Herbal remedies hokum? Nonsense, says a neuroscientist, they can boost your brain

  • Herbal remedies have been around for millennia a now science is catching up
  • New book explains how plants affect the brain and simple styles you can use them
  • They can helpA boost mood, improve sleep and memory

Herbal remedies have been around forA millennia a now science is catching up. In aA new book, a leading professor of neuroscienceA and a pharmacognosist( who analyzes medicinesA derived from plants) explain how plants affectA the brain and simple routes you can use themA to boost mood, improve sleep and memory . . .

Weare all familiar with the idea that plants provide our bodies with nutrition, but less well known is the fact that many plants also contain chemicals that reach our brain cells and affect different pathways linked to being pacify, sleeping well and feeling positive.

They do this by increasing or reducing neuron( nerve cell) activity, more specifically mimicking, boosting or blocking transmitter signals between brain cells.

Botanical brain balms a as we call them a work in a different way from conventional medicine because plant extracts are amulti-drugsa which means they contain a range of ingredients, each with different health benefits, unlike single narcotic medications. This means they can work on more than one aspect of the brain to beneficial effect. Traditional plant medications, as long as they are produced, prescribed and used correctly, have a long legacy of safe use simply because they have been taken for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Most plant medicines have fewer side-effects compared with chemical medications, and some have none at all.

Plant medications are also generally pleasant to take a certainly more agreeable to stimulate part of your daily life than some prescription drugs for minor ailments, and for long-term use as remedies to protect your health.

Here, we prove you how to harness the power of plants a from constructing soothing teas and a herbal pillow for sleep to a pain-relieving salve a and reveal the latest science behind why these work.


You might think of it as something you eat, but chilli oil is a simple but effective skin salve for aches and pains.

Cayenne pepper a a common, reasonably hot type of chilli a is used in herbal medicine for ache and topically for meanders, bruises, burns, sciatica, neuralgia and muscle spasms.

In controlled trials, it has been shown to reduce post-shingles pain, diabetic neuropathy( a complication of the condition, causing nerve injury, often in the feet and legs) and back pain.

The hot pungency of cayenne is due to chemical compounds called capsaicinoids, such as the active capsaicin. This is the key to its painkilling benefits.

In lab exams, cayenneas capsaicinoids have been found to knock out a receptor in the brain( TRPV1) effectively a usually this receptor releases a chemical called substance P that transmits ache signals to the brain. Capsaicin also depletes substance P itself.

Fresh chilli pods, dried pods and ground cayenne pepper( not chilli powder, which is a mix of cayenne and other spices) can be used in chilli oil. Chop three fresh or dried chillis and stir into 50 ml( 2 fl oz) olive oil. Add 1 tsp of dried cayenne pepper if you like it hot. You can use as a skin salve or on food. Keeps in the refrigerator for three to four days.


People reaching middle age started to notification they donat remember things quite as well as they used to, so this is the time to start using plants to protect the brain.

Our research has shown that sage( both Salvia officinalis and S.lavandulaefolia) and other well-known household herbs, such as lemon balm, is currently working on certain chemical messengers in the brain to improve memory.

This everyday household cleaning spraying use several plants a sage, pine and mint a that make it a useful household cleanser as well as having brain-boosting properties. For instance, in controlled trials a the gold criterion for medical evidence, typically involving a placebo for purposes of comparison a sage has been found to enhance memory and alertness in healthy people. It also improves attention in the elderly and counters cognitive impairment as well as improving behavioural measures in Alzheimeras.


TheA most famous anti-inflammatory plant is white willow( Salix alba) a aspirin are from the chemical salicin in its bark and is still the worldas most widely used drug.

The bark itself a which is a traditionally utilized medicine for joint pain, headaches, gout, lumbago, sciatica, inflammation and fevers a could make a comeback on account of its superior safety as ache relief.

The few controlled trials in humen on willow bark demonstrate it reduces lower back ache, joint ache and treats osteoarthritis. One survey which compared willow bark( at a dose equivalent to around 240 mg salicin) to a prescription-only painkiller( a type of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication) determined it was as effective when devoted for more than six months to people with lower back pain.

Willow bark works for pain the same way as aspirin, by regulating prostaglandins( hormones released when cells are injury ). But the whole bark also lowers multiple inflammatory markers and has been shown to be as good as, if not more effective than, aspirin.

Willow bark takes longer to act but its effects last longer than aspirin. Also, willow bark does not cause internal hemorrhaging a as can sometimes happen with aspirin a because salicin in willow bark is absorbed in the small intestine rather than the stomach.

