Herbs for neurogenesis – what are the best ones, and how do they work? Here’s a quick overview:
- Ashwagandha – protects nerves from damage and induces neuron growth.
- Rhodiola Rosea – promotes stem cell proliferation and increases 5-HT (serotonin) levels.
- Korean Red Ginseng – increases connections between neurons.
- Bacopa Monnieri – boosts the growth and density of dendrites, which are small extensions of your brain cells.
- Ginkgo Biloba – improves brain blood flow, promotes brain cell growth and repair.
In this article, we break down the science behind these herbs to further explain how they can help boost your brain cell growth.
Neurogenesis For a Sharp Brain
As you work hard to achieve your goals, you’ll want to have your brain at the peak of its powers. No matter what you want to accomplish, a sharp and quick brain is what you’ll need on your way there.
A good diet and exercise regimen are always your best bet when it comes to increasing neurogenesis. But sometimes you may look for other ways to boost up your brain cell growth. Luckily, this is where herbs for neurogenesis step in.
It was thought for a long time that we can’t grow new neurons. But modern science has disproven this notion; showing that we’re able to grow and reshape the structure of our brain throughout life. (1, 2)
Below, you’ll learn what neurogenesis really is, why it’s important to keep it as high as naturally possible, and how certain herbs can help you achieve that goal.
What is Neurogenesis?
Neurogenesis is the creation of fresh brain cells. It’s governed by a number of factors, one of which is BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). This is a protein that essentially stimulates nerve growth. (1, 3)[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”hide-icon”]However, our BDNF levels reduce as we get older. And to make matters worse, unhealthy lifestyle habits like stress, sleep deprivation, and lack of exercise can speed up this process – leading to poor neurogenesis.[/alert]
Luckily, there are a number of ways in which you can maintain high natural BDNF levels, and by extension: high neurogenesis. From exercise to meditation and herbal supplements, all of which we’ll cover below.
Before that though, let’s see what neurogenesis actually does for you, and why it is important.
Benefits & Importance of Neurogenesis For Your Brain
As neurogenesis is a process of brain cell growth, this means it directly influences how your brain works and operates. A lot of nerve growth happens in the hippocampus, which is where many of your cognitive functions take place.
Neurogenesis is very important for memory formation and recall. The area of the brain where a lot of neurogenesis occurs – the hippocampus – is what controls your memory, mood, and other aspects of your mental performance.
Poor neuron growth in the hippocampus is linked to memory issues and the inability to recall information. Therefore, keeping neurogenesis high will have a positive impact on your ability to remember things.
Neurogenesis in the hippocampus doesn’t just affect how you think, but also how you feel. People with depression are shown to have a shrunken hippocampus. This area of their brains is reduced in size due to low neurogenesis. This indicates that neurogenesis and mood have strong ties.
What’s more, studies show that when you give an antidepressant to a depressed person, their neurogenesis increases. And if you block neurogenesis, the antidepressant stops working.
Neurogenesis slowly goes down as we age. That’s inevitable. However, things like stress and poor sleep can reduce neurogenesis even further, and lead to cognitive decline. Brain cell loss in the hippocampus is also linked to other neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s.
However, by keeping neurogenesis high, we can potentially reduce the chance of developing these issues. One way to achieve this is by taking herbs for neurogenesis which I’ll show you below.
Best Herbs For Neurogenesis
Many of the best herbs for neuron growth come from Asian countries. This includes traditional Chinese Medicine, which has used numerous herbal formulas that are shown to enhance neurogenesis in the brain. (4)
Ashwagandha is best known for its stress-relieving properties. This adaptogenic herb works to reduce cortisol levels in your body, increasing your vitality and resistance to both physical and mental stress.
But another benefit of Ashwagandha is that it protects your neurons, and might even support nerve growth. Withanoside IV – an active compound in Ashwagandha – is shown to prevent brain cell loss from amyloid-beta plaque which is considered one of the culprits of Alzheimer’s disease. (5)
In terms of its other benefits, Ashwagandha also helps boost testosterone and strength in men. How does this relate to brain cell growth, you ask? Well, testosterone is shown to boost neurogenesis in the hippocampus via the mechanism of promoting neuron survival. (6)
Rhodiola Rosea is another adaptogenic herb on this list. It has some unique benefits in terms of neurogenesis; Rhodiola seems to specifically boost 5-HT, which is a neurotransmitter also known as serotonin. It’s particularly effective in depressed individuals.
A low dose of Rhodiola could also promote neural stem cell growth and proliferation, repairing injured brain cells in the hippocampus. (7, 9)
Salidroside, one of many compounds in Rhodiola, is even shown to protect neurons from oxidative stress and damage. Due to these benefits, Rhodiola is without a doubt one of the best herbs for neurogenesis you can take. (8)
Korean Red Ginseng
Also called ‘Panax’ or ‘True Ginseng,’ this Chinese herb has some stunning benefits in regards to mood and mental performance.
It contains something called Rg3, which shows anti-inflammatory and antidepressant effects. In other words, Panax Ginseng helps your brain work better and improves your mood. (12, 13, 14)
And when it comes to neurogenesis, Korean Red Ginseng looks effective at boosting nerve cell growth in both the hippocampus and the Subventricular Zone. (10, 11)
In your brain, Bacopa works by increasing dendrites, which are small extensions of your neurons. Think of them as branches on the tree. They allow your neurons to send signals to each other. The denser the branches, the richer and more efficient the signaling is.
In other words, by increasing the growth and density of your dendritic branches, Bacopa supports your memory and mood – in fact, studies have shown that it’s one of the best natural memory nootropics out there. (15)
Ginkgo Biloba is an old school brain supplement that you’ve probably heard of before. You may also know that Ginkgo Biloba improves memory. It achieves this by promoting brain blood flow, along with promoting neurogenesis and nerve repair.
In animal studies, Gingko improved the recovery of neural tissue following a stroke in animal studies. This is thought to be due to an activation of an antioxidant gene that boosts neurogenesis. (16)
Bonus: Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Not a herb, but a mushroom. Still, we had to include Lion’s Mane on this list because it’s shown some incredible neurogenesis properties.
A study gave Lion’s Mane Mushroom to animals that were disabled due to an injury. The treatment with Lion’s Mane repaired these animals’ nerves, including those in the brain. Allowing them to walk again. (17)
In humans, Lion’s Mane is shown to improve memory by influencing nerve growth factors, that, as the name says, help your brain create new neural tissue. (18)
Anything Else to Consider?
Alongside these herbs, it’s important to have a healthy lifestyle in place. Exercise, sleep, diet – all of them are critical for maintaining healthy neurogenesis in the brain.
Eating flavonoid-rich foods, along with running daily and practicing mindfulness & meditation. These are some of the ways to naturally increase brain cell growth and stay mentally sharp well into old age.
Further Reading: Best Ways to Increase Neurogenesis Naturally
Conclusion on Herbs For Neurogenesis
Neurogenesis is what allows your brain to stay ‘plastic,’ aka, change itself over the course of life.
Specifically, neural growth in the hippocampus is shown to be extremely important for memory, mood, and cognitive function. Low neurogenesis in this area of the brain links to mood disorders as well as mental decline.
One of the ways you can support your neurogenesis is through exercise, sleep, and a healthy diet. Avoiding sugars and highly inflammatory foods while putting emphasis on omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids that protect brain cells and increase nerve connections.
Another way to improve neurogenesis is by taking natural herbs listed above. From Rhodiola to Panax Ginseng, these all have scientific evidence showing their powerful effects on brain cell repair and growth.