As we get older, many of us do worry about the health and well-being of our brains. No kid taking the SAT who forgets a vocabulary word she’d studied the night before is concerned that this is the first sign of dementia. But as the years pass, you ask yourself if forgetting someone’s name, wondering […]
We’ve always known there was a higher rate of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in women than in men, initially attributed to the fact that women live longer and that the decline in mental function occurred with age. This turned out to be wrong. At 65, a woman has a greater than one-in-six chance of […]
Immediate answer: The newest research shows that your own impression of your memory–not anyone else’s, and not any particular test–could be the very first sign of mental decline as you age. Longer answer: We all have episodes of forgetfulness no matter how old we are. Ask any high school senior confronted with the SAT vocabulary […]
For centuries in the Far East, traditional healers have used a rare moss (Huperzia serrata) found in the colder regions of China to remedy fever and Inflammation. Only recently did scientists uncover a remarkable quality in a substance they isolated in the moss. Called huperzine A, the compound appears to have the power to sharpen the mind and potentially ward off the devastating effects of the memory-robbing disease known as Alzheimer’s, particularly in its earliest stages. Huperzine A has also been proposed for countering normal bouts of forgetfulness in the general population.
DMAE, or dimethylaminoethanol, is a compound found in high levels in anchovies and sardines. Small amounts of DMAE are also naturally produced in the human brain. Health-food outlets sell it in capsule form to “boost brain power.” While it probably won’t make you smarter, DMAE may play a role in treating memory lapses and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Some evidence suggests it may also play a beneficial role against the impulsive and disruptive behaviors caused by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Vinpocetine is a derivative of an extract taken from the lesser periwinkle plant (Vinca minor), an evergreen undershrub. The shrub is native to Europe, where it has been been under examination since the 1950s for boosting stroke- and age-related decline in brain function. Only recently has vinpocetine become available in the United States, and not as a prescription drug like in Europe, but as an over-the-counter dietary supplement.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), a common shrub-like perennial, bears bright yellow flowers that contain numerous therapeutic substances when dried. Europeans have used the herb for centuries to calm jangled nerves and heal wounds, among other ills. And so it’s not surprising that North Americans have recently embraced its use as a treatment for depression and conditions associated with it.
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid, a type of fat found in every cell in the body. It is particularly concentrated in the brain, where it has the important task of keeping cell membranes fluid, flexible and primed for nutrient absorption. PS also plays a critical role in supporting nerve tissue; it aids proper release and reception of neurotransmitters in the brain, for example. In short, PS helps to keep memory-related pathways functioning smoothly.
Lecithin is a fatty substance manufactured in the body and widely found in many animal- and plant-based foods, including eggs, liver, peanuts, soybeans, and wheat germ. Lecithin is often used as an additive in such processed foods as ice cream, margarine, and salad dressings, because it helps blend (or emulsify) fats with water. Lecithin is also available in supplement form.
Found growing in hot, swampy regions around the world, from India to the southern United States, the herb gotu kola (Centella asiatica) has a storied past.
This popular herbal medicine is extracted from the fan-shaped leaves of the ancient ginkgo biloba tree, a species that has survived in China for more than 200 million years and now grows throughout the world. (The leaves are double, or bi-lobed; hence the name biloba.) Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, it is only in the last few decades that the medicinal uses for the herb have been studied in the West.
One of the world’s most popular supplements, the chemical coenzyme Q10 has generated great excitement as a heart disease remedy and a cure for countless other conditions. The body naturally produces this compound, which has been dubbed “vitamin Q” because of its essential role in keeping all systems running smoothly. In fact, the scientists who identified coenzyme Q10 in 1957 initially honored its ubiquitous presence–it’s found in every human cell and in all living organisms–by naming it “ubiquinone.” Small amounts are also present in most foods.
In the late 1980s, scientists realized that alpha-lipoic acid, a compound initially classified as a vitamin when it was discovered three decades earlier, possessed potent antioxidant properties that could prevent healthy cells from getting damaged by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. In fact, this vitaminlike compound has proved to be many times more potent than such old guard antioxidants as vitamins C and E. As a perk, it even recycles C and E (as well as other antioxidants), enhancing their effectiveness.
Rhodiola rosea is a popular plant in traditional medical systems in Eastern Europe and Asia and is native to the mountainous regions of these areas. After considerable research by Russian scientists, it has been classified as an ‘adaptogen’ meaning that without treating one specific medical condition, regular use of Rhodiola will help the body resist stressors. By raising levels of monamines and beta-endorphins, Rhodiola raises a “stress buffer” system comparable to serotonin stress buffer raised by SSRI antidepressants including St. John’s wort. Therefore, virtually all symptoms caused or worsened by ‘stress,’ which may include depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic muscle pain (fibromyalgia), chronic fatigue (from adrenal exhaustion), immune dysfunction (susceptibility to infections, cancer) might be either prevented or improved using an adaptogen like Rhodiola. In its historical use, before its mechanism of action was understood, Rhodiola was recommended to combat fatigue and restore energy.