Memory is as natural to us as breathing. It is an ability we all have, yet rarely ever think of – unless we perceive that we are losing that ability. Do you ever enter a room and forget what you went in for; or draw a blank mid-sentence when you are chatting? Memory lapses are an annoyance in themselves, but worse is the anxiety that often comes along with them. If you think your memory is not what it used to be, take heart with the fact that our brains have to process around 60,000 thoughts a day.
Guess you must have heard the saying, “I am growing old; you do not expect me to remember everything”?
People have come to expect that as they age, their ability to remember will begin to deteriorate, that their powers of recall will diminish. This is not necessarily true. The aging process itself has little, if any, bearing on the ability to recall information. In fact, occasional memory lapses are a natural, normal part of life at virtually any age.
It is also a common myth that our intelligence is genetically predetermined, leaving little scope for improvement. In fact, scientists say the brain is a growing, changing organ and its capabilities are dependent on how you treat it. The good news is that with proper diet and nutrition, you can dramatically improve on your brain’s functioning.
Here are some easy ways to help you sharpen your memory, improve your concentration, think more clearly and also remain active even in old age:
Inhale essential oils:
This gentle therapy uses the healing properties of essential oils derived from flowers, leaves, fruits, wood, bark and roots of plants and trees – to treat ailments and restore emotional balance. It is believed that the receptors in the nose can convert smells into electrical impulses that are passed on the limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is associated with our memory, intuition, sex drive and emotions. It is also the storeroom for all ‘remembered smells’ that can take you back to memory lane (childhood).
To boost your memory, rosemary and basil essential oils are recommended for clear thinking; eucalyptus and cardamom to increase blood flow. Simply add a few drops in a clean handkerchief and inhale a couple of times for about five minutes until you feel awake. At work, try placing the handkerchief on top of your computer monitor, table bulb if there is one -the gentle heat will diffuse the aroma, helping to keep you alert. You can get your essential oils from health and beauty stores.
Herbalism uses the medicinal power of plants to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanism. According to World’s Health Organisation (WHO) over 85 per cent of world’s population depends on traditional plant medicine and many modern pharmaceuticals such as aspirin have their origin in plants.
The kitchen spice, rosemary, which is thought to improve blood flow to the brain, is highly recommended. The herb contains a lot of carnosic acid, which is not only an antioxidant but also goes directly to your cerebral vascular tissues to dilate them and improve memory. Sprinkle rosemary on your food, cook with it or simply smell it.
Sage, like rosemary, is also a good memory-aid and is believed to improve concentration.
Ginkgo biloba increases blood circulation to the extremities and improves memory and is highly beneficial.
The plant, Chlorophora excelsa (oji in Igbo, iroko), is also highly recommended – young tender leaves are used to improve memory.
Terminlia catapa (Indian almond, “Fruit” tree) – 1 teaspoon of the powdered seed kernel in warm water sweetened with honey, if desired and taken 2 X daily is said to be a good memory aid.
Panax ginseng tea will also help increase your mental function and improve your memory.
One reason many people suffer from memory relapse is an insufficient supply of necessary nutrients to the brain. In order to maintain optimum brain function, you have to eat healthily. Most people are familiar with feeling dizzy and are unable to concentrate if they haven’t eaten, but they don’t realise what an effect nutrition has on their brain function. A lot of people also follow crash programmes, low-fat diets and what have you for weight loss, ignoring the possible repercussions for the brain.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) found in oily fish such as herring and mackerel are involved in the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that regulate brain and heart functioning.
When you are stressed, your body uses up more nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies, affecting the brain as well as other vital organs. The hormone adrenaline, produced in response to stress, utilises extra glucose, which could lower blood levels thereby impeding mental performance.
According to Marber, a clinical nutritionist and author of “The Food Doctor,” the brain is the single largest user of glucose or energy, taking approximately 70% of the total produced from food intake.
It is necessary for one to go for plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and complex carbohydrates, found in potatoes. This ensures a consistent supply of glucose and antioxidants, substances that counteract the formation of harmful free radicals – to protect the brain, and the rest of your body, from the effects of premature ageing. Aside from the vital nutrients required by the brain another vitamin-like substance, co-enzyme Q 10, is thought to increase the memory and concentration by raising oxygen levels in the brain. Best natural sources are soya beans, sesame seeds, almonds, spinach, parsley and potatoes.
According to Marber, the key nutrients responsible for efficient mental health are B-complex vitamins, which affect memory, energy levels and mood. These are found in green leafy vegetables, soy foods, wheat germ, whole-grain cereals etc. Also important are the EFAs, which potentially increase the speed at which the neurotransmitters (brain chemical messengers) function. Good sources include oily fish, soya oil, canola oil, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, walnut and leafy vegetables. A diet high in saturated fat blocks the absorption of EFAs, so it is advisable for you to limit your intake of animal fats such as butter.
It is very important to also include antioxidants in your diet – Vitamins C to improve circulation; Vitamin E to dilate the blood vessels and improve blood flow to the brain; and zinc, which is important in binding toxic substances and removing them from the brain.
It is noteworthy that alcoholics and drug addicts often suffer a great deal from memory lapses. Alcoholics are notorious for “blackouts,” hug memory gaps that occur even when they are conscious. So avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and as much as possible drug abuse.