Fresh or dried bark can be made into a decoction a a concentrated liquid for ache. Use 20 g dried( or 40 g fresh) finely chopped white willow bark in 750 ml water simmered to 500 ml water. Take 120 ml three times daily.

If you have been prescribed aspirin, you should not switch or stop taking it, or take the two together, without consulting your GP.

In a pilot trial we carried out last year at Dilston Physic Garden( where we collaborated with medical herbalists, universities and other research bodies to widen understanding into medicinal plants ), sage taken with lemon balm and rosemary improved the ability to recall a listing of words by more than 50 per cent in 63 -year-olds.

Add equal sums of the pure essential oils of sage, pine and mint to an alcohol base such as vodka( it should be about 40 per cent proof ). Use 1a2 portions petroleum per 100 portions base( or adjust proportion to favor scent ). Shake and leave to scatter. Bottle in a dark container with spray attachment. Spray liberally over running surfaces( test a small area first ). The spray can be stored for a year.


Calming plants often enhance the activity of a chemical messenger in the brain called GABA( gamma-aminobutyric acid ), which is how anti-anxiety narcotics such as benzodiazepines also run. GABA avoids brain cells from firing too often and is essentially the brainas main decelerator.

Bergamot a a citrus fruit thatas a hybrid of bitter orange and lemon a is a key remedy in Italian folk medicine, and gives Earl Grey tea its distinct perfume. A small number of studies in humen confirm that bergamot can relax you when it is used with other soothing plants ( typically these include lavender and ylang ylang ).

In preliminary analyses, it has been found to lower pulse rate and blood pressure when massaged into the skin with lavender, and is also relaxing when inhaled.

Calming bergamot teamed with mood-boosting banana makes a fulfilling cake-like bread.

For the bread

250g( 9oz) plain flour

125g( 4A1/ 2oz) light brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tsp cooking powder

3 medium-ripe bananas

1 tbsp grated zest of bergamot orange

50g( 2oz) butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

For the topping 😛 TAGEND

5 drops-off bergamot orange essential oil

4tbsp lemon curd

85g( 3oz) walnut halves

1 banana, sliced.

Preheat the oven to 190 c( 375 f) and line the base and sides of a 450 g( 1lb) loaf tin with cooking newspaper. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and mix well.

Place the bananas in a bowl and mash with a fork then add the grated zest, melted butter and beaten eggs.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and loosely combine. Pour into the prepared loaf tin and cook for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Remove from the oven, leave to cool in the tin then transfer to a wire rack.

For the topping, add the bergamot petroleum to the lemon curd and spread thinly on top of the loaf. Decorate with walnut halves and pieces of sliced banana.


The bitter savor of hops is well known to beer drinkers, so it will come as no surprise to them, at the least, that this plant has a marked relaxing and tranquillising consequence on the central nervous system.

Thatas why itas used extensively( often with valerian) in herbal medicine for insomnia. Exams have shown hops depress the central nervous system, and increase the calming neurotransmitter( GABA ). It also boosts levels of hormones such as melatonin and adenosine( both promote sleep ).

You can take hop as a tea or you can sew the flowers into a pillow.

Use fresh flowers, or buy them dried. With right sides together, machine sewed three sides of a folded rectangle of muslin.

Teas to improve your memory and sleep

For a quick DIY brain pick-me-up, try these herbal teas. All the doses here have been checked as far as possible to be consistent with those used in clinical trials.

In a number of studies comparing sage to a placebo, sage improves memory and alertness. It also improves calmness and contentedness.

HOW TO MAKE IT: Use 20 g of fresh sage leaves or 4-6g dried per 240 ml water. Take three times daily. It is especially good with honey.


For a quick DIY brain pick-me-up, try these herbal teas

The Ancient Greeks gave the herb to students to improve their memory a today clinical surveys have shown rosemary extract can strengthen attention and memory, including in the elderly. Employed be included with lemon, orange and lavender may also improve cognitive function in people who are suffering from Alzheimeras disease.

HOW TO MAKE IT: Steep 4-6g of fresh foliages and flowers( or 2-3g of dried) in 240 ml water. Take three times daily.


A trial carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan in 2011 found that chamomile modestly improves daytime function in insomniacs. Other research has suggested the tea also reduces sleep problems and depression in post-natal girls compared with those who are not taking it( and when they stopped drinking it, their improved sleep ended ).

HOW TO MAKE IT: Steep 2-3g fresh( 4-6g dried) chamomile bloom heads or leaves per 240 ml water. Drink three times daily, with honey if required to sweeten.

