Wednesday, 3 March 2010

A herbal tonic to aid concentration?

My mum is currently studying to be a counsellor. Now into her 3rd year of study, the work is getting pretty intense with lots of reading, journalling, and live practice sessions. I've been thinking about what herbal support I can give her especially in maintaining concentration and alertness during all-day courses or long study sessions.

Whatever I make for her, I want it to be simple to take so as not to add any extra hassle - so I'm thinking of a tincture that she could drop into a glass of water (and easily carry with her), rather than a tea that takes more time to make.

My research so far has lead me to look at the following herbs:
  • Gingko (gingko biloba) is well known as a memory enhancing herb that apparently increases blood flow to the brain, strengthens brain cells and increasing neurotransmission. On a completely different note, I met a lovely gingko tree a couple of years ago at Emerson College, and also learnt that there are male and female gingko trees!
  • Gotu kola (centella asiatica) is an adaptogenic herb that is highly valued in Ayurvedic medicine. Research has apparently shown that it can help enhance memory and overcome tiredness. I've used it previously in a tea with limeflower and nettle.
  • Ginseng (eleutherococcus senticosus) is another adaptogen well known for helping the body to cope with stress. It seems to appear quite often in combination with gingko and gotu kola.
  • Rosemary (rosemarinus officinalis) is a herb traditionally used to help boost the memory. It is also known as "the herb of remembrance". In Grow Your Own Drugs, James Wong makes a rosemary wine as a memory booster.
  • Rhodiola (rhodiola rosea) is again an adaptogen. Its not a herb I've come across much before, except for one experience of a friend taking rhodiola pills to help with stress and finding it a bit over stimulating (for him). It is said to enhance mood and improve physical and mental performance.
I came across one recipe for a brain tonic tincture that includes gotu kola, gingko, peppermint, sage, and rosemary. I'm currently thinking along similar lines but with: gingko, gotu kola, ginseng, rosemary and a little ginger.

I'd really appreciate any suggestions from my herby friends...
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  1. Your formula sounds wonderful, particularly if someone has a cold or underactive system (because it's so deliciously warming). The brain tonic is a Rosemary Gladstar recipe: 2 parts gota kola, 1 part gingko leaf, 1 part peppermint, 1/2 part rosemary or sage. She recommends using it for at least three weeks.

    I tend to use ashwagandha as a powder in warm milk or yogurt or in a capsule. It's wonderfully nourishing and quietly stimulating. And sometimes I rely a little too heavily on yerba mate, but it does work amazingly well in a pinch.

    Thank you for reminding me about brain tonics! I have been meaning to make one for my partner, who is a programmer and often works long hours to meet deadlines.

  2. Hi Melissa, thanks for your input! I was wondering what the proportions were in that recipe. I haven't heard of yerba mate, that's one for me to look up. Best wishes, Elizabeth

  3. I think it really depends so much on the individual's constitution as well.
    I generally go in for singal herbs, but do find formulas quite useful sometimes.
    Ashwagandha is a nice one. I did a recent post on this herb:
    Also, in a brain tonic formula I'd probably include a nourishing nerve tonic as well, such as oatstraw or skullcap.

  4. Hi Elizabeth :)
    I'm also studying and to get me through the tough bits I make brain booster balls with powdered herbs, honey and nut butter. I'll post the recipe on my blog soon as I'll need to make a big batch next week as I have exams coming up! They work wonders with a cup of rosemary tea and taste yummy!
    Lucinda x

  5. Hi Annica, thanks for the suggestions - I really need to learn more about which herbs for which type of constitutions.

    Hi Lucinda, I look forward to the brain booster balls recipe! I love edible herby treats. :)

    Best wishes, Elizabeth

  6. Hi
    Rhodiola can be overstimulating for some sensitive to stimulants but you can lower the dose till you find where it doesn't. Just because a capsule is 100mg or 200mg etc doesn't mean you can't half the capsule and put it in some juice. You'll find over time you can raise the dosage a bit as your body gets used to it.