Boosting your memory and brain function naturally

Written by Bridget Backhouse | 2 September, 2021

fresh sprig of rosemary

Who doesn’t need a little helping hand when it comes to your brain health?

This is especially when you are a busy and hardworking student inundated with assessments and exams? Here you’ll find my absolute favourite natural tips to help keep you on track all semester!

Prioritise sleep

I know it feels like a good idea to stay up all night and finish your assessment, but it’s probably doing more harm than good. Matthew Walker (2017) talks about how good-quality sleep is vital for effective memory formation – both before learning to prepare for new memories, and after learning to cement those memories! This study showed that earlier bedtimes and extended periods of sleep improved cognitive performance in young people.

How: Stick to your bedtime, practice your sleep routine, pop your phone and laptop away an hour before bed, and prioritise good sleep all semester.

Rosemary

Rosemary is one of my favourite herbs for boosting brain function. This study showed that inhaling rosemary extract helped to support brain function and memory in the short term. In herbal medicine, rosemary extract is used to boost circulation and cognition.

How: You can use rosemary essential oil during study by putting in a diffuser in your study space, placing on the skin behind your ears or on your wrists, or even having sprigs of rosemary on your desk!

Berries and antioxidants

The perfect study snack – berries! Vibrant, colourful berries are a fantastic source of potent antioxidants, known for reducing inflammation that can be caused by high stress. But blueberries in particular have the extra benefit of actually improving cognition, short and long-term memory, and positively impacting mood in people across all age groups.

How: Berries, fresh or frozen, make a great study snack, are delicious in a smoothie, or can even be added to your morning porridge.

B Vitamins

Having enough B vitamins available to create optimal neurotransmitters is extremely important for improved cognition. One study found increased mental stamina and concentration in men taking a vitamin B supplement, even after just two weeks! Various B vitamins can be readily found in many foods, such as mushrooms, leafy green vegetables, wholegrains, and animal products.

How: Include a broad range of veggies, wholegrains, nuts and seeds to increase B vitamins. Talk to your naturopath about a high-quality supplement if needed.

Bacopa

This beautiful Ayurvedic herb, Bacopa monnieri, is traditionally used to improve memory and intellect. New studies are supporting this historical understanding and Bacopa has shown to be nootropic in studies, meaning that it improves memory and cognition. In addition, bacopa is also beneficial for stressed and anxious brains, making it the perfect support for students.

How: Talk to your naturopath about a personalised herbal liquid containing bacopa, or a high-quality tablet formulation that’s specifically suitable for you.

Exercise

It might feel hard to find time for exercise, but it’s linked to increased mental capacity, healthy mood, and stress management. Exercise has shown to increase Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which helps to increase memory capacity and assist with learning capabilities. In older adults, even short-term aerobic exercise improved cognition, circulation and brain health.

How: Prioritise movement in your day; join a sports team, go for a run, practice yoga or morning stretches. It’s most important to do something you enjoy and make it a part of your everyday routine.

Joyful breaks

You work really hard and you deserve a break! Especially a break filled with an activity that you love and enjoy. It’s vital to make time for yourself during a busy semester to help manage your stress and reduce the impact of stress on your health. It can also help to maintain important social connections and to help you refocus when it comes time to hit the books again.

How: Make time in your study schedule for you! Some weeks that might look like a busy social weekend, other times it might just mean a relaxing bath on your own. I used to have every Friday night off and that helped when it came time to study over the weekend.

If you struggle to stay well during the uni semester, book in to see your naturopath for an extra helping hand and get your brain and body functioning optimally!

References

Dewald-Kaufmann, J. F., Oort, F. J., & Meijer, A. M. (2013). The effects of sleep extension on sleep and cognitive performance in adolescents with chronic sleep reduction: an experimental study. Sleep Medicine, 14(6), 510–517. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2013.01.012

Kennedy, D. O., Veasey, R. C., Watson, A. W., Dodd, F. L., Jones, E. K., Tiplady, B., & Haskell, C. F. (2011). Vitamins and psychological functioning: A mobile phone assessment of the effects of a B vitamin complex, vitamin C and minerals on cognitive performance and subjective mood and energy. Human Psychopharmacology, 26(4–5), 338–347. https://doi.org/10.1002/hup.1216

Miranda, M., Morici, J. F., Zanoni, M. B., & Bekinschtein, P. (2019, August 7). Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Key Molecule for Memory in the Healthy and the Pathological Brain. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, Vol. 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2019.00363

Moss, M., Cook, J., Wesnes, K., & Duckett, P. (2003). Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. International Journal of Neuroscience, 113(1), 15–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/00207450390161903

Stough, C., Downey, L. A., Lloyd, J., Silber, B., Redman, S., Hutchison, C., … Nathan, P. J. (2008). Examining the nootropic effects of a special extract of Bacopa monniera on human cognitive functioning: 90 Day double-blind placebo-controlled randomized trial. Phytotherapy Research, 22(12), 1629–1634. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2537

Travica, N., D’Cunha, N. M., Naumovski, N., Kent, K., Mellor, D. D., Firth, J., … Marx, W. (2020, March 1). The effect of blueberry interventions on cognitive performance and mood: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Vol. 85, pp. 96–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2019.04.001

Walker, M. (2017). Why we sleep. Great Britain: Penguin Books.


Bridget Backhouse

Bridget is a past student of Endeavour College, graduating from her Naturopathy degree in 2019. She began her own business and over the last year has juggled multiple lockdowns by moving her practice online. Her primary areas of focus are on skin and sleep, but she has a huge passion for assisting students through the healing power of herbal and natural medicine.

Read more by Bridget Backhouse

Related Articles