Neuroplasticity, Brain Health, Mood and ‘Smarty Plants’

Our brains have the remarkable capacity to adapt and change throughout our lives. This ability to form and reorganize neural pathways in response to learning, experience, injury, disease, or aging is called neuroplasticity.

“Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”

~ Dr. Martin Luther King

Neuroplasticity helps the brain process sensory input along with creating suitable adaptive responses to stimuli. Neurons must have purpose to survive, and those with weak or ineffective connections are pruned. Through a variety of structural and molecular mechanisms, neurons compensate for injury or disease.

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An Ayurvedic Memory Tonic: Bacopa (Bacopa monniera)

Bacopa monnieri

Bacopa (Bacopa monniera) has long been revered in Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic for improving memory—the plant is so highly valued that it’s called “Brahmi,” referring to Brahma, the creator of the universe in the Hindu tradition. Ayurvedic practitioners regard bacopa as a rasayana (restorative adaptogenic tonic), and for thousands of years have prescribed it for relieving debility (particularly mental debility), mental chatter, insomnia, depression, chronic fatigue, as a brain tonic to enhance memory development, learning, and concentration1 and to provide relief from anxiety and epileptic disorders.2 Bacopa is also recommended as a general tonic to slow the aging process. In India and Pakistan, bacopa is prescribed as a cardiac tonic, digestive aid, and to improve respiratory function in cases of bronchoconstriction.3

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Herbs and Nutrients to Keep Your Memory Sharp

If you’ve ever walked into a room and couldn’t remember why you were there; misplaced your keys (or even your car in a parking lot); or forgotten the name of an acquaintance, you might have momentarily wondered about your memory or if you were losing your mind. If you’re over the age of 50, you might even be seriously concerned about the possibility of Alzheimer’s.

It’s a valid concern. According to the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association figures, more than five million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, approximately 500,000 Americans under the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Although a decline in memory and brain function is generally regarded as an inevitable part of growing older, in reality, brain aging is caused by poor cerebral circulation, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, oxidative damage, and decreased levels of anabolic-repair hormones, including DHEA and testosterone. All of these factors contribute to changes in the brain that lead to neuronal degeneration and cognitive impairment.

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