It has been estimated that about 1 in every 5 adults – or approximately 43.8 million adults – in the U.S. go through mental illness on a yearly basis. While depression is thought to be the most common mental disease, millions of people also suffer from anxiety, stress, dementia, bipolar disorder, and a range of other psychological disorders that interfere with daily life activities.
To function at your most optimal state, you need to make sure that you’re both physically and mentally fit. While everyone knows that you should eat a balanced diet, exercise, and sleep for at least 8 hours for perfect physical health, there are also a couple of things you can do for your psychological wellness as well.
Besides a healthy diet, some supplements and herbs have powerful health benefits both for the mind and body. In this article, we are going to take a look at a few of the best herbs that may help improve mental health, and possibly fight off mental disorders.
So, without further ado, here are three of the best herbs to include in your diet to better your mental performance.
The root of the plant commonly known as ginseng has been proven to possess many medicinal properties. Among the different varieties of this plant, the Asian Panax ginseng in particular is widely used all over the world as a tonic to balance and relax the nervous system. This herb is an adaptogen, which improves your body’s ability to deal with mental and physical stressors, and reduce their negative effects.
Panax ginseng may help improve cognitive functions, such as thinking and memory. Although the evidence for these claims is not very strong in healthy individuals, studies showed that people with dementia can significantly benefit from this herb.
There are many common uses of ginseng, but again, they lack clinical proof. It is used to improve mood, especially for people suffering from depression. And while it is used to promote relaxation, it is also thought to help increase energy and boost physical strength and performance. This herb is definitely worth adding to your daily diet, whether as a supplement or as a hot fresh tea.
2. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo Biloba is a tree that mostly grows in China. The Chinese have been using the leaves of this tree for many ages as they believe it has medicinal powers, and well, it looks like they were right about that! Many extracts of ginkgo leaves have been clinically studied and proven to have medicinal value. This herb improves blood flow in the body in general, and in the brain in particular.
Ginkgo is a powerful antioxidant that may help improve memory and other mental functions. In Germany and some other countries, it is prescribed to treat Alzheimer’s disease, memory disorders, and other health conditions. People also take it to reduce anxiety and depression.
In the U.S. and many other countries, Ginkgo is treated as a dietary supplement and anyone can buy it over the counter. However, experts warn that you shouldn’t just start taking Ginkgo supplements because they contain long-chain alkylphenols, which can cause an allergic reaction for people with plant allergies. It is advised that you be informed about any allergies you may have before starting with any herb.
Another herb that you may be interested in knowing about is piper methysticum, which is better known as kava. The roots of this plant are traditionally used by some Pacific nations to make an entheogenic (psychoactive) drink that causes sedation and euphoria. Consumed as ceremonial tea in some Polynesian islands, it is a non-addictive beverage that helps in reducing symptoms of anxiety disorder. Although its effects are similar to alcohol, it has no addictive properties.
The Kava herb has proven medicinal properties, and its potency has been compared to that of some pharmaceutical drugs, like Valium and Xanax. Although it is not an approved treatment, many people use it for medical and recreational purposes. In addition to reducing anxiety and stress, people also take it to improve cognitive functions, although that still needs to be scientifically substantiated.
You should be very careful with this herb as it may interact with other psychoactive drugs you are taking and worsen side effects. It has also been reported to cause liver damage, which has led to it being banned by health authorities in certain countries, but it still is legal in the U.S. and most of the world.
Other common everyday herbs and spices like thyme, sage and turmeric are known to possess qualities that help improve physical and mental health. If you are considering buying an herbal supplement that you have never used before, especially those advertised on the internet, a word of caution is that you should talk to your physician before taking any seemingly harmless supplement — just to stay safe.