I recently watched a 9 part docuseries on Herbalism called Remedy – Ancient Medicine for Modern Illness and got super-inspired to stock up on some herbs and tinctures. For the past few years I’ve been feeling the sharpness of my mind slip away and it’s quite disturbing! My memory seems to be getting worse and worse and the swift connections my mind has always made are now slowwwwww. Sometimes embarrassingly so 🙂 Well…episode #4 was on Boosting Brain Function: How to Sharpen Memory, Clarity, and Focus and it was just the inspiration I needed to start the improvement of my cognitive function! After making the herbs into a fascinatingly earthy-bitter concoction and ceasing to drink my morning coffee I thought that there had to be a better way to drink this brain elixir that could replace my morning coffee ritual and taste delicious….I needed it to be something I look forward to drinking otherwise I will probably stop drinking it!
Sooooo I came up with this fabulous concoction! The not-very-savory flavour of all the herbs is masked by cacao and coconut oil and it’s my creamy, tasty, morning delight now!
Recipe for an immune-boosting energizing brain tonic
I brew up 3 days worth of herbal tea and keep it in the fridge.
Put the following in a small pot on medium heat:
4 cups of water
3 to 6 tbsp Gotu Kola
2 tbsp Bacopa
2 tbsp Ashwagandha Root
2 tbsp Rhodiola
2 tbsp Cats Claw
1 tbsp Five Mushroom Blend powder (includes Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s mane, Reishi and Turkey tail)
Put the lid on askew and brew on a low boil for about 15 minutes.
Then, if you want to use whole cacao beans (I do because I have cacao trees 🙂 ) blend up the cacao in your blender OR put 1 tbsp of cacao powder in your blender (if you want the elixir less bitty) with 2 tbsp of the herbal liquid and blend. Add 1 tsp of good honey (or more if you find you like it a little sweeter) and 1 tbsp chunk of coconut oil. Do not blend. When the hot herbal elixir is ready (or you’ve strained it and re-heated it for the next day) strain one cup of your hot herbal tea onto the cacao, honey and coconut oil and blend quickly. The coconut oil is the secret ingredient and it makes the tonic suuuuuuper smooth and creamy! Yum! Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy. Your brain will thank you!
Imagine your mind becoming clearer and sharper…
Here are my notes on these herbs and their benefits from the the episode of Remedy on Improving one’s Brain Function:
Gotu Kola: this is the brain herb and an adaptogen. Every herbalist in the series agreed that this is the best herb to take to improve brain function. Apparently you can take quite high doses, because it’s such a mild herb, so I’m taking it in tincture form every day, too. The experts say that you can make a tea out of 2 tbsp (30 grams) a day but if you really want to see improvements you can bump it up to 60 to 90 grams a day (4 to 6 tbsp/day) for a few weeks until you really notice an improvement and then go back down to a maintenance dose of 2 tbsp/day…play with the doses. It is anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, good for the blood vessels in the brain, relaxing, heals connective tissue, enhances clarity of thinking, memory, all cognitive functions and is beneficial to the nervous system. It has tons of chlorophyl which is great for oxygenating the body and for eliminating free-radicals and abnormal cells.
Bacopa: is another adaptogen, very gentle and intended to be taken for a long time. The longer you take it the more powerful it is. Good for improving Memory and Cognition by enhancing the brain blood flow. Also regulates the body’s response to both acute and chronic stress.
Rhodiola: is an amazing adaptogenic herb for strengthening the energy of your body and mind. If you feel like you have no energy in your limbs and feel really fatigued in body and mind this herb, grown in the Arctic, is said to have been what the Vikings took with them to give them strength and energy on their long, cold treks. I like to imagine, while sipping on my herbal elixir, that I am being infused by the energy, vigour and strength of a Viking Warrior 🙂 Why not!? Rhodiola enhances your mind and increases physical energy and endurance while reducing fatigue, depression and anxiety. Nice!
Ashwagandha Root: throughout the whole herbalism series this root came up the most (well, perhaps turmeric was tied for the most all-round beneficial herb – you may add turmeric to this drink, too, of course!) as it seems to be good for everything! It’s a super-herb! It’s another adaptogen and so is a very nourishing, long term remedy. It’s very gentle and mild and makes you settle, center and focus. I love that the translation of ashwagandha into english is “Strength of a Horse”! Apparently the root actually smells like a wet horse when you dig it up. When one thinks of horses, one thinks of Power, of Energy, of Vitality so, yes, ashwagandha is nurtures these qualities. I like that the herbalist said that where coffee pushes you forward, ashwagandha simply supports you and carries you forward. It feeds you but it is not a stimulant. It’s much less overwhelming than coffee, so it is a perfect replacement! It’s a brain and mood neutralizer and steady-er and reduces anxiety. Also good for the heart. Often what is good for the heart is also good for the brain, as they are connected. If you wake up in the morning feeling groggy instead of energized ashwagandha, after taking it for a month, will have you falling asleep easily and waking up feeling refreshed and vitalized. It’s good for someone who feels exhausted and wiped out and adrenally fatigued. Taking it either in the morning or night is fine. Teaches us how to balance our hormones and good for creative energy. People diagnosed with MS are urged to take Ashwagandha. Here is Episode 2 of Remedy – Ancient Medicine for Modern Illness – The Invisible Seeds of Disease – Stress and Anxiety
Cat’s Claw: is adaptogenic, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and antimutagenic immunostimulant. You can take cat’s claw every day as it is an immune-stimulating powerhouse that been proven to help eliminate free radicals that cause cellular damage. It curatively inhibits cancer growth and improves DNA repair. I’d say this is a good one to have in your daily Herbal Tonic. When I order this herb from Gaia’s Garden in Vancouver, Canada, it looks like peach-coloured shredded bark but here in Mexico it is an extremely hard, sharp claw-like herb, so I use both 🙂
Five Mushroom Blend powder (includes Chaga, Cordyceps, Lion’s mane, Reishi and Turkey Tail): as per my notes on the herbalism series I note that these five mushrooms are tremendously good at nourishing Immune System. They modulate and educate our immune systems and are great for people with auto-immune diseases. Chaga is anti-inflammatory, anti-
Cacao: was considered by the Incas as the “Food of the Gods” as it’s health benefits are many: a known anti-depressant, blood-sugar stabilizer, high in anti-oxidants (40 times more than blueberries! Which means all those environmental toxins won’t damage your cells), high in iron and magnesium (great for the heart!) and calcium. Good for one’s muscles, improves blood flow to the brain and great mood-uplifter! Yay cacao!
