I had a most lovely evening last week; I gave a free lecture on herbal medicine at the Franklin Township Library. So many people in the audience had questions, from everything from allergies to menopause. I reflected on how much our culture does not support wellness; everyone is walking around with pain and symptoms of illness and imbalance. The stress of our fast-paced schedules and lives, tires our brains and our nervous systems to the point where they no longer function at an optimal level. When I walk into a pharmacy I look at all the over the counter medications that sells like crazy, and think “Wow, here is the evidence that we are just way, way, way out of balance”.

I was planning to write about herbs for memory this month.. As I mention above, our fast paced lives affects everything about our health, brain included. I have a lot of experience using herbs for memory, and found that I felt much less stressed and much happier about myself when I was not constantly forgetting things.

Gingko, also known by its Latin name, “gingko biloba,” is a vasodilator, an anti-inflammatory, an astringent, and a bitter tonic. “Vasodilator” means it opens blood vessels and increases circulation, especially to the brain. It is good not only for helping poor memory but also for Alzheimer’s disease and premature senility. Whether you are always forgetful, unable to focus when you read or study for tests, or are concerned about an elderly friend who is easily confused, gingko is the herb to try. Its anti-inflammatory attributes make it a wonderful treatment for asthma and allergies. Amanda McQuade Crawford and Lesley Tierra, both accomplished herbalists from the West Coast, talk about gingko as being an overall tonic for the nerves, the heart, and blood vessels, and for coldness, arthritis, vertigo, ringing in the ears, and headaches, where your head feels like it is being crushed like a tin can.

Gingko can be taken as a tea or tincture. It takes some time to affect memory, anywhere from several weeks to a few months. With an extract, follow the dosage on the bottle, noting that quality changes from brand to brand. With a tea, use two to three teaspoons for eight ounces of water. Steep for several hours. Adding soy milk will bind some of the tannins in the tea, which are what give gingko its astringent quality.

Gotu kola, whose Latin name is Centella asiatica, is an herb from India. In addition to helping with memory, forgetfulness, and confusion, it is also an anti-inflammatory good for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and eczema, and it helps reduce inflammation of connective tissue, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is used in drug detox formulas and for degenerative heart conditions. I loved how it helped my day-to-day forgetfulness and found that just three weeks after I started using it, my return trips from the car to the house for “that last thing I forgot” were drastically reduced. To use the tincture, follow the dosage on the bottle, and for the tea, use one teaspoon of herb for eight ounces of water. Steep thirty to sixty minutes and drink two cups a day.

My favorite herb for memory and brain function is basil. Dried basil in food is not enough for a medicinal effect, you must take the tincture or tea. It is fabulous for menopausal brain fog, and is reputed to help draw THC out of your fat cells. Basil also appears to help those who suffer brain fog due to eating foods we are allergic to. (gluten in particular). I have first hand experience with that, and find basil is key in my herbal regimen.

As always, I welcome feedback about herbs you have tried, what has worked for you and so forth. Enjoy your month!

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