These 3 Spices Can Prevent Cognitive Decline, Research Finds
There's a reason spices and herbs have been prized in herbal medicine for thousands of years: These key players contain powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help with myriad health concerns—from immunity to skin health to cognition.
Let's pause on that last point, shall we? A recent study from the journal 1Molecules1 found that consuming a special trio of spices can help prevent a slew of chronic conditions as you age, including neurodegenerative diseases and dementia. Below, discover the brain-healthy stars of your spice rack.
The healthy spice trio for cognitive longevity
Inflammation is the root of most health concerns, your brain health included. See, the inflammatory response generates free radicals, which can ultimately lead to oxidative stress and damage your cells over time. "Age-related diseases are often inflammation-based," Yufang Lin, M.D., an integrative medicine specialist at Cleveland Clinic, previously told mbg.
Antioxidants, however, can neutralize those free radicals and halt inflammation as a result. So supplying your body with antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory ingredients seems like a good idea—and according to the aforementioned study, you can't do better than turmeric, ginger, and cardamom (also known as the Zingiberaceae family).
Each of these spices contains bioactive compounds that boast anti-inflammatory effects. For example, the study claims ginger can inhibit tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), a potent inflammatory chemical, as well as COX-2, an inflammatory enzyme; plus, it has a protective effect against amyloid-β, a key Alzheimer's protein.
Curcumin (which is the main bioactive in turmeric) has been found to block NF-kB, a molecule that can work its way into your cells and turn on genes that lead to inflammation. Finally, cardamom promotes certain antioxidants in the body, like glutathione, and prevents the formation of Aβ42 (an Alzheimer's-disease-related biomarker), per the study.
How to get enough
Here's the catch: You need to ingest a lot of these spices daily to fully reap the benefits of those beneficial bioactives. The study also notes that the bioavailability of these compounds needs to be optimized since not everyone eats and digests them the exact same way. We also need further research to determine the optimal concentration and dose.
This is where the science gets tricky, as there is no recommended daily requirement for botanical herbs (like we have for essential macronutrients and micronutrients). But in terms of turmeric, research indicates a range of anywhere from 500 milligrams to 1,000 milligrams on up is healthy and effective, depending on the turmeric source, bioavailability, and desired health outcome.
The study also notes that absorption of curcumin (again, that's the star bioactive) is multiplied by 10 when ingested together with piperine, a phytonutrient found in black pepper—so you might want to add pepper to your spice list, too.
However, it's estimated that 1 teaspoon of turmeric has about 200 milligrams of curcumin, but if you want to reap the benefits of a targeted, daily dose, you might want to incorporate a supplement instead to make sure you get enough. Here, you can find our favorite options on the market, some of which include full-spectrum ginger root and piperine to really elevate the benefits.
Herbs and spices can work wonders for your health, but if you've got cognitive longevity on your mind, you might want to increase your intake of turmeric, ginger, and cardamom. We recommend opting for a supplement that includes multiple of these ingredients, especially if it doesn't sound realistic to consume them with your meals every single day. But the good news is that these three flavors work fabulously together—might we suggest whipping up some golden milk?
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.