinesterase, the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. Other memory-enhancing cholinergics include galantamine (a compound derived from the red spider lily) and Huperzine A, an anti-oxidant found in Chinese club moss.

Brahmi, by itself or in concert with celastrus seed, can help preserve brain structures from oxidant damage and thus help you better retain new memories once they’ve formed. This Ayurvedic herb may also reduce and even prevent the formation of beta amyloid plaques that have been associated with developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

Finding the best memory enhancers doesn’t have to be about popping a pill. As you can see above, incorporating a few good habits and herbal helpers into your daily routine can make all the difference when it comes to remembering the things that matter!

Related Posts

Share This