Are you looking for something to improve your concentration?
Do you want increased energy levels and mental clarity?
This post will review several herbal supplements that can improve brain function, boost energy levels, and enhance cognitive performance.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an herb that has been used for centuries to promote calmness, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve cognitive function. Some studies suggest that it may help improve focus and concentration.
A study published in the journal “Nutrients” found that lemon balm extract improved cognitive performance and mood in healthy young adults. The researchers attributed these effects to the herb’s ability to modulate neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, which is involved in learning and memory.1
Lemon balm, in combination with valerian root, passionflower, and butterbur extracts (Ze 185), has been shown to decrease the need for benzodiazepines in some patients.2
These studies suggest that it may be a useful natural remedy for improving cognitive function and reducing stress and anxiety.
Like lemon balm, Ginkgo Biloba has a variety of health benefits. It is a powerful antioxidant that can decrease oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals. One study published in 2002 showed Ginkgo Biloba may enhance memory in healthy individuals 60 years of age and older.3
Another study showed Ginkgo Biloba was effective in improving mental status scores in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment.4
It is important to note that not all studies have confirmed these findings.
Ginko Biloba is a very popular natural herb, and in the book “Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbs for Longevity and Well-Being,” it is named as her number one herb of longevity.
Gotu Kola is an herb related to parsley. This ayurvedic herb has been used for wound healing, circulation, and burns.
Gotu kola (Centella Asiatica) is an herb that has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve cognitive function, memory, and concentration. Some studies have investigated the effects of gotu kola on focus and concentration.
One study found that a combination of gotu kola and Bacopa monnieri (another herb traditionally used for cognitive enhancement) improved cognitive function, attention, and working memory in healthy adults.5
An article in Trends in Food Science & Technology concluded C. asiatica can be neuroprotective and targets multiple disease pathways to fight neurodegenerative disorders.6
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb that has been routinely used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve cognitive function, including memory, concentration, and mental focus. Some studies have investigated the effects of ashwagandha on mental focus.
One study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements found that ashwagandha root extract improved cognitive function, including attention and information processing speed, in healthy adults.7
A separate study found Ashwagandha can enhance memory, reduce brain aging and stress.8
A review of several studies published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found ashwagandha has potential as a natural cognitive enhancer, particularly for improving memory and attention.9
Bacopa monnieri is an herb traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance cognitive function, including memory and focus. Several studies have investigated the effects of Bacopa monnieri on focus and concentration.
One study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that Bacopa monnieri improved cognitive function and processing speed in healthy older adults.10
Another study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that Bacopa monnieri improved memory consolidation and attention in healthy adults. This study also showed Bacopa has an anxiolytic effect as well.11
A review of several studies published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology concluded that Bacopa monnieri has potential as a cognitive enhancer, particularly for improving memory and attention.
Green tea is a popular beverage that contains a variety of compounds, including caffeine and L-theanine, that may have cognitive-enhancing effects.
One study published in Phytomedicine found that green tea improved memory, attention, and brain function.12
Another study found that higher consumption of green tea is associated with a lower incidence of cognitive impairment in humans.13
More research is needed to grasp the effects of green tea on focus and concentration. These studies suggest that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine in green tea may have cognitive-enhancing benefits. It’s important to note that green tea and its extracts do contain caffeine, which can have side effects like jitteriness, insomnia, and increased heart rate, especially in high doses or in individuals who are sensitive to caffeine.
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is an herb that has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to enhance cognitive function, including memory, concentration, and mental clarity. Some studies have investigated the effects of Asian ginseng on mental focus.
One study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that a single dose of Asian ginseng improved cognitive performance, including attention, working memory, and reaction time, in healthy young adults.14
Another study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that daily supplementation with Asian ginseng extract improved cognitive function and mood in middle-aged adults with age-related cognitive decline.15
A review of several studies published in the Journal of Ginseng Research concluded that Asian ginseng has potential as a natural cognitive enhancer, particularly for improving attention and cognitive processing speed.16
While Asian ginseng appears to have promising effects on mental focus, more research is needed to fully understand its benefits and optimal dosages.
Rhodiola rosea is an herb that has been traditionally used in Russia and Scandinavia to improve physical and mental performance, reduce fatigue, and enhance mood. In addition, some studies have investigated the effects of Rhodiola rosea on focus and concentration.
One study published in Molecules stated Rhodiola is effective in treating stress-related conditions and disorders.17
Another study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that Rhodiola rosea extract improved cognitive function and reduced mental fatigue in physicians working night shifts.18
A review of several studies published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that Rhodiola rosea has the potential as a natural cognitive enhancer, particularly for improving mental fatigue and stress-related cognitive dysfunction.
Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), also known as tulsi, is an herb that has been commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance cognitive function and reduce stress and anxiety. Some studies have investigated the effects of holy basil on focus and concentration.
One study published in the International Journal of Ayurveda Research found that holy basil extract improved cognitive function, including attention, memory, and executive function, in healthy adults.
Another study from the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine found that holy basil extract improved cognitive function and reduced stress in healthy older adults.19
A review of several studies published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal showed those who consumed Holy Basil had a positive change in mood and/or cognitive function regardless of age, gender, formulation, dose, or study quality.20
If you are having trouble concentrating, the first step is to be sure you are eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. Exercise can also help.
Medicinal herbs can be a good choice as well. I suggest finding a popular herbal blend such as Brain & Focus by Sunshine Nutraceuticals.
This product is specially designed to improve memory and focus by utilizing vitamins, minerals, and natural herbs. It is crucial to take care of your physical and cognitive health.
Always remember that just because some of these herbal remedies listed do not have robust clinical studies to support them, that does not mean they are ineffective. Clinical trials are expensive, and drug companies are unwilling to spend money on them if they cannot get a good return on their investment.
Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP
Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.
Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.