You don’t have to spend a fortune on fancy supplements to enhance your brain power. Many common garden plants are proven to help keep your brain healthy and improve memory function. And the majority of these plants can be easily grown indoors in containers or outside in a garden plot.
Read on to find out some of the best choices to support your brain and memory.
Peppermint has an abundance of health benefits. When it comes to brain function, simply smelling the plant will give you a boost. One study asked participants to complete a cognitive function test in a room that had been infused with the scent of peppermint, versus a non-scented room. Those in the peppermint room had significantly enhanced memory function and increased alertness compared to those in the non-scented room.
How to Use: You can hang fresh or dry bouquets of peppermint around your home. A nice cup of steaming peppermint tea next to your work space may help keep you alert. Also, peppermint can make a delicious addition to salads, savory dishes and desserts.
Salvia officinalis, the regular culinary sage you would use in cooking, has been shown to be effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease and improving memory. In one study, Alzheimer’s patients who took daily supplements of sage extract had better cognitive function and appeared less agitated after four months on the extract. Also, both consuming sage and smelling sage have been shown to enhance memory function in healthy adults.
How to Use: Sage can be steeped into a tea and consumed daily. It also goes well in dishes such as risotto, fettuccini alfredo or pesto. To add the fragrance to a room, distribute bunches of fresh or dry sage.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been linked to a wide variety of health benefits. One study found that participants had significantly improved memory and attention within one hour after taking a curcumin supplement. Four weeks on the supplement enhanced their working memory, energy levels and calmness as well as lowered their stress levels.
How to Use: Turmeric can be eaten in many different ways. Check out these delicious recipes with turmeric, or try some other creative uses for turmeric.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has been used as a memory-enhancer for hundreds of years. More recently, studies have shown that rosemary increases alertness and improves long-term memory. An interesting 2013 study found that smelling rosemary increased your chances of remembering to do something.
How to Use: Add about one tablespoon (17 milliliters) of dried rosemary to one cup (250 milliliters) of boiling water and steep for ten minutes. Drink the infusion daily. Hang bunches of fresh or dried rosemary around your home to help you remember your daily “to-do list”.
Thyme is shown to increase antioxidant levels in the brain, as well as boost the level of healthy fats, such as omega-3 fats. Researchers believe these benefits may be due to the fact that thyme is very high in luteolin, which is a flavonoid shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Common garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and wild thyme (Thymus serphyllum) have both been shown to be medicinally active, although other common garden varieties likely have similar properties.
How to Use: Add thyme to any of your favorite dishes by itself, or mix it into za’atar. Thyme also goes well in herbal teas.
In ancient Greece, kale was a favorite vegetable used to help rheumatism, eye-sight and memory. In modern times, we now know that kale has one of the highest nutrient densities of most foods. Kale contains brain-supporting omega-3 fats. Kale is also an excellent source of lutein, a plant pigment that research suggests can help maintain healthy brain function, as well as enhance learning and memory.
How to Use: Some might argue that you can use kale in anything, from smoothies, to tacos, to pizza. If you need some ideas, check out these tasty kale recipes.
Ginkgo biloba is one of the best-researched brain and memory boosting plants, and it’s been safely used for thousands of years in its native China. Among its many benefits, ginkgo is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease as well as enhance short- and long-term memory. Both the leaves and the fruit of ginkgo are used medicinally.
The only drawback to growing ginkgo is that you need a lot of space. A mature ginkgo tree can reach over 80 feet (24 meters) tall and 40 feet (12 meters) wide. Another challenge may be finding a ginkgo that will produce fruit. Ginkgo trees are naturally either male or female, and only the females make fruit. But the fruit smells horrible, so many nurseries only grow the males.
How to Use: Steep the leaves into a tea or add them to dishes. If you’re preparing the fruit, be careful because ginkgo seeds contain toxins that need to be broken down prior to eating them. Instructables has a good overview of how to pick and prepare ginkgo seeds.
Ginger is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Research has shown that ginger specifically reduces inflammation linked to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. In another study, ginger supplementation improved working memory, reaction time and attention in healthy, middle-aged adults.
Ginger might seem like an exotic spice, but you can easily grow it yourself. Check out these detailed instructions on how to grow your own ginger.
How to Use: Brew some chopped, fresh ginger in boiling water for a simple tea. The more ginger you add, the spicier the tea will be, so only add as much as you’re comfortable with. You can also make a variety of other refreshing ginger drinks. In addition, ginger is delicious in many curries, soups and desserts.
Most beans are high in choline, which is a nutrient essential for many physiological processes, including normal metabolism and the creation of neurotransmitters in the brain. Studies suggest that eating adequate choline in your diet may help prevent cognitive decline as we age.
The easiest beans to grow in your garden are likely the immature types, such as fava beans, lima beans or edamame soy beans. If you’re willing to wait a bit longer for your bean crop to mature, you can enjoy home-grown dry beans, such as chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils. These all contain generous amounts of choline.
How to Use: Immature beans can simply be shelled, steamed fresh and eaten with a touch of salt. Check out these tips on cooking dry beans, then add your finished beans to soups, salads or other dishes.