Honey: is an antioxidant, good for the heart, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and is deeeeelicious!
Coconut Oil: is high in healthy saturated fats which raise good cholesterol and is an excellent fuel for healthy brain function. Coconut fats stabilize blood sugar and reduce inflammation in the brain. Excellent for ‘age-related mental decline’ – consuming 3 or 4 tbsp of coconut oil a day is recommended.
A word on Coffee:
We LOVE coffee, don’t we? Well, speaking for myself, yesssss I do. But when I heard what the Herbalists had to say about it coupled with my own experience with coffee I realized that I should probably go off it again for a few months. Essentially they said that coffee is a verrrrrry strong medicine and, really, should be used accordingly but, of course it isn’t since many people drink it every day and sometimes drink more than one cup a day. They said that it is over-stimulating the endocrine system and our adrenals…it gives us short-term stimulation, but long-term fatigue. It’s great for mental clarity but is not the correct medicine for all people. They said that when you drink coffee every day you’re essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul 🙁 In Traditional Chinese Medicine coffee steals Qi from your Jing/Kidneys – from your storehouse of energy. In modern western medical language this translates into coffee causing adrenal fatigue. If you are actively trying to heal yourself then you really shouldn’t be drinking coffee…what you need is rest and sleep. Coffee is a nervine and wreaks havoc on the adrenals causing fatigue and adds a sharp edge to stress levels. “When you take stimulants, you’re stealing Qi from your future.” Something to remember is that whatever you take into your body first thing in the morning sets your intention for the day….let it be something other than coffee (even if you’re still drinking coffee) like hot water with lemon or lime (Edgar Cayce’s suggestion) or Green tea or Lemon Balm or a Herbal Brain Tonic such as the one above.
My personal experience with coffee was that in 2010, for over a year, I was experiencing Lyme-like flu symptoms every two weeks or so that made me feeling soooo shitty, really worried about my health and really fatigued with all-over body/skin pain, sore teeth, tired eyes and zero energy. After trying everything under the sun (herbs, acupuncture, diet-change, vitamins) I had a dream that my last Paris bowl had broken. When I awoke I wrote the dream down and analyzed it. You see, I’d been drinking my coffee with hot scalded milk and honey out of my Paris bowl every morning for the last 24 years! It dawned on me that perhaps my dream was giving me a message: Stop Drinking Coffee!! After all, I realized, I was putting the same thing into my body every single morning for yeeeears…perhaps this was a problem!? Soooo I stopped the coffee and, I swear, the flu-like symptoms disappeared reeeeeally quickly and didn’t come back for a few years (by this time I had started drinking coffee again! Ayyy Humans 🙂 ). After a few months I began to add the occasional coffee back into my life but never with milk (Edgar Cayce has said that adding milk to tea or coffee makes it toxic). Now, I can feel how coffee stimulates my mind (which I love) but I also feel how it depletes the energy in my body, so I’m keeping it to a minimum these days.
I can’t resist a word on Turmeric:
I really loved that the Herbalists said that turmeric is intelligent! They said that turmeric intelligently targets unhealthy cells. It’s healing properties go right to the unhealthy cells and leave the other cells alone. Apparently turmeric regenerates brain cells, too! It’s phenomenal for your gut and inflammation, also.
Definition of Adaptogenic Herbs: All of the herbs above are adaptogenic herbs which means that they help us adapt to modern stresses by balancing the body by either stimulating it if you’re sleepy or fatigued or by calming it if it’s agitated and stressed. As the word itself implies they adapt to each of our unique set of circumstances. Adaptogenic herbs are non-toxic, give us general support and can be ingested every day. They reinforce health everywhere in the body and protect us against illnesses of all kinds. They normalize our metabolism.
Here are some links to my favourite books and videos on the subject:
A wonnnnnderful book by master Herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, that shows you how to make salves, herbal oils, tinctures and more…it’s really so easy! Totally inspiring: Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow and Use.
This is the only book you’ll ever need on what herbs are good for what conditions and the author and doctor James Duke is suuuuper personal and shares lots of personal experiences with different health issues and herbs, with Health Issues listed in alphabetical order: The Green Pharmacy: The Ultimate Compendium Of Natural Remedies From The World’s Foremost Authority On Healing Herbs
This is my favourite documentary on a Herbalist: The incomparable, inspiring, adventurous Juliette de Bairacli Levy born November 11, 1912. A Scorpio with four planets in Sagittarius for those of you who pay attention to these sorts of things 🙂 Watch and enjoy: Juliette of the Herbs
Although the 9-part docuseries Remedy – Ancient Medicine for Modern Illness isn’t available online for free I see that Rosemary Gladstar’s excerpt from Episode 2 on Stress and Anxiety and the herbs that help with this is up on you tube here.