How to maintain a healthy brain
Your brain is one of the most critical organs of the body and as such it is important to take measures to keep it in shape, at every stage of life.
It has been recognised that regularly challenging your brain is important to maintain memory and cognitive function. Other important measures include maintaining a regular exercise program, addressing stress, ensuring good quality sleep and nourishing your brain with a healthy diet. Specific nutritional and herbal aids may also be of benefit.
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) is a herb that supports cognitive processes such as memory and learning. One double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study found that Brahmi significantly assisted in the retention of new information compared to placebo in healthy human subjects. Maximum effects were particularly evident after 12 weeks of use. Subjects taking Brahmi also experienced a temporary decrease in mild anxiety levels compared to placebo.1
Ginkgo biloba (also known as the maidenhair tree) is one of world’s oldest living tree species and has been used medicinally in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Ginkgo has been used and studied for its ability to enhance cognitive processes and maintain the healthy functioning of the ageing brain. Constituents of ginkgo help to increase circulation to the brain thereby improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Ginkgo also displays antioxidant activity. A 6 week clinical trial involving 48 cognitively intact healthy subjects between the ages of 55 and 86, found a ginkgo biloba extract produced significantly better improvements on some aspects of cognitive ability compared to placebo.2
The brain is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, particularly Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish oil is a source of omega 3 including DHA and thus may be beneficial for the healthy functioning of the brain. Clinical research has shown that fish consumption may help maintain cognitive function and memory in the ageing brain. An ongoing study of 6158 people 65 years and older found that the rate of cognitive decline was reduced by 10-13% among persons who consumed one or more fish meals per week.3
- Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, et al. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology 2001; 156: 481 – 484
- Mix,J and Crews W. An examination of the efficacy of ginkgo biloba extract EGb 761on the neuropsychologic functioning of cognitively intact older adults. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2000; 6(3):219-229
- Morris C, Evans D, Tangney C, et al. Fish consumption and cognitive decline with age in a large community study. Arch Neurol. 2005; 62:1-5