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6 Ways to Improve Your Memory with Herbs and Supplements

Finding yourself a little forgetful lately? Here are six herbs and supplements that will naturally boost your memory

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Memory-Boosting Supplement #1: Bacopa

There’s some evidence that this Ayurvedic herb can improve memory, probably through its strong antioxidant effects. In a study that gave healthy volunteers 300 milligrams of the herb or a placebo, the people who took the herb showed a significantly improved ability to process visual information, learn new material and consolidate their memory (that is, transfer short-term memories to long-term storage). 

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Memory-Boosting Supplement #2: St. John’s Wort

Memory problems can be related to mild underlying depression. In those instances, buy a St. John’s Wort supplement standardized to 0.3% hypericin or 2% to 5% hyperforin and take 300 milligrams 3 times a day. The herb can interact with prescription medications, so talk with your doctor before taking it.

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Memory-Boosting Supplement #3: Guarana and Ginseng

Ginseng is a considered a “tonic” herb that benefits general health, while guarana, which contains caffeine, is a stimulant. One study compared an extract of guarana, 200 milligrams Panax ginseng or both together in 28 healthy participants. They found that all 3 treatments improved the participants’ ability to perform certain cognitive-related tasks throughout the day. Guarana had the greatest benefit on attention tasks, while ginseng and the combination of both herbs improved the memory task most.

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Memory-boosting supplement #4: Acetyl-L-carnitine

This amino acid is often included in “brainpower” and “memory boosting” supplements sold in drugstores. It plays numerous roles in helping to maintain the health of neurons and may also improve production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, important in memory. Most studies on its use have been conducted in Alzheimer’s patients, with some evidence that high daily doses can help slow the decline. Start with a modest dose of 200 milligrams 2 or 3 times a day.

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Memory-Boosting Supplement #5: Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a naturally occurring fat we get as part of our normal diet. It’s particularly important in enabling neuronal membranes to transmit electrical signals. In several studies in middle-aged and older people with mild memory problems, the supplement consistently and significantly improved participants’ ability to recall lists of words after 2 to 4 months of use. Take 200 to 300 milligrams a day in 2 or 3 divided doses.

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Memory-Boosting Supplement #6: Vinpocetine

This herb, derived from the Madagascar periwinkle, was developed in Hungary about 20 years ago. It’s mainly used to treat people with a loss of blood flow to the brain, a key contributor to memory and learning problems. Although there aren’t many human studies to go by, 3 studies show that taking vinpocetine can improve attention, concentration and memory more than a placebo. Take 2.5 to 5 milligrams 3 times a day, increasing to 10 milligrams 3 times a day if you don’t improve with the lower dose after 4 to 6 weeks.