There are a number of everyday strategies that can improve your memory naturally—and protect against memory loss as you age. But while many products are marketed as all-natural memory aids, only a few natural remedies have been found to improve memory in scientific studies. To keep your mind sharp as you grow older, and possibly reduce your risk of aging-related conditions like Alzheimer's disease and dementia, stick to a health routine that pairs brain-boosting behaviors with natural approaches proven to improve memory.
Natural Ways to Improve Memory
Here's a look at several natural substances shown to help improve memory naturally:
Following a diet high in antioxidants may help shield brain cells from aging-related damage. Since studies on the health effects of antioxidant supplements have yielded mixed results, many medical experts recommend upping your intake by including antioxidant-rich foods in your diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids (a type of healthy fat with inflammation-fighting effects) may help slow cognitive decline in older adults, according to a research review published in 2009. Widely available in supplement form, omega-3s are also found naturally in foods like fish, nuts, and flaxseed.
Although there is a general lack of scientific support for the use of herbs in preserving brain health, some research suggests that pairing ginkgo biloba and ginseng may help enhance cognitive function and improve memory in middle-aged adults. However, in a research review published in 2007, investigators found "inconsistent and unconvincing" evidence of ginkgo's memory-boosting benefits for people with cognitive impairment or dementia.
More Ways to Improve Memory
Along with following a healthy diet, these practices are considered essential in preserving brain health and improving your memory:
- getting regular exercise (especially cardiovascular exercise)
- maintaining social connections
- managing your stress (through mind-body techniques like yoga and deep breathing, for instance)
- keeping your mind stimulated with challenging activities (such as doing a crossword puzzle or learning to play a musical instrument)
There's also emerging evidence that practicing meditation may help improve your memory. However, more research needs to be conducted before any conclusions about meditation's memory-improving effects can be drawn.
Birks J, Grimley Evans J. "Ginkgo biloba for cognitive impairment and dementia." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 18;(2):CD003120.
Fotuhi M, Mohassel P, Yaffe K. "Fish consumption, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and risk of cognitive decline or Alzheimer disease: a complex association." Nat Clin Pract Neurol. 2009 5(3):140-52.
Jama JW, Launer LJ, Witteman JC, den Breeijen JH, Breteler MM, Grobbee DE, Hofman A. "Dietary antioxidants and cognitive function in a population-based sample of older persons. The Rotterdam Study." Am J Epidemiol. 1996 1;144(3):275-80.
Kozhevnikov M, Louchakova O, Josipovic Z, Motes MA. "The enhancement of visuospatial processing efficiency through Buddhist Deity meditation." Psychol Sci. 2009 20(5):645-53.
MayoClinic.com "Memory loss: 7 tips to improve your memory". April 2009.
Perkins AJ, Hendrie HC, Callahan CM, Gao S, Unverzagt FW, Xu Y, Hall KS, Hui SL. "Association of antioxidants with memory in a multiethnic elderly sample using the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey." Am J Epidemiol. 1999 1;150(1):37-44.
Wesnes KA, Ward T, McGinty A, Petrini O. "The memory enhancing effects of a Ginkgo biloba/Panax ginseng combination in healthy middle-aged volunteers." Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 152(4):353-61.