Getting a Healthy Brain Could Be as Easy as Eating These 8 Herbs

Updated: Apr. 20, 2023

Most herbs and spices have medicinal benefits, and a handful are thought to boost brain health. Aim to get more of these in particular.

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This mustard yellow powder is an antioxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory. In India, where turmeric is eaten daily in curries, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is 25 percent lower than the risk in the U.S. Incorporating these other everyday habits that prevent Alzheimer’s into your life may further improve your chances of keeping the disease at bay. In lab studies, mice that were fed curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) developed fewer amyloid plaques, associated with Alzheimer’s, than rats that weren’t. Clinical trials haven’t found a direct link between the herb and brain health (find out what the science really says about turmeric), but it can’t do any harm. Add turmeric or curry powder to any curry dish and to egg salad, or include up to a teaspoonful in pea soup, casseroles, or lentils. For a new take on paella and Spanish rice, sub out saffron for turmeric. Try this recipe for a Creole skillet dinner, and check out more mouthwatering recipes that can boost brain power. And don’t miss the 11 turmeric benefits for glowing skin and hair.

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A member of the mint family, sage is a known memory enhancer and may protect the brain against certain processes that lead to Alzheimer’s. It may work by protecting acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain that’s critical to memory. In a British study, healthy young adults performed better on word recall tests after taking sage-oil capsules. To reap its benefits, add sprigs of the herb to omelets, tomato sauce, butternut squash, roasted chicken or pork, or make the herb the star with Taste of Home’s Sage & Brown Butter Ravioli. You could also steep two teaspoons of dried sage in boiled water for a strong cup of tea that provides a therapeutic dose. Learn the best way to keep sage fresh so you can use it in multiple recipes.



Wasabi, a member of the mustard family, is the hot green condiment served with sushi. It’s an excellent source of a compound (also found in horseradish and broccoli) shown to help nerve cells grow extensions known as dendrites and axons, which help cells communicate with each other. In specialty stores, buy wasabi in a tube or as a powder. Add a little bit to ginger-, teriyaki-, or peanut-based sauces to serve wish fish (like this Sesame Salmon With Wasabi Mayo), deviled eggs, salad greens, coleslaw, and crab cakes. Find out what a spicy food craving really says about your health.

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Garlic thins the blood to help prevent blood clots and may slightly lower cholesterol without drugs. It contains compounds thought to protect neurons from injury and disease by stimulating the production of chemicals that help cells withstand stress. Add lots of minced garlic to just about any marinade or salad dressing. Add sautéed garlic to chicken, beef, pork, tofu, pasta, or vegetable dishes. Start with this recipe for Buttery Garlic Potatoes.

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Parsley and thyme

Parsley and thyme both contain a plant compound called apigenin. Brazilian researchers applied the compound to human stem cells with some promising results: The stem cells formed neurons, that then created stronger and more sophisticated connections between each other. The researchers hope their findings will spark new treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s and depression. (Find out how to tell if you have everyday sadness or depression.) In the meantime, try cooking with your own at home. Choose from Lemony Parsley Baked Cod and Honey-Thyme Butternut Squash.



Even just smelling this herb could give your brain a boost. A study in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology found that participants were faster and more accurate on cognitive tests after sniffing a rosemary essential oil. (Check out other tricks for being more productive.) Another study linked carnosic acid, the active ingredient in rosemary, could also protect the brain against free radicals to prevent stroke and neurodegeneration. Give it a try with this Chicken With Rosemary Butter Sauce recipe.

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Attention, coffee drinkers: There’s a new drink in town that will help you wake up without caffeine. In one study, volunteers drank either peppermint tea, chamomile tea, or hot water; 20 minutes later, they were tested on memory and cognitive function. Those who’d sipped peppermint tea improved both their long-term and working memory better than the other two groups, and were also more alert. Find out how to pick the best tea for your mood.



It might not be the best choice when you have your nose to the grindstone, but chamomile can give your mental health some much-needed TLC. One study found that chamomile extract worked better than a placebo to reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Check out more of the best and worst foods for anxiety.