As someone who was in a tough grad school program (I studied traditional Chinese Medicine in a Master's program), I needed all the help I could get memorizing both eastern (TCM terms, meridians, points, syndromes, and pathogens) as well as all the western information (anatomy, physiology, pathology, and medical terminology). It was enough to give one a semester-long headache!
So I created a study tonic for myself, and now Haven Herbs also sells it to others.
It's called Mastermind and it would also be good for folks with memory loss for reasons other than grad school, too. When I used it, I kept it in my water bottle during class and study sessions. It oxygenates the brain, helps boost long and short-term memory, and facilitates the brain making connections. I found it really helped me.
Buy Mastermind here.
What's in it and why?
Ginkgo Biloba: The oldest tree species on earth, there are actually trees in China that are 2500 years old! "Laboratory studies have shown that ginkgo improves blood circulation by opening up blood vessels and making blood less "sticky". It's also an antioxidant. For those same reasons, ginkgo may improve vein and eye health. Although not all studies agree, ginkgo may help treat dementia (including Alzheimer's disease) and intermittent claudication (poor circulation in the legs). It may also protect memory in older adults." -University of Maryland Medical Center
"Multiple clinical trials have evaluated ginkgo for a syndrome called "cerebral insufficiency." This condition, more commonly diagnosed in Europe than the United States, may include poor concentration, confusion, absentmindedness, decreased physical performance, fatigue, headache, dizziness, depression, and anxiety. It is believed that cerebral insufficiency is caused by decreased blood flow to the brain due to clogged blood vessels. Overall, the scientific literature does suggest that ginkgo benefits people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease and multi-infarct dementia, and it may be as helpful as acetylcholinesterase inhibitor drugs such as donepezil (Aricept®). Age-associated memory impairment (AAMI) is a nonspecific syndrome, which may be caused by early Alzheimer's disease or multi-infarct dementia (conditions for which ginkgo has been shown to have benefit). There is preliminary research showing small improvements in memory and other brain functions in patients with AAMI. Based on human research, Ginkgo biloba in patients with multiple sclerosis may improve cognitive function. Ginkgo is traditionally used for improved memory or cognition and research supports a possible use for patients with dyslexia. "- Mayo Clinic
Gotu Kola: Use for centuries in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, Gotu Kola fights mental fatigue. Gotu Kola is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most important medicinal plant species to be conserved and cultivated.
The leaves of Gotu Kola have high concentration of neurotransmitter precursors (free tyrosine and phenylalanine). The herb increases GABA, an amino acid in the brain that naturally relaxes the muscles in the body and calms emotions. Low levels of GABA can result in feelings of anxiety leading to stress or depression. The herb is a CNS depressant possessing mild tranquilizing, anti-stress and anti-anxiety ability. The high concentration of vitamin B1, B2 and B6 help to convert carbohydrates into glucose as well as normal nervous system functioning.
As a result of these properties, it is used to re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, enhance memory, increase attention span and concentration. The herb is also used experimentally for other neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy."As a brain tonic, it is said to aid intelligence and memory. It strengthens the adrenal glands and cleanses the blood to treat skin impurities. It is said to combat stress and depression, increase libido and improve reflexes. According to modern studies, Gotu Kola does offer support for healthy memory function. A study conducted in 1992 by K. Nalini at Kasturba Medical College showed an impressive improvement in memory in rats which were treated with the extract (orally) daily for 14 days before the experiment. The retention of learned behavior in the rats treated with gotu kola was three to 60 times better than that in control animals. Preliminary results in one clinical trial with mentally retarded children was shown to increase scores on intelligence tests (Bagchi, 1989). In Ayurveda, it is also considered a spiritual herb that benefits meditation. (source)
Rosemary: In 1529, an herbal book recommended taking rosemary for "weakness of the brain." Today, research has found that rosemary contains a diterpine called carnosic acid that has neuroprotective properties that researchers believe may protect against Alzheimer's disease as well as the normal memory loss that happens with aging. The same study that found that merely smelling rosemary improved test subjects' quality of memory also found that their mood was significantly improved compared to the control group. (source)
Test subjects in cubicles were given essential oil of rosemary to smell and they had better quality of memory and better overall memory than the control group, though their speed of memory was slower compared to the control group."Increases Energy Levels and Optimism: Antioxidant properties of this herb have been found to eliminate harmful toxins from the liver by enhancing the production of detoxifying enzymes, thereby increasing energy levels in human beings. It can be said that it also flushes out all negativity caused by the collection of toxins in the body. Thus, this herb also enables quick recovery from any disease or dysfunction. When used in aromatherapy, rosemary works as a stimulant that rids the body of fatigue and cures depression. A cup of rosemary tea will also help you recover from a bad hangover.
This herb contains substances that prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters in the brain and has therefore, traditionally been believed to be a natural memory enhancer as it enhances the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that helps improve memory. It has been found that people who were exposed to rosemary fragrance have felt more alert and have shown marked improvements in the case of long-term memory. You may try this for yourself by getting a massage with rosemary oil or adding some of it to a bath. Even drinking rosemary tea will work to help memory in the long run. Carnosic Acid found in this herb has been found to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease. Stimulates Blood Circulation: Being a rich source of iron, rosemary helps increase the oxygen carrying capacity of blood. Thus, blood circulation improves; and enhanced blood circulation itself is a cure for several problems such as skin disease, and memory loss." (source)
Researchers from Northumbria University in the United Kingdom found that the amount of 1,8-cineole, a main chemical in rosemary oil, in the blood is linked with brain performance. Their work was published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology. (source)
Peppermint: has long been known to increase memory, relieve headaches, assist with stress relief and improve blood circulation. One 2006 study in the United Kingdom measured the effect of peppermint aroma on cognitive performance. Researchers compared peppermint aroma in one group to ylang-ylang aroma in another, while a third control group received no exposure to aroma. Peppermint was shown to increase alertness and memory, while ylang-ylang appeared to impair both.
Another study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience again showed the aroma of peppermint led to improved memory and alertness. And one more study in Cincinnati, Ohio exposed a group of students to the aroma of peppermint oil before a test. Those who smelled the peppermint oil showed an improved accuracy of 28 percent compared to students who did not.
Studies have shown that as soon as the essential oil vapor touches the end of the olfactory nerve endings, there is an almost instant increase in pulse rate and blood circulation. The stimulating effect of increased blood circulation helps to oxygenate the body’s organs and increase metabolism, as well as oxygenate the brain. This leads to higher cognitive function and protection against neurally degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Counterindications and Warnings: Patients with blood circulation disorders or individuals on anticoagulants, such as aspirin, are at risk of experiencing undesirable effects after taking Ginkgo.
In addition, if you are on antidepressants you are strongly advised not to take Ginkgo as it inhibits monoamine oxidase, reducing the effectiveness of the medications (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and monoamine oxidase inhibitors).
Medical experts advise against using Gotu Kola if you have a history of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell skin cancer, or melanoma. People with liver disease should also avoid it.
Pregnant people should avoid consuming large amounts of rosemary because it may lead to uterine contractions and possible miscarriage. People with high blood pressure should not take excessive rosemary because it may raise blood pressure.