Ayurvedic herbs have the potential to promote brain healing and prevent dementia—find out how.
Have you ever had the feeling that you needed to reach out to someone? I often get these feelings when the people I care about are in distress, so I’ve learned to trust my gut. Sure, we can say that the brain can’t fathom this connection, because where is the logic without evidence? But our second brain, the gut, knows more than we understand. Ayurveda tells us that our mind, body, and soul are connected.
Dealing With Dementia
A few weeks ago, I had butterflies in my stomach. I had a feeling that I needed to call up two of my closest friends. The first thing they both remarked was, “How did you know I was worried?” It just so happens that both these friends, like many of us, are caring for elderly parents. The coincidence is that each of their mothers have been diagnosed with dementia—one a retired math teacher, the other a former beauty pageant winner.
The retired math teacher didn’t handle the partial loss of her memory very well. She was revered as an educator and won accolades at the peak of her career. She was a woman who woke up every morning, cooked fresh breakfast for her family, then made and packed a warm lunch for her husband, two children, and herself. She taught high-level math to seniors in high school. And she never forgot anything. She even remembered what I liked to eat when I visited them.
But with age, she started confusing days of the week. Then she started to confuse people, places, and the timing of events. The doctors diagnosed her with dementia. The inability to recall moments big and small led to the onset of anxiety followed by insomnia. Doctors had to prescribe strong medications to calm her, but the pills left her sedated and quiet.
My other friend’s mom, the one who used to be a beauty pageant contestant and winner in her young days, accepted that medication was the only way forward with her dementia. Her face now looks vacant, as if she is constantly trying to piece her life and remnant memories together.
These women have created a shell around themselves. We live in a world where people are so quick to talk about diseases below the neck. But when it comes to the brain, there are a lot of dodged conversations.
Ayurvedic Herbs for the Brain
Both of my friends asked if I could prescribe any Ayurvedic herbs in lieu of the medication suggested by their doctors. Here’s the thing: Ayurvedic herbs are potent and make for effective medicine. But whether it will work for a particular person depends on the stage of their disease, age, general health, dosha balances or imbalances, and other factors. Many herbs also have side effects. And we need to make sure that the herbs don’t interfere with the prescription medication any client or patient is on.
If you are looking to nourish your brain health, I share names of three Ayurvedic herbs below. As always, talk to an Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor before starting any Ayurvedic herbs.
Brahmi: Also called Bacopa monnieri, Brahmi is an important herb that supports the proper function of the nervous system and slows down the effects of aging. Brahmi relieves both anxiety and stress, and it helps create a more balanced emotional state. It may be useful in managing age-related memory loss.
Due to its adaptogenic qualities, Brahmi promotes energy during the daytime while supporting sound, restful sleep at night. It is a memory-enhancing herb, and it can have a healing effect on the brain. It’s been said that consuming Brahmi can help prevent conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Brahmi isn’t the best choice for those with low heart rate conditions or sensitive stomach or ulcers, as Brahmi acts as a deepana (digestive). It can interfere with sedatives and may increase fluid secretion in the lungs.
Shankhapushpi: According to Ayurveda, Shankhapushpi or Convolvulus pluricaulis helps to calm down the brain and relieves stress, as well as anxiety. Shankhapushpi has been consumed for centuries as a tonic for the brain and nervous system. This is a perennial plant native to India that gets its name from the resemblance of its flowers to a shankh, or conch.
Considered a powerful rejuvenator for the mind, it promotes memory, concentration, and intelligence. It is known to help combat fear, calm nerves, and uplift mood. Shankhapushpi has been said to improve the ability to recall. It also helps reduce restlessness, uneasiness, and general mental stress.
Due to its neuroprotective activity, Shankhapushpi can improve mental functions, and it pacifies all three doshas. Because it lowers blood pressure, people with low BP should exercise caution. In addition to other herbs, it is included in some formulations used for schizophrenia, depression, epilepsy, and aggressive behavior disorders.
Mandukaparni: With the Latin name Centella asiatica and common name of gotu kola, this herb is known to improve mental alertness and cognitive functions. Pitta type insomnia, which presents symptoms of excessive body heat and mental agitation, is treated with cooling nervines, such as Mandukaparni. It is commonly believed in the East that Mandukaparni is infused with the capacity to increase longevity; elephants love this herb, and they have an extremely long lifespan.
Gotu kola has traditionally been used in cases of mental fatigue, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, low retention power, ADHD, memory loss, and insomnia. It pacifies both Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha. Modern medical researchers report that the plant has neuro-regenerative capacity, or the ability to create new nerve cells. It has antioxidant action, which helps to reduce oxidative damage in the brain and lessens memory impairment.
When taken in excessive amounts, it can cause drowsiness. If you are on any sedatives, Mandukaparni will only make you sleepier.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.
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