Brain function

‘Have you got any herbs for brainscramble?’ This from a patient who had some kind of ‘episode’, variously misdiagnosed as a brain tumour, MS, and a mini-stroke. Eighteen months on, she is still having problems with short-term memory loss and multi-tasking.
It’s fair to say that for most of us, at least some of the time, this is normal. For some people, whether or not they have a label like dyspraxia or attention deficit disorder, it is a permanent state. It can happen at any age. Sometimes there is a clear cause, like some of the disorders mentioned above, or a ‘psychosomatic’ problem like stress or anxiety, but more often there is not. It’s one of those huge grey areas, where we know we’re not functioning as well as we can, and we don’t know how to change it.
After all the obvious things, like sleeping well, eating properly, stress management, exercise and so on, it’s worth looking at herbs that improve cognitive functioning (and worth mentioning, too, that some medications can cause confusion and reduce alertness, especially when combined with others). There are those herbs like rosemary and ginkgo, which improve circulation to the brain and help reduce inflammation; these are highly useful for stroke recovery, and have been well researched in the quest to prevent or ameliorate dementia.
Then there are those that have a long history of use to help mental alertness, concentration, and general brainpower. From the traditional Chinese medicine tradition, there are the ginsengs – Panax and Eleutherococcus – and a whole range of tonic herbs to back them up. From Ayurveda there are herbs like Bacopa monieri, Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) and Withania, again backed up by many others. From the Western tradition, besides rosemary, there are sage, wood betony and St.John’s Wort, among others.
What works for you will depend on your individual history, and there’s a clear case here for consulting a professional, who will be able to stand back far enough to see the bigger picture. If your own mental clarity isn’t up to it, then use someone else’s.