A decade of research of herbs for the brain


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Cognitive processes involve multiple mechanisms which interact in complex, and possibly idiosyncratic ways. Monopharmacological treatments forbrain disorders (including cognitive decline and dementia) have therefore had little impact on the disorders. It may be that by affecting multiple systems, herbal medicines may offer a more promising approach. Unlike more mainstream pharmacological agents, herbal extracts may contain multiple active components. It appears that certain plants have evolved with a combination of properties which, in concert, may affect multiple neuronal, metabolic and hormonal systems. Since behavioural processes are themselves dependent on such systems, it is unsurprising that the effects of herbal extracts on behaviour have been documented for millennia.  Over the past decade there has been an rapid growth in research into the human behavioural effects of nutritional interventions and herbal extracts. This paper will briefly draw on specific examples from a systematic assessment of the behavioural effects of nutra interventions including Ginseng, Sage, Bacopa, polyphenols and components of tea and coffee. This work is in its infancy but may uncover promising candidates with which to optimise day-to-day cognitive functioning,  to maintain psychological wellbeing throughout the lifespan and even to treat conditions where mental function becomes fragile - including dementias.

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