Turn right side out, fill with hop flowers and machine sew the fourth side. Dab with a few drops of hops and or lavender essential petroleum before use.


Wake up and go to sleep with happiness in a jar! The widely recognised anti-depressive St Johnas wort used in this face cream leads the way when it is necessary to plants that lift mood and alleviate mild to moderate depression( severe depression shouldnat be self-treated ). Other plants that have had some success in human studies include turmeric and saffron.

Thirty clinical analyzes indicate the efficacy of St Johnas wort, and in controlled trials for mild to moderate depression it is as effective as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors( SSRIs) such as Prozac, but with fewer side-effects.

Although adverse effects are rare, St Johnas wort can interfere with other medications, including the Pill. Particular caution should be taken if you are on anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications( especially SSRIs ). Always consult your doctor or registered medical herbalist before taking any plant at a medicinal level first.

This lovely cream lifts the mood as the essential oil constituents imbue the skin. Use a commercial base face lotion which contains natural ingredients.

Mix in pure St Johnas wort essential oil to a proportion not exceeding 1 per cent of the entire concoction( for example for a 125 ml jar of cream youad require 1-2 ml a about 40 drops ). After thorough mixing, add the cream to dark brown or black jars. When using, inhale deeply as you massage it over your face.


Scientific evidence for plants that works against amental fatiguea and alack of vitalitya is harder to establish. However, there is some research to suggest that plants such as garlic and nettles can be revitalising a though exactly why is less clear.

Japanese surveys on 1,000 patients with wearines, depression and anxiety, found that garlic extract( with vitamins) reduced all these symptoms in the majority of people.

In patients with stress-related symptoms, the same combination alleviated symptoms such as general wearines, headache, dizziness and appetite loss.

In lab exams, garlic extracts seem to affect adrenal gland molecules that govern the stress responses and blood pressure( the adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and render many of our hormones, including cortisol, sometimes called the astress hormonea ).

This soup, made with wild garlic, nettles, as well as ginger, is a lovely tonic. Lab analyses suggest nettles can act on acetylcholine receptors a the brainas memory messenger.

Nettle& wild garlic soup

Serves 3-4

Knob of butter or 1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped

2-3 small potatoes, sliced

1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped

1-2 tsp dry or fresh turmeric, chopped

1l vegetable stock

400g( 14 oz) nettle tips and Garlic leaves, chopped.

Pick the youngest garlic leaves and( wearing gloves) the tips-off of nettles before they are more than about 30 cm( 12 in) high.

Heat the butter or petroleum in a large saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, potatoes and ginger and cook for 10 minutes.

Add turmeric and stock and cook for a further 10 -1 five minutes until the potatoes are soft. Add the nettle and garlic foliages and cook for five minutes more. Remove from the hot, liquidise and season to taste.


Some plants, such as lavender, lemon salve and cocoa, are brilliant all-rounders, affecting many areas of mental well-being. This induces sense scientifically a first because each plant contains more than one active ingredient that can target different systems, and second because the health of one part of the body is affected by other parts.

The brain is the most highly connected living system. So depression can impair cognitive function, and stress can interfere with memory or increase the feeling of pain.

These truffles are stimulated with several ingredients that help with four or more of the pacify, memory, mood, sleep, ache or energy functions. Lavender has been found to improve sleep in cancer patients, and improve sleep quality and energy in students. Inhaled lavender oil has also been found to improve working memory after an episode of stress.

Brain balm truffles

Makes 24

450g( 16 oz) stoned dates

100g( 3A1/ 2oz) ground almonds

15g( A1/ 2oz) chia seeds

15g( A1/ 2oz) linseed

3 tbsp cocoa powder

4 tbsp agave syrup

2 tbsp cashew milk

1 tsp lavender flowers

1 tbsp lemon salve leaves

1 tsp roseroot powder or ginseng

Put ingredients in a food processor and pulsing until they stick together. Divide mixture into 24 small balls and roll in cocoa powder. Store in fridge for five days.

Adapted from Botanical Brain Balms by Nicolette Perry& Elaine Perry( Filbert Press, APS1 4.99 ). A( c) Nicolette Perry& Elaine Perry. To order for APS1 1.24( 25 pc discount ), visit mailshop.co.uk/ books or call 0844 571 0640. p& p is free on orders over APS1 5. Offer valid till June 19, 2018. Please check with your doctor before trying any herbal redres if you are taking any medication.

Source: Daily Mail

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