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Memory and concentration supplements: what are the most effective?

How to combat stress and fatigue

Memory and concentration supplements: what are the most effective?

How to naturally support mental performance

Lost your keys again? Do you have troubles memorising important information when working or studying? Anybody may have to cope with memory problems sooner or later in their life.

However, there are some natural aids, found in memory and concentration supplements, which can support our mental performance in these situations.

Before you browse through any plant and nutrient useful for boosting your memory, let's have a look at the causes that may limit our cognitive and attention-abilities to maintain concentration.

Memory and concentration problems: the 6 most common causes

Concentration and memory almost always go hand in hand. Those who are unable to stay focused for a long time, have also difficulties memorising data and concepts.

Excluding more or less serious health problems, which can cause frequent memory lapses, we can identify some of the most common causes of cognitive deficits.

1)   Your eating habits are too restrictive

Getting the recommended daily amounts of nutrients is essential for maintaining good mental performance. Therefore, unbalanced diets, even worse, skipping meals, especially breakfast, are highly discouraged.

According to a research carried out on a sample of children, mentioned in an article on the site of EUFIC  (European Food Information Council), the habit of skipping breakfast can be related with scarce mental performance and lower results in school books.

2)   Menopause and Advanced Age

With advancing years there is a deterioration of mental performance, even if (in the absence of specific diseases) you can still maintain efficient memory by exercising and stimulating your interests.

Memory and concentration problems may also occur in many women going through menopause.

3)   Lack of sleep

Poor quality of sleep or a deficiency in the long run can adversely affect mental performance. If we do not sleep enough hours, then we shall soon see its "side effects" such as increased irritability, a blurred state of mind and poor memory or concentration.

4)   Too much stress

Stress accumulation has a negative influence on concentration and on the cognitive processes of the brain. No coincidence that in times of overwork or intensive study, or in periods of life characterised by personal problems or radical changes (deaths, divorces, relocations, job changes etc.) it is more common to have memory and concentration problems.

5)   Lack of physical activity

Some studies have shown that regular physical activity can have a positive impact on attention levels. Some regular exercise and physical activity, practised without exaggerating, also help fight stress and can improve your sleep.

The five plants and nutrients most used in memory and concentration supplements.

Memory and concentration difficulties may occur sporadically or more frequently in the daily life of every person. The greatest risk is that these mental "blackouts" occur during important events in your life such as a university exam, a class test or a work project deadline.

To avoid this from happening, it is possible to enlist memory and concentration supplements.

The formulation of these natural products  may include plants or nutrients useful for supporting cognitive activity.

Let's see together the most used and effective.

1) Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba, native to China and Japan, is the world's oldest tree. The extract obtained from its leaves can promote normal microcirculation and support normal, healthy blood flow throughout the body; a very interesting aspect is that «animal research has revealed the ability of ginkgo to improve memory. Human research has confirmed these results» (E. Campanini, Ibidem).

2) Phosphorus

The intake of minerals such as iron, iodine and zinc can be very helpful in supporting mental performance; furthermore,  phosphorus intake contributes to the normal function of cell membranes and, consequently, can help fight memory and concentration problems. This substance, in fact, «is an important component of brain tissue» (J. I. Rodale, Il libro completo dei minerali per la salute, Firenze 1988).

3) Centella or Asian coinleaf

The extract of Asian Coinleaf is very well-known and highly appreciated for its ability to support microcirculation.

However, some studies have also highlighted the ability of this plant to support memory and cognitive functions. Indeed, in Ayurvedic medicine Asian coinleaf has been used for centuries also to support people's memory: this application was also confirmed by an Indian study that «revealed that treatment with this herb improves mental performance of children under mental strain» (M. Castleman, Le erbe curative, Milano 2007).

4) Eleutherococcus or Siberian Ginseng

Eleutherococcus, also known as Siberian ginseng, can boast adaptogenic properties, i.e. it is able to exercise a «non-specific action on physiological processes with the result of raising physical resistance against environmental stress and overall efficiency under load» (E. Campanini, Dizionario di fitoterapia e delle piante medicinali, Milano 2016).

It is therefore useful «as a tonic in conditions of stress, reduced performance and concentration» (Ibidem).

5) B-complex vitamins

B-complex vitamins play «a vital role in ensuring regular functioning of the nervous system (also improving the cognitive functions related to concentration and memory)» (Le preziose vitamine B, a cura di S. Conrieri, Milano 2013); and, in particular, vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid, increases «physical as well as mental toughness and activity» (Ibidem).

Phosphorus, fish and memory

"Eat fish, which is rich in phosphorus and good for your brain” : when you were a child you might have often heard this statement from your mother or grandmother; perhaps it is the most important statement we were told in the years about the properties of this trace element.

It is true that fish contains a good amount of phosphorus, however Omega-3s and Omega-6s (polyunsaturated fatty acids found abundantly in fish) are actually the substances that help keep your brain in "good health"!

On the other hand, however, «Surely phosphorus helps maintain your brain active, as it has an important role in facilitating the transmission of nerve impulses and provide the necessary energy to neurons» (10 minerali preziosi per la tua salute, a cura di G. Maffeis, Milano 2014).

How to improve memory and concentration: 10 tips and tricks

How then to avoid unnecessary mental energy expenditures, seeking rather to enhance concept generation and fully develop memorised data?

First, you should maintain regular sleep-wake rhythms and sleep the right amount of hours; furthermore, it is important to eat properly and avoid overly restrictive diets, which can lead to lack of nutrients, essential for maintaining normal brain function. An important help to have a good mental efficiency, however, can also come from five simple "tricks".

Let's look into them together:

1) Do not delegate too much to technology

GPS, tablet, phone: we are now accustomed to delegate much of our mental activity to technology, which without a doubt has simplified our everyday life. However excessive multi-tasking can often be a distraction that limits our ability to concentrate.

So it would be good to establish rules or, better, healthy habits and occasionally get away from it all, do without TV or smartphone to really focus on what you are doing.

2) Meditation benefits

Several studies highlighted the positive effects of meditation on memory and concentration skills. In particular, a study conducted in 2010 by the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that in only 3 month-time meditation can reduce anxiety and improve mental quickness and concentration.

3) Train visual memory

Memory can also be trained, especially the visual one.

Here is a simple and effective exercise to do: look a few minutes at an image full of details.

Then hide the picture and try to remember (perhaps by listing on a sheet of paper) as much detail as possible: shape, colour, number of objects in the image and so on.

To make the exercise more fun, you can "challenge" your friends, partner or (for very self-confident people) your own children!

4) Be positive and take regular breaks

Do not boycott your own capacity of concentration, constantly repeating that you are not able to concentrate.

Obviously it would be good to avoid or limit, as far as possible, the main stress factors, as we have seen they are among the main enemies of concentration and memory capacity.

It is also advisable to carve out some time for a break, even during a day of intensive study or super challenging work: 10-15 minutes of mental relaxation may allow us to recharge the batteries and finally get back to our tasks more efficiently.


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