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Naturally Better Memory & Focus

Posted to: Wellness Blog by Dr. Joanne on Sep 16, 2014
Tags: memory (1)

I am a graduate student and my classes are very demanding. Is there a natural supplement that can help me focus while I study and also help me perform better on tests?

When I was in school training to be a Naturopathic Doctor, we took over 10 classes at a time and had tests every week! It was intense, so this is an area I know about!  

There are several herbs that have been used by traditional herbalists to enhance memory, clarify thinking and support balanced mood. Herbs with these actions are called Nootropic herbs and include ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba),  gotu kola (Centella asiatica) and  Bacopa (Bacopa monniera). Other herbs such as Rhodiola and Asian ginseng have also shown to benefit memory. 

A couple other ideas:  I  listened to Brain Wave music while studying and resting. I also found diffusing essential oils while I studied really helped to set the mood and keep me focused.

Below are some of my recommendations and a list of herbs that have clinical research supporting their benefit:

  1. Rhodiola
    • Rhodiola is used to improve mental performance, concentration and memory especially when under stress. It is also quite good at decreasing fatigue. One clinical study showed that it reduced fatigue in doctors and improved mental performance. Another study showed reduced mental fatigue in students thus achieving higher grades.  
  2. Ginkgo & Ginseng  
    1. A 14-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study of 256 healthy adults ages 38 to 66 years showed statistically significant improvements in cognitive function in those receiving Ginkgo/Ginseng combination vs. the placebo.  Another study published the following year echoed these results and showed that the effect on cognitive function using the combination of Ginkgo & Ginseng was more pronounced and more immediate than treatment with either herb individually. 
  3. Bacopa monnieri
    • An Ayurvedic herb with a long history of traditional use. It is known as a rejuvenator of the mind and nervous system and is used to improve memory, concentration and calm the mind. These claims are backed by current clinical research too!  Studies have used a dose of 300mg per day, benefits were shown only with long term use (3 months or more). One clinical study involved 136 adults showed Bacopa to significantly improve memory acquisition and retention in participants. Bacopa has also been shown to benefit ADD symptoms in several studies. 
  4. Rosemary and peppermint essential oils.
    • These energizing oils can be combined with calming/stress relieving oils such as lavender, bergamot or ylang ylang. Use a room diffuser or vaporizer or apply topically by adding a few drops to olive or almond oil. Good application sites include the forehead, palms, scalp, shoulders and soles of feet.
  5. Brain Food
    • Snack on high energy brain foods such as nuts and seeds with fruit, such as trail mix. Adding a protein shake for a daytime snack is another good idea.  The brain requires glucose (sugar) to function so when you are studying or if your job demands much brain energy and focus, the nutrition is much needed. That is why you might find you are hungrier than usual!
  6. B Vitamin Complex
    • The B vitamins are used up quickly during times of stress and are often a helpful addition to a memory support protocol.

 Happy Learning and Studying!!

Dr. Joanne Aponte is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor & Holistic Wellness Expert. She is available in the store every Tuesday & Thursday from 12-7 to help answer your questions regarding natural wellness.

Disclaimer: The information contained in the GHM Wellness Blog is intended for educational purposes only. The information is not intended to be used for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any medical condition. Always consult with your personal physician or other qualified health care provider before making any changes to your health care routine.


  1.  Phytomedicine 2000; 7(5): 365-371;  Phytomedicine 2003
  2. Psychopharmacology 2000; 152(4): 353-361; Nutr Neurosci 2001; 4(5): 399-412
  3.  J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jul;16(7):753-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0342

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