Who couldn’t use a little memory boost from time to time? We all lead stressful lives these days, which can affect us in many ways. Our bodies naturally release inflammatory cytokines when we are stressed (1).
These chemicals tell your immune system to essentially kick it up a notch—the fight or flight response. They put your immune system into overdrive, flooding your body with defense cells and hormones that react to stress as though it were an infection.
While inflammation normally helps protect you against illnesses and repairs your body when there is actual physical trauma, chronic inflammation ultimately damages your tissues (2).
This stresscan also affect you by causing feelings of anxiety and even depression that can further cause “forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt your daily activities.” (3)
These memory lapses, while frustrating, also compound your stress, and before you know it, you are caught in an endless loop of ongoing pressure and tension that can ultimately result in serious illnesses like heart disease and even cancer (4).
While you are never likely to rid yourself of all stress completely, there are things you can do to mitigate the repercussions. And a good place to start is your diet. Science shows that what you eat can either help or hinder your reaction to stress (5).
Studies also show certain foods can help target specific symptoms of stress such as forgetfulness and brain fog. So, to get you started, here are 15 of the best science-based natural herbs and foods that will help kick-start your memory and enhance your overall brain function.
Top 15 Brain Boosting Foods
This yellow-pigmented curry spice is popular in Indian cuisine. Turmeric actually belongs to the ginger family. It has a long and varied history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. This pungent spice has literally thousands of studies to back its hundreds of medicinal and pharmacological actions (6).
When it comes to brain health and memory, however, this spice is a superstar.
A 2010 study by the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology at the University of California shows how curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can even help in cases of traumatic brain injury (TBI) by “up-regulation of molecules important for neural repair and plasticity.” (7) This is just one of the 21 studies listed on Green Med Info on brain inflammation alone.
When it comes to memory, curcumin is even shown to help with cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). One 2008 study states that “Due to various effects of curcumin, such as decreased Beta-amyloid plaques, delayed degradation of neurons, metal-chelation, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and decreased microglia formation, the overall memory in patients with AD has improved ().
Onions are rich in sulphur-containing compounds that slow the deterioration of memory typically associated with aging. Onions also contain plenty of quercetin, a flavonoid also known to reduce memory loss associated with aging. In fact, onions have more quercetin than tea and apples, both of which are prized sources of this flavonoid .
Fish, especially fatty fish such as black cod, salmon, and sardines, is full of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which countless studies link to optimal brain health and function. A 2013 study published in Human Psychopharmacology shows that Omega-3 supplementation can improve “cognition and modifies brain activation in young adults.” (10)
Other studies concur, showing that eating fish regularly can go a long way to improving overall brain health, including memory.
Rosemary is a popular spice in most kitchens. But this potent herb can also improve both concentration and memory according to studies. In fact, psychologists at Northumbria University, Newcastle, show that simply sniffing rosemary essential oil can enhance your memory by as much as 75 percent (11).
One of the active ingredients in rosemary, carnosic acid, protects your brain from free radicals that are linked to neurodegeneration, AD, strokes and even normal brain aging (12). As an added bonus, studies also show rosemary’s many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties can protect your eyesight from deteriorating (13).