7 Spices to boost your brain
Curcumin, the active component in the popular
Indian curry spice turmeric, has been shown to help
prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. A 2009
study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that
curcumin used in conjunction with vitamin D3
stimulates the immune system to protect the brain
against beta amyloid, an abnormal protein believed to
be a major cause of Alzheimer’s.
This tasty spice also has potent anti-inflammatory
and antioxidant properties that help prevent neuronal
cell damage caused by free radicals.
Just a whiff of cinnamon can boost memory and
cognitive function. A 2004 study found that smelling
this fragrant spice boosts working memory, attention,
recognition, and even visual-motor response. The
Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reports that cinnamon
may help prevent Alzheimer’s by inhibiting formation
of certain proteins that are hallmarks of the disease.
Cinnamon has one of the highest ORAC values —
267,536 — of all the antioxidants. (Oxygen Radical
Absorbance Capacity is a unit of measurement for
antioxidants developed by the National Institute on
Aging in the National Institutes of Health.) Ounce for
ounce, that’s about 87 times the antioxidant power of
an apple and about 40 times the power of blueberries.
Supplementing the diet with thyme has been shown
to increase the amount of DHA — an essential fatty
acid — in the brain. And considering that 60 percent
of the solid weight of your brain is fat, ensuring an
adequate amount of DHA is very important. Thyme
can also reduce the effects of alcohol toxicity in the
Feeling blue? Sniff lemons. In one study involving
mice, researchers reviewed the effects of lavender, rose,
and lemon oils on the brain when mice were placed
in high-stress situations. The lemon oil proved to be
the best stress reliever by altering neurotransmitters in
the brain, and showed anti-anxiety and antidepressant
properties. Other studies have also found that lemon
balm boosts memory.
Ginger offers neuro-protection in a number of ways.
Its anti-inflammatory properties make it helpful in
alleviating migraines without any of the side effects
associated with prescription migraine medications.
In one study, ginger combined with ginkgo biloba
allowed aging rats to better learn how to navigate a
maze, and reduced oxidative stress in brain tissue.
Saffron, which is popular in rice dishes such as
risotto, can ease symptoms of depression. In fact,
a number of studies have found that saffron is as
effective as Prozac in treating mild to moderate
depression. This popular spice also offers protection
against neuronal cell death, and a series of animal
studies have shown that it improves memory, learning,
recognition, and spatial memory.
In a review of studies on sage in Pharmacological
Biochemical Behavior, researchers found that in
addition to being a potent antioxidant and antiinflammatory,
sage extracts also have other properties
— anticholinesterase, estrogenic, and CNS depressant
(sedative) — that make it useful in the treatment of
One study of people with mild to moderate
Alzheimer’s found that consuming sage improved
cognitive function. In studies of healthy people, it
improved memory in people young and old.