A Cognition & Longevity Expert Says This Is The Best Herb For Brain Health
What does a health and science journalist eat in a day? Well, Max Lugavere is quick to celebrate all sorts of nutritious staples (find his favorites here!), but no matter what foods you're eating, he recommends chucking some healthy herbs and spices into the mix. "Generally, any chance you get to use [them] in the kitchen, it's definitely an opportunity worth seizing," he notes on the mindbodygreen podcast.
In terms of brain health, one particular herb takes the cake: rosemary. Below, Lugavere shares what makes rosemary an all-star for mental clarity and how to reap the benefits daily.
Why rosemary is great for brain health.
According to Lugavere, rosemary (and parsley, for what it's worth) is a very concentrated source of polyphenols. "That's why herbs tend to have very strong bitter flavors, due to these organic compounds that are beneficial to health," he notes.
The flavonoid apigenin, for example, has been shown to strengthen synaptic connections in the brain1, or the way neurons communicate with one another. Perhaps that's why rosemary has been found to support memory, promote clarity, and enhance mental performance. Researchers believe this is also because a compound in rosemary inhibits the breakdown of neurotransmitters2 responsible for encoding memories3 in the brain.
Given rosemary's impressive brain-healthy benefits, it's no wonder Lugavere incorporates the aromatic herb into his daily meals. Feel free to sprinkle it onto your meats and veggies, or if you're in need of some recipe inspiration, check out our omelet with herbes de Provence, butternut squash pancakes, or our grapefruit- and rosemary-infused water for a refreshing sip.
If you'd like to incorporate the herb into your daily routine—without adding a rosemary flavor to every single meal—you can also consider supplements. mindbodygreen's omega-3 potency+ incorporates rosemary extract to naturally support the freshness and shelf life of the fish oil thanks to rosemary's antioxidant properties, but as we discussed above, it also provides some brain-healthy benefits of its own.*
Not to mention, omega-3s are essential for brain health as well (and Americans on average are not getting as much as they should).* Specifically, omega-3s are important for pathways that contribute to synaptic plasticity and memory4, both of which support learning.* Diets high in these fats are also associated with healthy cognitive function5. And in terms of emotional well-being, omega-3s can also support the body's ability to respond to and cope with feelings of stress6.*
The bottom line? Omega-3s are crucial for optimizing neurocognitive function and overall brain health, and mbg's sustainable, high-quality fish oil supplement delivers 1.5 grams of EPA plus DHA daily.* (FYI, that's the omega-3 equivalent of eating one serving of fish every day).† Add some rosemary to the lineup, and those brain-healthy benefits abound.*
Herbs are concentrated with flavonoids and polyphenols, which makes them wonderful additions to any nutritious recipe. Says Lugavere, sprinkle some rosemary on your meals for optimal brain health—and complement your diet with a supplement with rosemary extract to consume more of these powerhouse polyphenols daily.*
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness 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 Wyld Skincare. 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 New York City.