Our common inheritance in this busy, active, and overwhelming world is that stress finds a way to transform mental strain into physical health issues. Ayurvedic practitioner Mike Dhaliwal explains that stress and its relationship to the body are concerned with ojas — the source of vitality and immunity that provides a sense of health and well-being.
Dhaliwal wrote that, “Having strong ojas helps maintain optimum health and many diet and lifestyle factors can contribute to either depleting or nourishing one’s ojas.” Paying attention, focusing on your work, sitting still, and remembering what’s important all have one factor in common — a well-functioning brain. No doubt, today’s modern world of multitasking, operating complicated computer programs, and dealing with stress adds to its burden.
These modern distractions don’t make it easier to control symptoms of hyperactivity or ADHD, contributing to long-term effects of stress. Fortunately, our most modern stress-related health issues can be addressed with Ayurvedic medicine. This ancient form of healthcare provides several natural remedies for focus and concentration to keep you sharp, alert, and en pointe.
There is no avoiding the topic of stress when it comes to mind and brain activity.
There is no avoiding the topic of stress when it comes to mind and brain activity. This is because stress detracts from matters at hand in myriad ways. For one, it depletes vital energy, exhausting the mind through what we commonly call mental overload. A simple way to explain this phenomenon is when your body and mind tell you that you’ve had enough and can’t take any more — you’re compelled to put down your work, walk away from an argument, or go to the gym to let off some steam.
Dhaliwal wrote that “having strong ojas helps maintain optimum health and many diet and lifestyle factors can contribute to either depleting or nourishing one’s ojas. Low ojas and low immunity result from the same cause; excess physical and psychological stress. It is well established that the brain is the center for interpreting and integrating perception and that the autonomic nervous system modulates the stress response. Modern science also recognizes that chronic stress can cause cumulative effects of neural, endocrine, and immune stress mediators which may have adverse effects on various organ systems resulting in adverse health consequences.”
Adaptogen Herbs That Address Stress
Thousands of years before science identified what we now know as adaptogenic herbs, Ayurvedic doctors were using Tulsi and Ashwagandha natural remedies for focus and concentration. Adaptogenic herbs help the body resist stressors across the board, including symptoms of those that are physical, mental, emotional, and chemical. More specifically, these herbs are useful in treating those that struggle with hyperactivity or more severe problems.
Ashwagandha is classified in Ayurveda as a Rasayana — an herb that increases ojas to promote strength and healthful sleep, and prevents wasting diseases. One research team headed by Narendra Singh of the International Institute of Herbal Medicine, Lucknow, India, reported that, among Ayurveda’s Rasayana herbs, Ashwagandha holds the most prominent place. It enhances the function of the brain and nervous system and improves memory function. It also promotes a healthy sexual and reproductive balance. As a powerful adaptogen, the plant enhances the body’s resilience to stress and defends against disease by improving
cell-mediated immunity. Ashwagandha’s potent antioxidant properties also help protect against cellular damage caused by stress-induced free radicals.
Tulsi, another highly touted Ayurvedic herb, also serves as an adaptogen and provides excellent cognitive support. In a scientific trade journal, researchers Negar Jamshidi and Marc M. Cohen concluded cited studies attesting to the plant’s multiple therapeutic actions, including adaptogenic, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and immunomodulatory effects.
They reported that Tulsi has been the subject of numerous scientific studies, and its pharmacological and wide range of therapeutic applications are the subject of more than one hundred publications during the last decade alone. Studies continue to reinforce traditional Indian uses of Tulsi and suggest that the plant is effective for several lifestyle-related chronic diseases including psychological stress.
Natural Remedies for Memory, Aging, and Brain Function
Ayurveda has a very long tradition of naturally supporting cognitive functions with gentle, safe herbs. Among the popular Ayurvedic plants used to slow down brain aging and enhance memory, researchers include ashwagandha, turmeric, brahmi (bacopa), shankhpushpi, gotu kola, purāṇa ghṛita (old clarified butter/old ghee), and others.
Of course, there are many causes of memory loss and diminished memory, some of which are related to more serious issues like brain trauma, or disorders resulting from age-related memory loss. Still, Narendra Singh and his fellow researchers have established that ashwagandha is used by Ayurvedic practitioners “for neurodegenerative diseases at any stage of the disease, even before a person has been diagnosed and is still in the state of mild forgetfulness, etc…Our clinical experience showed that brain strokes causing paralysis and neuronal deficit also improve in the long term treatment with Ashwagandha.”
In the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a research team led by Akhlaq A. Farooqui wrote that the Ayurvedic herb Bacopa “is used as a memory enhancing, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, sedative, and antiepileptic agent, which acts as a nootropic (repairing damaged neurons and improving brain function).”
How to Improve Focus and Concentration
The Ayurvedic Professionals Association reports that the adaptogen herb tulsi (holy basil) “will awaken the mind bringing mental clarity whilst also relaxing the nervous system, allowing time for the restoration of the adrenal glands which have become exhausted by trauma, depression or anxiety. It modulates the stress response, increases adaptive energy and nourishes the vital spirit.” The plant is a well-known mood-booster, as well.
Gotu kola, first mentioned in the historic Sushruta Samhita, one of the earliest Ayurvedic medical texts (300 CE), has a history of use as a blood purifier and for treating high blood pressure, but it also is used to increase cognitive performance by enhancing memory and promoting longevity. Tea made from this nervine (nerve-calming) adaptogen can be
helpful used as treatment for relieving tension, relaxing the mind, and soothing anxiety.
Shankhpushpi is another exceptional Ayurvedic herb for cognitive performance and is known to have therapeutic potential as a memory enhancer. The most widespread application of shankhpushpi is for mental problems, but it has been considered for an array of other human maladies. This herb for mental clarity may be helpful if you struggle with a disorder such as ADHD.
A Multiplicity of Benefits
While this article focuses on stress and the Ayurvedic herbs that address cognitive function, memory, mood, focus, concentration, and more, it’s important to remember that these herbs are multi-faceted in their ability to heal. Adaptogenic and nootropic herbs address a multiplicity of health issues throughout the body, which is one of the greatest reasons to use them with respect and appreciation. Ayurvedic tradition has established that the plant kingdom has a symbiotic relationship with the human body under the umbrella of a single movement and system of life called consciousness.