The small flowers known widely as forget-me-nots are oddly named as it offers no promise as a herbal remedy or any history pertaining to memory. The plant has the same name in German and Russian as well but the exact origin of the term ‘forget-me-not’ has rather ironically been lost to time, forgotten. Though the flower is rather unremarkable there are plenty of other natural sources that can improve our cognitive function and memory.
One of the better known memory-boosting plant extracts is that taken from the leaves of the maidenhair plant; ginkgo biloba. The Ginkgo tree has an ancient history in Chinese tradition and medicine with its seeds thought to treat lung conditions such as asthma or bronchitis. In modern medicine the extract is taken from the leaves of the tree. The main function is not lung health as ancient Chinese scholars thought, but to promote blood flow around the body, bringing benefit and oxygen to the brain, eyes and extremities. Aside from oxygenating the brain, the memory aiding power of gingko extract comes from its strong anti-oxidising properties which have been shown to sometimes slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
China and the whole Southeast Asian area is a prominent source of herbal aids to memory and cognition. Green tea has itself also been identified as a good source of polyphenols and other anti-oxidants to help avoid mental decline. The amino acid L-theanine also present in green tea crosses the blood-brain barrier, boosting the activity of neurotransmitters that help us relax and reduce anxiety. The real bonus with relaxation due to L-theanine is that it doesn’t actually make you tired.
The spice turmeric that is responsible for the yellow colouration of many curries similarly contains a compound that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Turmeric’s medicinal compound is curcumin. Like ginkgo biloba, curcumin is a strong antioxidant that goes a step beyond and breaks down toxic amyloid plaques that occur in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers. Curcumin has also been proven to improve general cognition in human subjects and studies conducted on rats suggest that it may also stimulate the growth of new brain cells. Alongside these factors turmeric has been shown to boost mood by slightly increasing the production of serotonin and dopamine (responsible for happiness and motivation) in our bodies.