Natural Standard celebrates the start of another academic year by highlighting several integrative therapies that may improve mental performance.
Caffeine: Caffeine is the world's most commonly consumed psychoactive chemical. It stimulates the central nervous system, heart rate, and respiration. It is a naturally occurring compound found in the leaves, seeds, or fruits of more than 60 plants, including coffee (Coffea arabica) beans, cacao (Theobroma cacao) beans, kola (Cola acuminata) nuts, guarana (Paullinia cupana) berries, and tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves. Caffeine has a long history of use for enhancing mood and cognitive (mental) function. Caffeine may be useful when consumed prior to a cognition-related task. It also appears to heighten working memory and improve reaction time, but it has less effect on long-term memory.
Ginseng: The term ginseng refers to several species of the genus Panax (Latinized from Greek: pan, "all" and akos, "cure") of the Araliaceae family. Several studies suggest that Panax ginseng may improve mental performance in healthy individuals. According to reviews, in healthy individuals, treatment with Panax ginseng was associated with improved speed of attention, accuracy and time of response, overall cognitive performance, and psychomotor performance. Future research should focus on determining whether such effects might be specific to clearly defined subgroups and whether longer treatment duration adds benefit.
Rosemary: Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) is a common aromatic evergreen shrub grown in many parts of the world. The fresh and dried leaves are used frequently as a food preservative and in traditional Mediterranean cuisine as a flavoring agent. Early research has indicated that aromatherapy with essential oils from rosemary may enhance cognitive performance. However, more research is warranted in this area.
Boron: Boron is a micronutrient found in plants and is thought to be essential for animal growth and development. Preliminary human study reports better performance on tasks of eye-hand coordination, attention, perception, short-term memory, and long-term memory with boron supplementation. However, additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Bacopa: Bacopa monnieri is a creeping herb that grows in marshy places and is frequently planted in freshwater aquaria. It is native to India and Australia, but has spread throughout the tropics. Bacopa is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to enhance memory and cognition; however, additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
For more information about integrative therapies for mental performance, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative EffectivenessDatabase.