Natural Mind and Memory Boosters
Best Fish for Brain Fats (Amount of DHA in a 3-ounce Serving)
How it works: Precursor for prostaglandins, chemicals that influence mood and behavior and probably affect neurotransmitter balance.
Positive effects: Helps restore normal mood in bipolar illness; may also affect memory.
Cautions: EPA helps reduce blood clotting; therefore high doses should not be taken if you are on blood-thinning medication.
Dosage: 500-1,000 mg a day as a fish oil supplement, or eat 3 ounces of fatty fish three times a week. Take with 400-800 IU of vitamin E daily as an antioxidant.
How it works: Building material for neuronal membranes and neurotransmitter receptor sites; increases acetylcholine and serotonin levels.
Positive effects: Improves learning, memory, and mood in depression, manic depression, dyslexia, and dyspraxia.
Cautions: DHA helps reduce blood clotting; therefore, high doses should not be taken if you are on blood-thinning medication.
Dosage: 250-1,000 mg a day as a fish oil supplement, or eat 3 ounces of fatty fish three times a week. Algae-based products are also available (e.g., Neuromins by Martek.)
Ginkgo Biloba: Enhance Your Circulation
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is an herbal remedy for memory enhancement that has been used in the East for thousands of years. Coming from one of the oldest known species of trees, the first medicinal uses of ginkgo can be traced back to 2800 b.c. Research has shown that ginkgo improves short-term and age-related memory loss, slow thinking, depression, circulation, and poor blood flow to the brain. It has also been seen to significantly improve both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases over the course of a year. Ginkgo's remarkable healing properties appear to come from two constituent chemicals flavonoids and terpene lactones.
As well as being a powerful antioxidant that helps vitamin E and other antioxidant nutrients protect the brain from damage, ginkgo also aids in the production of neurotransmitters and helps to normalize acetylcholine receptors. However, its major benefit is its ability to improve the circulation of blood within the brain by mildly dilating blood vessels and inhibiting the action of platelet-activating factor, a substance that thickens the blood. So, ultimately, ginkgo helps to get oxygen and other important nutrients into the brain.
A review of forty studies testing ginkgo's effects on people with cerebral circulation problems, carried out by Jos Kleijnen and Paul Knipschild from the University of Limburg in the Netherlands, found significant improvement in memory, concentration, energy, and mood. After isolating the eight trials that met the highest methodological standards, they found that 70 percent of those receiving ginkgo (120-160 mg daily for twelve weeks) showed improvement, compared with 14 percent of those receiving a placebo.
A comprehensive double-blind placebo-controlled trial involving 309 Alzheimer's disease outpatients, ages sixty to eighty, was published by P. L. Le Bars and colleagues in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. In the 212 subjects who completed the year-long study, there was significant improvement in cognition and social performance.
Ginseng seems to fire the action of ginkgo. A recent experiment carried out by Professor Keith Wesnes at the University of Northumbria gave 256 healthy volunteers between the ages of thirty-six and sixty-six either a combination of ginkgo and ginseng or a placebo. After fourteen weeks, people taking the herbal combination performed much better in memory tests. According to one volunteer, "I felt like I was thinking clearer and wasn't so mentally drained at the end of a long stressful day. I noticed I was able to recall things that I had trouble remembering before."
Ginkgo is usually taken in capsule form, standardized at a flavonoid concentration of 24 percent. It may come in capsules of 40 mg, 60 mg, 80 mg, and 120 mg, with 60 mg the most common. The recommended dose range is 120-180 mg of extract daily, which is one to two of the 60-mg capsules twice a day. It often takes a month or two of consistent use before you begin to see results. If you see none after eight to ten weeks, you can then increase the dose to 240 mg two capsules of 60 mg twice daily.
Ginkgo is a blood-thinning agent, so you must use caution if you're taking other blood thinners such as coumadin, heparin, or even aspirin. Side effects such as headaches, nausea, or nosebleeds have been reported, but only rarely and at higher doses.
More on: Alternative Health Care
From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright © Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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