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Here's the scoop on herbs that promise to improve your mind, increase your memory, and keep you from losing your marbles

You're at a cocktail party, introducing a good friend. Suddenly, you forget her name. Or you're phoning your mother and actually have to look up the number. In yesterday's meeting, a familiar word dissolved on your tongue, leaving an embarrassing pause before it returned.

Memory loss and diminished mental sharpness are common problems for men as they age; for women, short-term memory problems and fuzzy thinking are classic menopausal complaints.

And all of us fret over the threat of developing senility, Alzheimer's disease, or other dementia. Just visit the herb section of any drugstore or natural products store, and you'll see what I mean. There's a mind-boggling array of products making outrageous promises about beefing up your mental state. Brainpower, they call it in herbal marketing land.

Herbs as Brain Food
Being a science nerd, I wanted to define brainpower, because it certainly isn't a scientific term. It's really shorthand for increased concentration, improved memory, increased mental energy, or protection against the development of senility. The so-called brain boosters are simply brain health herbs with a host of different actions.

When I decided to explore these herbs--all touted to increase brainpower--I found some similarities. Turns out, most of these herbs are all of the following.


Antioxidants, which annihilate free radicals, the molecules that bounce around your cells like Ping-Pong balls, causing tiny dents of damage wherever they land.


Brain feeders that increase oxygen and glucose supply to the brain, so that its cells get what they need to function properly.


Neurotransmitter helpers. Brain cells communicate through neurotransmitters, which are compounds such as dopamine, serotonin, and the like. Most of these herbs either increase neurotransmitter production or decrease their rate of destruction.


Neuroprotectors, which protect nerve cells from damage caused by poor circulation, toxic compounds, and other problems. This is key, because once a nerve cell is damaged, you can't fix it or grow a new one. Senility results from a lifetime of such damage.

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